When it rains, it pours
By now, most people are well-versed in the COVID-19 outbreak. We know what to do, what to avoid, and what our role is to help keep society as safe as possible. What we give less thought to in a crisis (despite its importance) is our emotional well-being when we’re faced with adjusting to new ways of life in the wake of an unexpected challenge.
…the question remains: How can I cope with all the demands of an unfamiliar situation?
In Malaysia, the Prime Minister has extended the Movement Control Order (MCO) or RMO as referenced in many other countries, till the end of April. Singapore is also in lockdown till the end of April. The moment the announcement came out, I heard huge cries of frustration, anger, and pain from so many people in the numerous WhatsApp groups that I belong to.
These are experiences many have never gone through, especially those single and in solitude. We all recognise the importance of taking necessary social measures, but the question remains: How can I cope with all the demands of an unfamiliar situation?
In leadership, a fundamental quality of effective leaders is not only knowing how to adapt to changes brought about by a volatile and uncertain world, but also how to help others make adjustments – especially in times of stress.
As we find ourselves dealing with an extension of the RMO, a lot of people will be wondering how to maintain the additional demands that have arisen with the combination of home and work life under the same roof.
Are they not the most diabolically adorable distractions ever?
Juggling work-life with personal commitments has always presented challenges. However, with people now having to rely on their own efforts to deal with children in the house, online meetings, upcoming presentations, barking dogs, project deadlines, and dealing with heightened worry and concern…all of this can take a significant toll on our well-being.
So, how can leaders help lighten the load? I thought I’d share four key ways that we can put into practice to show that we truly care about our employees and strive to assist them through any difficult times they face.
These guidelines can also be applied to leaders themselves. Remember, we’re all in this together and we’re all trying to find our footing in these uncertain times. Ultimately, we need to be kind, understanding and patient with ourselves and others as we work through this period of crisis.
1. Remember, it’s a pandemic – not a productivity contest
It can be tempting to ask more of people during times of crisis. Organisations need to be innovative, on the ball, and still able to meet their needs as they navigate stormy waters.
Leaders might encourage their teams to learn more, upskill, and keep learning even in their free time. While the intention is to be helpful, leaders have to respect boundaries. People are concerned for their safety and the safety of their family; some may be dealing with family issues during the RMO; others will simply need time to relax and recharge.
In a crisis, it’s important that productivity be maintained during work hours. It’s also important, at all times, that people have the chance to unplug, unwind, and have time that’s free from productivity unless they otherwise choose so.
2. Make allowances for interruptions
Whether it’s a technical glitch with an online meeting, children needing attention, or any other distraction that wouldn’t be present in the office, working from home means we all have to make allowances as everyone learns to adapt as they go along.
It’s important to be professional during work hours, but these are unprecedented times. Working from home has blurred the lines between work and home life, and leaders should be aware that day-to-day operations and communications won’t run as smoothly as they do under normal circumstances.
3. Deliver clear and timely decisions
Over the past few months, employees have been thinking about a problem that can neither be seen nor solved. As information on the coronavirus evolves and changes, people are increasingly in need of a sense of control and being grounded amid the uncertainty.
Leaders can help by being clear in their communication and decision-making. Online meetings that drag on for longer than necessary will only add to the stress and confusion that people are feeling. Getting straight to the point of what needs to be done, who’s doing it and when, will help provide a sense of structure and direction.
At Leaderonomics, we have organised all our work into 4 buckets:
- Tier 1 – work that needs to be done now to survive
- Tier 2 – important and strategic work that should be done
- Tier 3 – meaningful work but not vital
- Tier 4 – low priority work
After tagging all our work into one of these categories, we created clarity for the entire organisation that our focus for the next 3 months is only Tier 1 and Tier 2 work. This helped the staff understand what needs to be done and how to prioritise the work they are doing.
4. Don’t be positive – be optimistic
Positivity is often overdone. We all know people who insist that everything is just fine when clearly, everything is not fine.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic – no history book has ever described previous pandemics as “fine”. This is a time for leaders to be optimistic – to acknowledge and communicate the reality that we’re facing and the challenges that lie ahead – and reassure people that, by pulling together, we can all overcome this current crisis.
People perform better when they know what they’re up against; they become inspired and determined by the confidence they have in their leadership. Effective leaders don’t pretend that everything’s fine: they communicate challenges clearly and set out a plan of action to overcome them.
One of the key things we have done in Leaderonomics is to let the whole team know the situation we are in. It looks really bad, especially our cash challenges. And we shared when our financial resources would dry up. And to get out of this conundrum, we need the team to work their socks off.
Editor’s note: Count on us, boss. We’re working from home – we don’t even need socks!
The reality is some might end up having to go, but we are going to all fight together. We are optimistic we will win. And we hope you will too.
Roshan Thiran is the Kuli at Leaderonomics, and is madly passionate about ‘changing the world’. But he understands that everything takes time and requires patience and perseverance. He wishes everyone all the best as they fight this situation together. For more information on special programmes for your organisation, visit www.leaderonomics.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Roshan on LinkedIn and Facebook (www.facebook.com/roshanthiran.leaderonomics) as he shares various leadership nuggets daily.