Surviving the exit from lockdown

Who’d want to be in government right now? If they ease the restrictions, they will be slammed for recklessness. If they tighten the restrictions, they will be slammed for the economic and social damage. Until after the event, I doubt anyone knows the right answer to our predicament – even though we all have passionately held opinions!

The fact is that, if you are a manager, you still have to continue to do your best to maintain financial viability, look after the wellbeing of your staff, retain as many of those as possible, and set a course for a sustainable organisation … whatever happens and however the government responds. That is the role of managers and leaders. Those are big asks!

As the pandemic continues (and now looks to do so well into 2021) we can safely assume that staff are experiencing anxiety, perhaps even fear, over potentially losing their jobs. If working remotely, they are likely to be experiencing some loss of personal identity and weaker relationships with their former working colleagues. They are also likely to be experiencing increased fatigue, which we know comes form working in a largely digital virtual world.

As managers, whilst obviously working to ensure cash flow, supply continuity, client retention, and revenue generation, we must also attend to our staff. Without those being ready and willing to run our organisations post the pandemic, cash, suppliers, and clients will all be worthless.

So, what do staff want from you? I summarise some key requirements using the acronym CARE.

Clarity Staff want clarity. Be honest and clear about what is happening to the organisation, what it needs to be sustainable, and especially what they can do to help ensure that it is. Communicate these things frequently.

Assurance Most staff are sensible and realistic. Treat them as adults. But, they do want to be assured that everything possible is being done to protect the organisation and thus their jobs. Again, honesty is important. But, so too is listening to their ideas and suggestions. They probably know their work better than you do and they may have innovative ideas that will help. Assure them that you list and take note of what they suggest.

Recognition If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we are all human and all experience the same ‘ups and downs.’ It has been a powerful leveller. Recognise that your staff all have their own lives, families, and concerns. Show consideration for that. Go out of your way to recognise them for the efforts they make, the sacrifices they experience, and that they are there for you when you need them.

Empathy We know that working in a virtual world generates lower levels of empathy than we typically experience during face-to-face connections. But demonstrating empathy strengthens relationships and builds loyalty and trust. So actively seek to demonstrate empathy for the situation in which your staff find themselves. You will find it is reciprocal.

As a closing thought, we know that Self Awareness is a characteristic of all great leaders and managers. So, reflect on how your staff may be viewing you currently. The same acronym can also summarise what staff are likely to be looking for you to be:

Competent Are you demonstrating the strengths that got you to where you are? Are you clearly using this time to enhance your knowledge and skill. Are you building their confidence in your capability.

Authoritative We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world. Staff want managers to be decisive and willing to make things happen. As a manager, you have been given authority to do that. But, do you?

Rational Staff will often accept decisions they don’t like so long as they understand why they were made. What do you do to communicate and demonstrate that your decisions are rational?

Empowering Feeling powerless is one of the most debilitating experiences. Many staff are likely to be feeling this right now. So, what are you doing to maximise the amount of control that your staff have over their work, and how and when they do it? Even little examples will improve their perception of you and thus the support that they will give back.

Clinton Wingrove is Principal Consultant at WantToBeGreatManager.com. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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