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Leadership During The Covid-19 Era

Leadership during Covid

By this point, most people have reached more or less the same conclusion.  In the short run, Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere and it’s certainly not going to go away.

Worse, even if the most optimistic vaccine projections are true, the simple truth is that the pandemic is almost certain to have long-lasting effects on how we live, work and interact with one another.  That, in turn, is already having, and will continue to have a profound impact on managing that future.

If you’re a business owner or a department manager, you’ve probably already run into this reality.  Dealing with a global pandemic requires a very different sort of leadership, and a great many managers are struggling to make the transition.  To be the leaders that this moment requires.

Early on, responding to the pandemic required classic crisis management skills.  It was a high pressure situation.  New infrastructure had to be put into place very quickly in order for businesses to continue to survive.

All of that though, has been accomplished by this point and now, as the situation has continued to evolve, a new and different kind of leadership and management is required.

It’s been more than a hundred years since we’ve seen anything even remotely like what we’re living through now, and given that, there’s no one alive today we can turn to for advice and guidance.

Fortunately, such a conversation isn’t necessary because there have been a great number of books on the subject written and updated over the years, so we have easy access to a wealth of collected knowledge at our fingertips.

Toward the end of this piece, we’ll make some recommendations of books you might find helpful, but more immediately, here are a few points you can put into practice right now, starting today, that will make your life, and the lives of your employees a bit easier during this difficult time:

It Starts With Compassion

Oddly enough, what’s needed now more than anything else isn’t bold, decisive, hard-nosed, uncompromising leadership.

Those are generally good traits, but they’re the wrong traits for this moment in time, and for effectively managing through this crisis.

The reality is that most people are beginning to exhibit signs of chronic fatigue.  The isolation is wearing on many.  The feeling of profound disconnectedness and loneliness.  There’s also a chronic low level of background anxiety that eventually impacts your mental and physical health.

Those are the biggest drivers of the problems most managers are currently facing in the form of miscommunication and loss of productivity, and those aren’t the kinds of problems that a hard-nosed approach will solve.  If anything, that approach is likely to create as many issues as it resolves.

In the here and now, the best and most important gifts you can give to your employees are compassion and understanding.

The people you’re managing have seen their lives upended.  They’ve had to find new ways of working and they’ve had to master the new paradigm quickly, while dealing with the absence of daycare for their children and quite possibly the added risks associated with caring for a loved one who has the virus.

In short, your employees have a lot on their collective plates, and no matter how committed they might be to you and your company, you’re not the priority right now.  You can’t be.

That doesn’t mean that your employees suddenly don’t care about their work or the jobs they’re doing for you, it simply means that there’s a lot going on, and work life is only a small part of that.  Managers who aren’t very mindful of that fact run the risk of losing their best employees.

Take Time To Check In

Compassion in a vacuum isn’t enough.  You’ve got to take time to check in with every employee you have working for you. 

“Checking in” doesn’t mean asking after deadlines or getting status reports.  It means asking about the kids.  About sick friends and family members.  It means taking the time to really connect with your employees and show you care about more than just the monthly report that’s probably going to be a day or two late this month.

In addition to showing compassion and humanity, regular check ins with your employees also provides a bit of badly needed connection that will go a surprisingly long way toward keeping those aforementioned feelings of loneliness and isolation at bay, and that’s going to improve productivity once the people you manage have solved their own personal crises of the moment and sit back down to tackle the work.

Make It Easier For Your Employees To Support Each Other

books for leaders and leadership
Some of our books on leadership

In addition to personally taking the time to check in with your employees, it’s also important that you encourage them to lean on and support each other, and that you provide the tools that make such interactions possible.

This may be as simple as setting up a room in the chat program of your choice and encouraging your employees to meet there and communicate on a regular basis.  Or it might involve setting up a Covid Support forum on your company’s website.

The specific form that it takes doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact of its existence.  The fact that you’re seen as being a manager who’s deeply committed to the well-being of your employees and taking active steps to ensure they’re taken care of.

These things represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but if you can do them, you’ll be miles ahead of many other managers who are struggling mightily with the new realities brought on by the pandemic.

If you are a business owner and have managers working for you who may also be struggling, here are a few books we recommend investing in to give as gifts:

Leading Change, By John P. Kotter

Widely recognized as Kotter’s seminal work and praised by the Harvard Business Review, this important book outlines an easy to follow eight-step plan for managing change.  Not to be missed.

The Dichotomy of Leadership

Written by a pair of former Navy SEALs, this book is essentially broken into three key parts:  Balancing People, Balancing the Mission, and Balancing Yourself, with several chapters devoted to each idea, and all written with the overarching goal of making you a better and more effective leader by following the blueprint outlined here.

212 Degree Leadership

One degree of difference might not seem like much, but it can make and mean all the difference in the world, as this book brilliantly illustrates.  This one belongs on the shelf of everyone who manages people!

Buy one, or buy them all and give to the managers you’ve got working under you.  You’ll be very glad you did, and so will they!