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6 Tips to Be a More Effective Leader During Chaos

I thought we just needed to get through 2020 and things would get better. It turns out, 2021 is not yet the year of radical improvement of the world state. I’m stuck in some Groundhog Day repeat where there’s a new crisis or challenge we must mentally handle and emotionally overcome every week.

I thought Covid peaks were slowing and we’d be back in person for work, but then Delta transpired. I thought maybe the hurricane season wouldn’t be quite as bad, but then Ida arose. Personally, I thought my kids would continue with homeschool, but then my teen decided in person was better. I’m trying to manage everything, but it’s challenging and stressful. It makes me worry and want to stick my head in the sand and ignore it all.

But I have a team and a responsibility to our Membership. Ignoring it all isn’t an option. The hardest part of being a leader is juggling all the things at once. It’s to handle task delegation, communication up-down-and-across the organization, deal with people issues, celebrate victories, coach through defeats, and inspire and motivate.

When your team is being emotionally wrecked and pulled infinite ways, it increases the challenges, and we have to raise the bar of our performance. Your team might be going into the office one week and then suddenly switch to fully remote again. Ultimately, you mustn’t lead just in a traditional environment, but through crisis after crisis during a time when you might not even be fully together.

For any supervisor, this is no small feat.

As leaders, even though we are personally struggling, we must find ways to compartmentalize and focus more on our teams. Harvard Business Review found that 49% of employees who work at home because of the pandemic are often or always anxious. This is in part because we don’t always know how to manage remote employees, so we haven’t provided the framework to make the team successful.

To help you tackle difficulties head-on, here are six steps you can take as a leader to build your teams’ (and your own!) confidence to reduce their work anxiety:

  1. Focus on output. Do we care if someone works every minute of every forty-hour workweek, or do we care that the tasks are completed and done correctly? Shifting your focus to outcomes and results rather than tasks and time leads to better performance from employees. It takes practice, so don’t expect to adopt this way of thinking overnight. You also can’t expect your teams to feel immediately confident and empowered to be more flexible and focused on the end result.

  2. Develop relationships. As leaders, we need to know who our people are and what’s happening in their lives. We are all stressed and managing multiple responsibilities. Know who’s handling the stress of kids in school, an upcoming move, unemployment, etc., so you can better relate to them and support them as their leader. You’ll also build trust with your employees. Trust that they’ll be successful whether in person or remote. Trust that you’re a caring and compassionate leader who supports them as individuals and wants them to succeed.

  3. Define roles, goals, and expectations. It has never been more critical to know roles and responsibilities than when we live through chaotic moments. Ensure that you detail who is responsible for specific tasks, deadlines, teams and their structures, and assignment details. Define how you want to report on project progress and how often. Set your team up for success so they’re confident and empowered—you won’t have to chase them for details of progress.

  4. Provide clear and timely feedback. Being remote sometimes makes the “out of sight, out of mind” phrase all too real. Ensure that you’re in the loop with your team by giving positive and constructive feedback so that they know you’re engaged, aware, and there to support.

  5. Empower your team member. If you have defined clear expectations for the role and established trust, your team member should start to feel confident and ready to self-direct to finish tasks. Make sure that you stay engaged as their coach to help them solve challenges. Try to stop yourself from quickly jumping in with solutions. Part of empowering employees is to let them problem solve and find the answers. You’re there to help if they get stuck and need additional guidance.

  6. Recognize individual differences. Everyone handles anxiety, the current state of the world, and remote work differently. Be aware of cultural differences, work style preferences, and personalities, and adjust how you lead to the individual and individual moment. Some people may want less autonomy and more direction. Provide that so they feel confident and secure. Other people may not need as much of your support, which might make you feel out of the loop. Make sure they know your expectations for communication upfront so everyone is on the same page. Knowing your teams and adjusting how you relate to each individual is the key to success during high-stress, chaotic, and ever-changing times.

Learn more about becoming the best supervisor and manager you can be to your team in our certificate program, The Fundamentals of Supervision. Learn more about the course and register here.

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