Leading in a Time of Great Change

This is a difficult time for leaders, particularly, new or emerging leaders. It’s difficult when you can’t interact with your team face to face. It’s difficult when you know their personal lives, as well as their professional lives, have been turned upside down. It’s difficult when your personal and professional lives have also been turned upside down but, as a leader, there are high expectations you continue to lead and lead successfully. Others, your team, your bosses, your colleagues look to you for direction, support, and performance.

What can you do to keep your team engaged, keep them motivated, keep them wanting to stay and be led by you? After all, by the time our workplaces emerge from this crisis, some of our best performers may have moved on, deciding to change their way of life. As their leader, you want to maintain a high level of involvement, you want to have your team emerge stronger and whole.

A key leadership role is as a facilitator of change. And boy, is this current situation an example of change, significant change. Normally, when we deal with change in the workplace, it is as a result of some break in our normal routine or a challenge to our beliefs and attitudes. But this change is all about doing everything differently, moving away from our normal routines, both at work and at home. The big difference compared to most workplace changes is that none of us can resist the change. It is here and we need to figure out the best ways to live with, and grow from, the change.

A few principles you can apply to help you mitigate the challenge of keeping your team motivated and engaged, while helping you to continue to grow as a leader.

Keep them close

Communication is the key. Use video as much as possible. This helps teams to feel they are interacting face to face. If you can, conduct daily check ins which helps team members, and you, to have that necessary social interaction that used to be at the office.

Let’s take an example of communicating remotely. You may think you can continue to connect with your team in the same way you did previously, only now using technology. Technology, albeit fantastic for connecting remotely, may not always meet the needs of each of your team members. Some may feel the need to connect more often, on an individual basis. This may require telephone conversations, email or text exchanges about their individual needs and challenges. It’s critical to keep in mind that holding a weekly video or telephone conference call with your team will not meet the needs of them all. Reach out to each of them individually, schedule regular check-ins using the technology that works best for each of them. This may be time consuming but necessary to keep them motivated and engaged.

Set goals for these daily check ins and weekly meetings and follow up with team members on progress being made. Make sure you have an agenda and stick to it. To provide opportunities for personal development, delegate, to members of the team, agenda creation and meeting management as well as subsequent progress updates. This will lessen the load on you while improving the skills of others.

Don’t forget the value and challenge of active listening, particularly when using online video tools, since, with most of these tools, only one person can speak, and be heard, at a time. Do you need to put a process in place to ensure everyone gets their turn to contribute? How do you ensure no one dominates the conversation? During these calls, listen for tone of voice, words used, and what is being emoted. Without the advantage of body language, listening skills are highlighted.

Take care of yourself

One of the best ways to build your leadership strength is to utilize Stephen Covey’s circles of concern, influence and control. Ask yourself, what keeps you awake at night (other than Covid-19 if you can), which of these things can you influence, can you possibly change? For those things you can influence, can affect positively, focus on what you can control. Thinking about your situation in this way helps you to become more self-aware – aware of your feelings. Being self-aware helps you to better understand and appreciate your emotions and others’ as well. Increasing self-awareness enhances your self-confidence making you better able to tune into subtle feelings.

You can’t do it all. As mentioned previously in this article, delegate. Give team members the opportunity to try new skills or tasks, new ways they can contribute. You might want to consider dedicating one of your daily check-ins or weekly meetings to training, one of your team members leading a short training session. Given that many employees have not experienced working remotely in the past, training in time management may be just the right skill to help them manage their workload at home.

Lead from the Heart

Kouzes and Posner in their book, The Leadership Challenge, speak to the need for leaders to encourage the heart. Leaders do this through recognizing contributions and celebrating accomplishments. Encourage your team to build a list of ideas to recognize the effort each other demonstrates. Then put them into practice as often as possible.

Be an inclusive leader, one who ensures team members speak up and are heard, who empowers them to make decisions, who encourages them to provide input and feedback to you about how you are leading during this tough time, Create opportunities for them to coach and mentor one another and share credit for successes.

Bloggers with the Hot Spots Movement group in United Kingdom, a group focused on the future of work, recommend leaders ‘build a narrative.’ “A narrative provides a way to make sense of events and communicate experience, knowledge and emotions. Creating a strong narrative does not rely upon the leaders having all the answers (now more than ever – this is clearly impossible). However, it does rely on creating an ongoing thread of communication that recognizes the deep uncertainty whilst also visioning the future, to help people connect with a sense of direction and purpose.” Creating this narrative can be cathartic for your team, especially if they are encouraged to share their personal stories. As Aisha Zafar, at Mohawk College Enterprise, says, “Stories evoke emotions and build human connections.”

Time Management Techniques – 5 Ways to Profit by Mastering Change Management

“The more you plan for change, the less you need to change your plans.”

Time management techniques are only as powerful as you are realistic. Even the best time management techniques will never provide you with the level of control you might like to exercise over your time, because life is always bigger than your plans. So your best strategy is to cultivate openness to change.

Most time management models are static, and people often construct their plans upon illusions of life’s predictability. So you might encounter resistance from many quarters if you approach planning differently, and base your time management upon a world in constant transition. Voices inside you and outside you may present arguments like these:

  1. “Change is unpredictable. Why even think about it?”
  2. “Unpredictability can generate stress. Best to stick with what you know.”
  3. “Change brings losses along with any gains. So avoid change to avoid getting hurt!”
  4. “Change requires added focus and work. Tiring to even consider!”
  5. “Change reveals the limits of your control. How frustrating is that?”

Of course, it’s human nature to resent new and shifting demands. Fortunately, it’s also human nature to thrive when such challenges are embraced.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the

most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Charles Darwin

5 Benefits of Embracing Life’s Constant Changes

  1. The more you accept change as a constant, the more prepared you become. The more prepared you are, the more productive you are.
  2. Expecting change keeps you alert and interested. Resistance generates stress and inflexibility. But your effectiveness increases when you engage with curiosity.
  3. Genuinely accepting the inevitability of loss and change lessens the pain of it. It also helps you focus on creating gains from new developments.
  4. You develop new strengths when you focus and work to welcome change. Intensive times of growth foster positive turning points in your life.
  5. Truly accepting the limits of your control helps you train your focus on what you can change. And that’s where all your power lies!

You may be are surrounded by temptations to pursue routines that turn into ruts. But those who excel not only accept life’s ongoing changes – they capitalize on those changes.

Notice which friends routinely discourage you from expanding your horizons, and which friends encourage your taking reasonable risks to grow. Develop a community of support for yourself, and you will attract more opportunities to revitalize your life, both personally and professionally.

What is your next step in making the most of your time?