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5 Actions to help your team through challenging times

Things have changed!

Your customer facing outlets have closed and many of your staff are working from home. You’re going from one conference call to another, mitigating risks and implementing new procedures.
What can you do as a leader to help people through these challenging times?
Here’s 5 quick actions:

1. Check-in with yourself!

Leaders are the go-to people to respond to a crisis and help others through the chaos. We sometimes forget that leaders are human too. Give yourself permission to check in on yourself. Specifically, take time to ask yourself:

how is this Covid-19 crisis has impacted me?

Perhaps you have a parent that’s in a care home and now you can’t visit. Maybe you’re worried your children might get the virus. It’s okay to acknowledge that you’re feeling tired or even overwhelmed. You’re human. Part of emotional intelligence is having self-awareness and it can increase your empathy for others.

‘what’s one thing I can do, that would make me feel better?’ 

Think of something that makes you feel good – and go do it. A run before work. Meditate at lunch. Call a good friend just to catch up. Or get back to some basics like a good night’s sleep or healthy eating.

2. Check-in with your staff!

During a crisis, the most effective leaders are present, not absent. Your staff are likely feeling anxious about changes, concerned about their families, or even their jobs. One thing that can help people through times like these is to have something they can depend on, something that does stay the same. That can be you.
  a. Set up a weekly team check-in call. 30 minutes is all you need.
       – Ask people how they are doing.
       – Communicate relevant updates.
       – Celebrate small wins and give positive feedback for what’s going well.
       – Hint – make these dependable. No new news? hold it anyway. 
       – No time? Try a virtual huddle like 1-800 Got Junk – it takes 10 minutes!
  b. Check-in with individuals. Yep. Even if you have 20 employees. Talk with 2 employees a day and in 1 week you’ll have connected with 10 employees. See Gallup’s Q-12, ‘My manager or someone at work seems to care about me as a person’.
     – Provide positive feedback on 1 thing they that you appreciate. 
     – Don’t text. Call! They’ll hear your tone and you’ll hear theirs. 

3. Give them something to hold onto.

Remember Charlie Brown’s smart friend Linus? The one that always had his blanket with him. Well what does Linus do when his blanket is in the dryer? Change experts tell us to give people something to ‘hold onto’ during times of change. This could be you reminding your team:
  a. What their purpose, mission, or reason is for doing what they do:
       – ‘we still serve our customers’, or ‘provide innovative solutions’

4. Involve people in overcoming the challenge.

While it may not be their job to find a cure for a virus, employees are close to the front-line and can be very resourceful in coming up with innovative ideas on how to be more effective. If it makes sense:
   a. Invite staff to suggest creative ideas to overcome a challenge.
   b. Assess the ideas with methods like Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

5. Say “Thank you”.

Say thank you to employees for their efforts and provide positive feedback for things they’re doing well. Don’t worry about someone feeling left out. If you do it consistently, you’ll get to everyone.
   a. Heres’ an article from Culture Works on 4 ways to show gratitude.
   b. Here’s an article on creative ways to say thank you.
   c. Send an email. Send a card. Get the team recognizing each other. 

Ode to the Leader – It can be hard as a leader. Everything seems to fall onto your shoulders. You’re working extra hours, your work has changed too, and maybe your boss is not around – it can feel lonely. If you’ve ever wondered ‘what about me’ no one would blame you. So, here’s a few parting thoughts.
• Take a moment to reflect on all the ways you are making a difference – write them down.
• Think of someone at work that you like – give them a call – (don’t carry this alone).
• Reach out to your boss. She’d want to know if you need help. Ask for help.

Everywhere people are looking for ways to help. Maybe an employee can run that next conference call. Maybe say yes to the neighbor who offered to pick up groceries, or let your partner make that dinner. And know that you’re making a difference.

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