I was recently asked a question about leading in the workplace during turbulent times. The question was focused on the “secret” to keeping teams productive during periods of turbulence. If you’ve heard the excerpt from a conversation series with Wundamail Voices, you’ll know what the three things were that I spoke of. If not you did not hear it, or just want to get a deeper explanation, keep reading.
These have certainly been unprecedented times that neighborhoods, cities, states and countries around the world have had to navigate. In the midst of all the COVID-19 pandemic response measures, there has been economic uncertainty, employment nightmares, a strong outcry for justice and so much more. So, for those that are still working, albeit under a new set of rules, there was obviously a change in operating procedures that took place.
Many businesses were able to pivot (#mostusedword) during this period and have done fairly well, while others did not have the ability to do so and have suffered greatly. I shared in a previous article that any movement forward during this time is progress and that momentum, even if slow and minimal, can serve as a catalyst for what many will call success during these turbulent times. When we step back, assess and come up with a plan to move forward, we are able to take steps in the right direction versus falling off the grid map in our business and life. Expanding pick-up and delivery services, curbside pick-up, online ordering, virtual video calls and meetings, teleworking, new business ventures...all contain opportunities for growth.
While people and businesses were making necessary changes, there is another side of the coin that needs to be explored. I am sure many of you, myself included, have read or seen numerous articles, blog posts, vlogs and videos on how to lead and manage in times such as this. There are some basic aspects of leadership and management that do not, or should not really change, no matter the situation. Is there a “secret” or some undiscovered “secret sauce” to how we, as leaders and managers, handle our responsibilities to co-workers and employees? I do not believe there is a secret, per say, rather a more urgent need for focused attention on what should already be done in the workplace...even if that is virtual and teleworking.
Here are the three key points that I feel leaders and managers should be focusing on everyday, and even more so during turbulent times:
I’ll elaborate on each of these, but I do want to emphasize that these three things are certainly not the only three, but those that I feel are key and feed into and are fed by other actions. If you are in a position that affords you the opportunity to lead others, then by all means, ensure you have these three things working together for your employees. If you are in a position where you have a leader that is not doing these three things and you feel cheated or poorly led, then I encourage you to tighten up the belt and have a respectful conversation where you express your thoughts and concerns. That could be number four in the list, I guess...formal and informal feedback, but that should really be part of communication.
Clear Guidance and Expectations
With clear guidance and expectations, there is a better chance of achieving the desired outcome, decreased confusion, less non-productive time and a better sense of direction and purpose toward which to apply their efforts. I can think of times when this has been absent from my own work environment and I can think of times when it was present. I much preferred having the guidance and expectations laid out for me to serve as direction for my actions. I imagine you also have scenarios from various points along the spectrum of shared guidance and expectations. For many employees, not having guidance and expectations leaves them feeling lost and without direction. It can also leave them feeling disengaged and committed to their position and what they are doing..like they have no purpose.
How did you function, as an employee, when you had great, mediocre and bad experiences with a leader/duty position?
Whether agreed with or not, there is a need for structure, in some form, for many people and employees to operate and function effectively. Of course, there are many who do not like structure and feel that it is too confining. That is not a bad thing, because that means that they operate and function in a different way, which is what a good leader or manager knows when they get to know their people. Even in those situations, the structure is still there...it is just agreed upon that there is more freedom available to meet tasks and responsibilities. However, for many, the structure, even if a little more loosely established, allows the employee to drive their behaviors in a more effective and productive manner. The important thing to remember is that knowing your people allows you, as a leader or manager, to create the right level needed to achieve the desired outcome. Structure serves as a set of guideposts to operate within, whether narrowly or widely spaced. I encourage enough space to move and be successful.
Do you have structure in your organization? What are the results, based on the level of structure?
What are your and/or your employees’ communication needs? Are your needs being met? What about the needs of your people? I ask these questions for the sole purpose of getting you to think about it. That is because many people do not know what the needs are and how to gauge if they are being met. When we, as leaders and managers, communicate, we need to do so in an effective manner. That means you need to know HOW to communicate, not just that you communicate. One of the best ways to communicate effectively is to connect with your people. When you are in a direct leadership position with your people it is even more important that you know how to communicate effectively. Effective communication is going to be different with the various people and personalities within the organization. However, the more you work at the effectiveness of it, the better you will be as a leader or manager. Effective communication is not annoying and/or micro-managing, rather tailored to meet the needs of each individual.
Do you communicate in the way you want others to communicate with you or the way your people want you to communicate with them?
So, is there a “secret sauce” that will allow you to lead more effectively in the workplace during turbulent times? I say not, only because these three key points are the same things quality leaders and managers should already be doing on a daily basis. It ultimately comes down to actually doing what should be done anyway, and being more intentional about it. Stepping up the level of engagement in these three key areas is going to make a difference. If they are not already there, reach out to someone that can assist with that area of professional growth and development. If already there and being used effectively, you might have to increase the level of engagement just a bit. You will know how to increase your effectiveness in these areas by connecting with your people and being intentional in your actions.
If you are a leader or manager...show up as your very best every single day. If you struggle with connections and being your very best, connect so I can share more with you.
As an employee, what are you doing to show up at your very best every single day? What are you doing if you are not getting the guidance and expectations, structure and communication you need to operate at your very best. Your responsibility to yourself if to ask for what you need.
Please reach out and share your thoughts and added inputs on this topic. I look forward to connecting with you.
Higher Calling Consulting, LLC