The pandemic has been the ultimate leadership test. To weather the crisis, leaders had to quickly adapt, both professionally and personally, to manage the sudden shutdown of the global economy, without any pre-warning or training. And once the crisis is over, leaders will be remembered for their actions during the pandemic, so to pass the challenging leadership test, they need to be mindful of their actions and words.
The current crisis has made it very clear that some factors are outside of the leaders’ control, however there are many factor that they can control, such as responding to the pandemic in ways that show their employees that they care.
Rising engagement levels
According to Gallup, the relationship between employee engagement and performance outcomes such as profitability, productivity, and employee turnover has been stronger in past recessions, compared with non-recession years. Whilst stress spiked at record levels during recessions, historically engagement continued to rise.
In the current crisis, engaged employees report lower levels of stress and even though wellbeing is falling due to the recession, engaging work serves as a buffer that makes lives somewhat better. With many employees facing redundancies and furloughs, those who are still working are likely to appreciate their job and are more engaged in making a positive difference to the organisation. Gallup’s research indicates that changes in employee engagement are attributed to involvement from top management, training, communication, and accountability.
Changing internal communication
The coronavirus disrupted people’s lives in multiple ways – from health and financial concerns, to working from home. And the lines between work and life are blurred because of it. We live in our offices and it is more difficult to close the door at the end of the day.
The crisis has also flattened organisations and changed how leaders communicate. Management layers are being skipped and news previously addressed by line managers are in many cases communicated by the senior leadership team directly to all. As a result of the crisis, many leaders talk to their teams more frequently and decisions are being made at a faster pace.
Employees start to make assumptions when they are worried and they don't know what the leadership team is thinking or doing. To create engagement and re-assurance, leaders need to share their plans and how those plans affect employees personally. They need to think about their communication frequency and tone, accounting for engagement, and ensuring they are actively listening and receiving timely feedback.
Now it is more important than ever that leaders are equipped with the right skills to lead and coach their remote teams, and as we enter the restart phase, leaders need to carefully plan who should continue to work remotely and who should return to the workplace, as well as how to lead their teams in the uncertain future.
Communicating effectively requires listening effectively. Leaders should ask for and reflect on feedback from employees, and act on that feedback to show employees that they genuinely care about them. At Acumen we have over 21 years of experience in designing and delivering leadership development programmes that give leaders at all levels the practical tools to help solve real life challenges. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.