The world is different to a year ago. For some countries and companies, the move to physically working from the office again is a possibility. Whether your approach is a hybrid model of working, back to full time office working or permanently working from home, the next few months brings with it a different approach. In the UK, we start to be able to do more than we did before. In other countries the pandemic may signify a longer period of home working, or something else.
As leaders we have adapted our leadership skills and approach during the last year, as the tide turns once more our leadership style needs to change again. In our latest blog we explore some factors to consider to help us prepare for the next phase.
Leading teams post a global pandemic
I was leading a session recently for a team, some were based in a country that had “opened” and others were based in countries that were still in full lockdown. This dynamic meant that team members and the leader needed to consider, with empathy, how others might be feeling. I noticed that some team members were feeling a sense of jubilation and they shared their excitement several times, other team members looked despondent. The leader can set the tone of conversation by publicly acknowledging the situation and demonstrating empathy towards those in the team that need it. By doing this, others will follow, the team can support one another in jubilation and in despondency.
TIP: Consider the situations of each team member – how can you enable the team to talk openly about how they are feeling?
Responding to change in our own way
Each person may have a different response to the situation. For some people, working face to face again will be a welcome return, for others it may bring a sense of dread. In William Bridges book “Transitions”, he describes three key phases when moving through change: Endings, Neutral zone and New Beginnings. Exploring how people feel about ending the current phase and entering the next can be useful, as it encourages honesty and transparency. It also helps you as the leader know what people need, to move into the neutral zone. This phase can feel strange as it is the point at which we don’t quite know how the new normal will feel. If this phase is harnessed it can bring new ideas, creativity, and exploration.
Involving the team in creating the future together, is a great way to harness the neutral zone. New Beginnings is when we start the new phase. This is the time to notice if people are still “mourning” the ending of the previous phase. For example, if people mention they miss their morning walk, or they preferred the work/ life balance they had before, these could be signs that they haven’t fully adapted yet to the new phase. Encouraging ongoing dialogue about where people are in relation to the different phases, helps you as the leader, bring people along with you.
TIP: Be alert to each team member’s stage of transition – are they in endings, neutral zone or new beginnings? Encourage ongoing communication both individually and as a group, to enable people to move through each phase and transition effectively.
Look out for new motivators
We know individuals are driven and motivated by different things. Post pandemic, individuals’ motivators and needs may have changed. Consider getting to know people now rather than assuming their needs are the same.
TIP: As the leader, be aware of your own motivators and do not assume the team have the same ones as you.
Team members will be looking to you for clarity in the vision and the way they are required to work. They will want to know what is expected now and what has changed. Use this time as an opportunity to emphasise performance expectations, as well as partnering with each team member about the optimum ways to achieve it. Establishing new boundaries about how the work is carried out is useful, for example, is your organisation totally flexible about when people come in and for how long? Are team members expected to come to the office on certain days of the week?
Tip: Provide ongoing clarity to the team and check for understanding.
Leadership Skills: Build Creativity
Over the last year or so, we have had to be more creative in how we work, where we physically work, to managing our working day differently, as well as how we communicate. Harness this creativity by encouraging the team to apply this to the post pandemic working world. Encourage any new working practices that may have emerged during the last year to continue, for example, coffee meetings virtually may now be face to face, and Friday brainstorming sessions may be an ongoing event.
TIP: Reflect on the last year – how has your team been creative? How can you enable this to continue?
Increase or maintain social connection
Face to face connection is as vital as ever. Now that many of us can be face to face, consider introducing social connection that works best for the unique team you have. Consider how you will manage those who are not able to join, perhaps due to location. Is there a mix of virtual and face to face sessions that ensure everyone in the team connects?
TIP: Engage with the team to figure out what social connection they would value. Be mindful that your preference may be different to theirs.
Leadership Skills: Feedback for growth
Now is a great time to have feedback conversations. Consider asking for feedback as well as giving it. Provide positive and developmental feedback at different moments. The concept of one conversation where you give both is not necessarily useful, as people then dismiss the positive feedback, waiting for the developmental feedback. Instead, make feedback conversations part of your every day. Spot people doing things right and nip things in the bud when things can be improved.
TIP: Consider how you can create feedback moments every week. Consider using a feedback tool to prepare in advance, ensuring the feedback is specific.
The coming months provide a real opportunity for leaders to harness the key skills that individuals have demonstrated over the last year. These include resilience, creativity, problem solving, adaptability and many more. A fundamental component to success as a leader will be ongoing conversation and clarity as people move into the next phase.
If you would like to take some time to create your post pandemic leadership style or build on your leadership skills, coaching can provide that much needed space to reflect and start working on it. Please get in touch to arrange a no obligation discovery call.