This is a guest post written by Jennie Yelvington, Program Manager, HR Organization and Professional Development
March brought unprecedented change to this large, often slow-moving organization, and it is easy to see why it might feel overwhelming at times. Each day brings new information and impactful changes that leaders must influence and enact without much warning. Additionally, each of us must manage adjustments in our personal lives. Making a proactive effort to take care of yourself will be critical to handling these times effectively with your staff. Staying calm, forward-thinking and encouraging requires you to not allow yourself to become depleted.
You know what this involves: get enough sleep, eat nourishing food, exercise, and do other things that help to sustain you. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll have no capacity to take care of your team and the organization. I am confident that this upheaval in our daily routine will change us in ways we can’t yet imagine and perhaps for the better. Creativity and innovation are often born out of times when we can no longer do “business as usual.” In addition to doing the work of the day, don’t forget to bring humanness to your leadership with these tips for success:
- Be patient with yourself and others as we navigate this new terrain and recognize gains made, however small.
- Acknowledge and grieve losses, sharing empathy and compassion as we find our way through.
- Strengthening our connections is more critical now than ever, so help each other to learn new technology and overcome barriers. Share knowledge and seek help from your peers across the organization.
- Make an extra effort to connect with your team. Utilize Microsoft Teams to hold daily virtual meetings, share information and provide encouragement. Or just pick up the phone.
- Learn something new as a team. Have team members “host” the ideas.
- Stay connected with people who cannot work remotely. They are important to the overall success of your organization and when things get back to normal, you will need them. Think about how you can stay connected in new ways. Try mailing letters or cards.
- If you are a higher-level leader, providing support for your Chairs and front-line supervisors is critical. Make sure you are connecting with them on a regular basis.
- Create structured meetings for all and consider one-on-one meetings and small project/team meetings to enhance communication. It’s OK to just “talk.” It is vital, more than ever, to increase positive interactions.
The following paradoxes outlined in the article Leadership Confidence in Times of Uncertainty by Dave Ulrich may be helpful to consider:
- Avoid the extremes of either over-reacting or under-reacting or as a thoughtful sage once said, “run with patience.”
- Care for both the individual and the organization.
- Balance the need for decisive action (be bold) and the need for thoughtful value-based decisions (be calm).
- Respond to the short-term challenges of the moment and anticipate and plan for the long-term implications.
Along with the obvious challenges, this is also a time of great opportunity if we can remain open. In the Forbes article, Leading In Times Of Uncertainty: How To Engage Optimism And Focus When Nothing Seems Predictable, H.V. MacArthur reminds us that we have a number of options that uniquely present themselves at this time, including:
- The ability of your team to experience the flexibility that comes from using remote work options.
- Opportunity for team members to catch up on work and upcoming deadlines.
- Time for your business to do proactive planning and strategic thinking.
- An opening for up-skilling team members through training and development.
Eventually, this crisis will pass, and we will move to another new normal. Focusing now on how we are taking care of ourselves, each other and the organization will influence how we come out on the other side. We have been encouraged by the compassion and determination expressed by our colleagues across the organization—continue that good work. While you’re at it, consider sending us your thoughts and suggestions on what is working well so we can share them more broadly at ProDev@hr.msu.edu.
MacArthur, H. V. (2020, March 17). Leading In Times Of Uncertainty: How To Engage Optimism And Focus When Nothing Seems Predictable. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/hvmacarthur/2020/03/16/leading-in-times-of-uncertainty-how-to-engage-optimism-and-focus-when-nothing-seems-predictable/#5ebb3fed47e2
Ulrich, D. (2020, March 12). Leadership Confidence in Times of Uncertainty. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leadership-confidence-times-uncertainty-dave-ulrich/?trackingId=2Xa4HAlp8xcOpEp3RFH/DQ==