“Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.”
Charles de Gaulle
Being a great leader in a crisis is vital for the success of the business. Keeping staff motivated and performing whilst maintaining their welfare and mental health is a challenge few managers would actively request.
The current situation where you have half your team on furlough, watching box sets and doing the gardening, whilst the other half can barely keep up with the new challenges of working from home and using Zoom to communicate, bring significant management challenges and both need careful handling if you are to bring out the best of both sets of staff.
Clearly your first and foremost challenge is to keep those staff productive who should be working. Even the highest performing teams can fall apart at these difficult times.
Next, you may want to consider how you are going to maintain their very high standards. When you’re going to work in your pyjamas it’s easy to let the odd spelling mistake through!
Thirdly, please consider the health and welfare of your team, including those on furlough. As Richard Branson famously said, “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.” They are your golden goose, your cash cow. Milk them un-relentlessly at your peril.
The current priority is obviously their mental welfare.
According to The Independent, after the SARS epidemic in 2003, there was a 30 per cent increase in suicide in over 65s and 29 per cent of healthcare workers experienced emotional distress.
An Ipsos Mori poll (published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, March 2020) of 1,099 members of the public revealed people’s mental health was already being affected by the UK lockdown and self-isolation policy. The survey found increased levels of anxiety and fear of suffering mentally as a result of lockdown.
What are your team missing?
Even the most introverted of us benefit from some level of human interaction and that interaction is definitely better in person. People are innately social. We are designed to work as a team and that is nurtured throughout our lives.
Speaking personally, I find it far more difficult to judge non-verbal communication when looking at a tiny video of the person I’m speaking with, compared to when I’m directly in front of that person. Those very subtle communication hints like a raised eyebrows or look upwards and to the right are frequently missed.
I also miss the occasional pat on the back or hug from a colleague.
But most of all, I miss that perpetual good-natured banter that is prevalent in a modern office and is not so natural on a Zoom call.
How should you lead your team?
Learners on our Management and Team Leading courses are taught about Daniel Goleman’s six styles of leadership.
The six styles are:
Commanding – Do what I tell you
Pace-setting – Do as I do
Democratic – What do you think?
Visionary – Come with me
Affiliative – People come first
Coaching – Try this
Which style are you naturally? What do you think works the best in a crisis?
The Commanding Style is the go-to style for an emergency. If your building is on fire, it’s not a good idea to stop and have an inclusive discussion about who should use which door! That said, how would it make you feel if your manager started demanding (not asking) for additional work from you when you are in the middle of a very stressful crisis? Not good I’m sure.
So that’s not the best style to use.
What about Pace-setting?
If you think that this is an appropriate style, you probably stopped reading 300 words ago. We’re in a crisis. Most people are quite anxious and now is not the time for micro-management.
So, let’s look at the Democratic style.
You can use this style to ensure that everyone in the team gets a chance to input into the team. Put choices to a vote and be part of the team. Is that inspiring? Would Winston Churchill have said “Shall we fight them on the beaches? Let’s have a vote on it.” I think not. Now is the time for inspirational leadership.
So, let’s look at Visionary Style.
This is the most inspirational of all the management styles and I love this style. If you have a major change in your organisation then use this style. Motivate your team to adopt the change and to inspire them every day.
Yes, in a coronavirus crisis you should use this style, but not alone!
Let’s also consider the Affiliative style.
This style puts people first. It’s all about empathy and understanding. YOUR TEAM NEED THIS NOW! Use this style widely, in conjunction with the Visionary Style to motivate, nurture and support every member of your team.
What about Coaching Style?
About 90 per cent of the time, this is a great style to adopt.
Be supportive. Be empowering. Be trusting. Work with your team on how to use Zoom or Skype. Don’t micro-manage them. Inspire them and facilitate them to fly.
Most people want to be amazing at their jobs. Most managers don’t understand that they are the reason that doesn’t happen. Be a Visionary and Affiliate leader and Coach your people to fly.
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Operations / Departmental Manager Level 5