In times of crisis, when everyone is anxious and uncertain about the future, it’s understandably hard for people to stay on track. In those moments it’s especially important that leaders work to keep everyone focused and productive while coping with ambiguity and uncertainty. Here are some tips for helping your employees stay healthy, connected, and focused:
Begin with yourself.
You will be better able to support your team and model resiliency if you can acknowledge and manage your own stress and anxiety. What you don’t own, will end up owning you—so take the time to understand what you are feeling and name your emotions. Ask yourself, “As a leader, who am I going to be in this time of crisis?” and lead by example.
Tell the truth, even if it’s harsh.
Some leaders think they’re protecting people by not acknowledging difficult truths or uncertainty, but that’s not an effective—or ethical—approach. Tell the truth. Acknowledge what’s happening—including what you don’t know—keep communication flowing, and let people know their concerns are being addressed. At the same time, work to help your team stay inspired, connected and motivated.
Help people manage their stress.
Especially if your processes have changed dramatically, some of your team members may be feeling lost, unproductive and discouraged. Do what you can to let them know what they’re feeling is normal, and coach your people on stress management and self-compassion in unpredictable times. In your words and your actions, the message should always be “We’re in this together.”
Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.
It’s important to stay in close contact with your people. Talk to them and, especially, listen to them. Work to truly understand what they think and feel, and respond to their questions and worries. Genuine listening forms a bond of trust that motivates people and helps in resolving their concerns.
Focus on what you can control.
When things feel out of control, it’s almost impossible for people to maintain focus. Do whatever you can to foster a sense of control in your team members, even if it’s only over their own actions and work schedule. Giving your employees a chance to shift their thinking to manageable issues and areas they can control will help them reduce stress and stay grounded.
Remind them to care for themselves.
It may sound strange and awkward, but when people are caught up in a crisis and the anxiety of tough times part of the leader’s job is to remind them to take care of themselves. Help your team stay focused by encouraging them to sleep, eat, exercise and spend some time outdoors. Model good self-care habits for them and encourage discussion of innovative ways to stay healthy.
Lead from within
Employees often become unfocused and unproductive when a crisis hits. What you do in that moment will either help them or hurt them, so give them the words and example they need to stay focused so you can weather the crisis together.