I want to continue my conversation about how to approach leadership during what is a very turbulent time. In particular to bring your attention to what you are focused on right now. I’ve seen too many leaders getting distracted and losing their intention. This is not a time for panic and fear. Your people need you to lead them right now. You need to be strategic as well as tactical.
Whether you’re leading yourself, your team, your business, your family, peers, maybe even your boss, you need to regroup and think about what you need to do as a leader.
In my previous post, Leading High Performance During Turbulence, I talked about the idea that we have a lot of things that are outside of our control at the moment, which is resulting in responses from people which are not ideal. Responses which are below the line, and in the space where people are giving their power away.
Leaders need to operate above the line. Yes, there are many things that are outside our control right now, yet we have much which is within our control. As leaders, we need to exercise our responses and our power of choice to be able to set ourselves and the people around us up for the best possible set of outcomes in these conditions.
There is significant disruption in the workplace. There are many organisations that have moved their entire workforces to work from home, for example, organisations that have closed their doors. I’ve spoken to many of my clients and colleagues in recent days and they’ve all been saying, we can’t go and see our clients or we can’t go and talk to our prospects, or we’ve sent all our people to work from home and we don’t see them anymore.
So what to do?
Right now it’s about focusing on some of the foundations that will set you and your team up to continue to perform despite the situation that you find yourselves in.
We don’t yet know how long we will have constraints imposed. Much longer than we would like, I’m sure. So now is the time to set up the foundations that will not only see you and your team through the ‘now’, they will also set you all up for success, and for performance, as we come out the other side into a new world of work.
So whether you continue to work in your normal workspace, whether your team has become distributed because they’ve got to work from home, or even if you have been stood down and are not sure about what will happen next, here are some things to get you centred and provide direction for all of your people and yourself.
There are three foundation elements that you need to be focus on:
- The first thing that you need to focus on are your Protocols
- The second thing that you need to focus on are your Priorities
- And the third thing you need to focus on, of course, is your People
The protocols are your processes, your policies, your routines and your tools. Protocols also include things like how often will you meet individually and as a team, how you escalate, how you get someone’s attention, help or support.
Ask yourself a few questions to understand what your protocols should include.
- So what are the things that you need? The tools, the resources, the understanding of how things work.
- What are the things that your people need so they can do their work? Consider if you’re still working in the office, whether you’re working in a distributed work from home scenario so that you can continue to work effectively and efficiently?
Ask these key questions:
- What has priority?
- What are the projects?
- What are the everyday things that need to continue to happen?
Then get clear on what those priorities are. What is priority number one? What is priority number two? What is priority number three? Then everybody in your team is really clear about what you are all focused on. This ensures everyone is putting their time and effort into the right things.
The third dimension is people. Of course, this is absolutely critical now, particularly if you have physical distancing with people who are used to working in a group or a team where you’re really quite closely co-located, are now more distributed. Now, more than ever, you need to focus on your people. This includes things like being very clear in your communication with them about what’s actually going on, and what will happen when, as far as you know it. (of course you won’t know everything because the situation is unfolding so quickly — be clear about sharing what you do and don’t know as well)
Other things in the people space include team meetings. Making sure your team members know how to communicate — which tools to use- offering support, whether from you or from other resources that have been set up by the organisation that you work for.
Another essential is to continue your regular contact. So if you have a regular one-on-one meeting with your direct reports, whether it’s weekly, whether it’s fortnightly, you need to continue those. Whether it’s by video now or by phone, be disciplined and consistent. Don’t reschedule those one-on-one’s if you can avoid it and certainly don’t cancel them. So make sure those one-on-ones continue so that your people know that you are there for them and you’re helping them to work through whatever situations they’re facing, and you’re ready to help them to elevate their performance right now.
Continue all of your people processes. Making sure that you’re offering regular constructive feedback, making sure that you’re asking for feedback, making sure that the performance process continues just as it always would. The performance development process, the performance planning process, all of those things need to continue. Make sure that you have your team meetings and you bring everyone together. Again, video conferencing is a really good option for that. So there’s lots of things about the people focus.
If you have your protocols set up, you have clear priorities and your people have focus and support you enable three critical outcomes.
At the intersection of protocols and you foster connection, which is absolutely critical at the moment, the feeling of connection, of being connected. There is significant evidence that when people feel socially isolated, when they feel disassociated, that will have real impacts on mental health. So you want your people to feel connected. So, again, ensure sure you’ve got your communication channels set up. Make sure that you have everyone knowing how to reach out to other people, how to ask for help. And that you’ve got the tools in place to be able to support that. So, that’s connection.
If you have clarity around priorities and a shared agenda that your people are working towards that creates the opportunity for collaboration. Right now, you need your team to continue to be able to work together to support each other, to share ideas, to develop things together, to use their teamwork like they always have. And so, again, this is an opportunity for you to create the foundations for them to be able to continue to do that.
The intersection of your protocols, the way you’re going to work, and your priorities, knowing what you need to work on, enables you to deliver. So you can continue as a team, as a set of individuals working together, you continue to deliver what you’re here to do as a team.
By creating these foundations you can continue to focus and deliver during a time that has some additional constraints and boundaries. Further though, you are setting yourself and your team up for success. Rising above the line from can’t to can and enabling your team to perform.
We don’t know how long this set of challenges is going to last, so I encourage you to be tactical and strategic. Invest the time to set yourself and your team up for more than a few weeks. Make sure that you’ve got the foundations in place for you and your team. That creates a solid base to build on, from which to create direction, purpose and aspiration.
I’d love to know your thoughts.