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How Leaders Are Rising To Lead In The Covid-19 Disruption

April 21, 2020

Yesterday I was asked how leaders are rising to lead in the Covid-19 disruption.

The answer in two words: QUITE WELL (given the massive change that leaders and their teams are living through) AND there is room for improvement for leaders to rise to providing the support, structures and vision for the future.

According to Gallup lots has changed during the Coronavirus pandemic in a short period of time. Gallup conducted comparative surveys between March 13-16 and then again between March 27-29.

  • The percentage of full-time employees who say COVID-19 has disrupted their life “a great deal” or “a fair amount” increased from 58% to 81%.
  • 40% of U.S. employees say their employer has frozen hiring, and 33% say their employer has reduced hours or shifts because of COVID-19 — up from 33% and 27%, respectively.
  • The percentage of full-time employees working from home because of COVID-19 closures has increased from 33% to 61%.
  • The percentage of parents working full time who have kept their kids home from school because of COVID-19 has increased from less than half (44%) to everyone (100%).

In addition to the above stats daily worry among the full-time working population has increased from 37% to 60% and daily stress from 48% to 65%.

Given the uncertainty and challenging reality that all workers are going through, leaders are under more pressure than ever to model calm, focus, vision and support.

Workers are depending on leaders to provide a sense of stability and a future focus. According to further stats many leaders are doing a great job of leading through disruption while others are still struggling to be able to provide the strength, nurturing and resources to support their workers through these tough times.

In a further Gallup panel in March, 48% of employees felt that their leaders had NOT communicated a clear plan of action, while 52% of employees agreed strongly that their leaders had communicated a clear plan of action.

Clearly this statistic shows that how leaders are rising to lead in the Covid-19 disruption needs greater focus and attention. Many workers feel that leaders are failing at helping them to their jobs better. Workers feel lack of support, lack of empathy and lack of direction is causing increased stress.

45% of workers feel that they are not fully prepared to do their job as effectively as they feel they could. In addition 46% of workers do not feel that their supervisor/leader keeps them informed.

The leader is the crucial connector to outlining vision, setting expectation, providing resources, staying connected to team, establishing mutual accountabilities and rewarding workers for their efforts.

In times of crisis and uncertainty there is a heightened need for empathy and caring. Leaders who show compassion for workers challenges as well as support have higher levels of worker resiliency in times of intense stress.

49% of workers surveyed feel that their company and their leaders care about the workers wellbeing. This means that 41% of leaders are NOT demonstrating care and empathy towards their workers. One of the outcomes post pandemic is that workers will be seeking to work for companies where their leaders care, provide strong support for remote work and remote workers and who led by inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is an opportunity for leaders to ‘be the leader’ who inspires and increases engagement – here are some ‘hows’ for leaders to lead during this disruption and in future disruptions:

  1. Practice self care in order to stay optimistic, resilient and focused. You have heard the saying ‘put your own mask on first’ when on a plane. In times of crisis you MUST fill your own cup in order to be able to help others.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate – you cannot over communicate in a crisis. Even if you think its overkill – communicate via email, via virtual video, via text, use humor (appropriate jokes) use words of encouragement, ensure celebration of individual and team efforts.
  3. Expand your empathy and caring – have daily video check ins with each of your team members. Start with asking how they are doing. Offer support and help with personal challenges such as trying to work while also having children at home.
  4. Offer outsourced coach solutions for your workers. Invest in your workers by providing upskilling and reskilling learning opportunities of their choosing.
  5. Provide resources on well being such as the Calm app, Headspace or other tools to help them stay centered and well.

Now more than ever leaders have the continued opportunity to increase the ‘human factor’ of being a leader. So how are leaders rising to lead in the COVID 19 disruption? Day by day and with focused intention on leading with vision and inspiration.

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