Proactive Leadership is Key to Recovery
“Unprecedented” is a word we often hear to describe the last year. It will be interesting to see what word or phrase will surpass the number one phrase of 2020, “you’re on mute”? The ongoing stress and trauma caused by the pandemic and high levels of uncertainty are negatively impacting many people. Much of the focus in organizations has been on refining processes. As a result, one of the leading concerns of businesses for 2021 is their employees’ mental health and well-being. It is understandable, given what we have all lived through the last 11 months, making positive and proactive leadership key to recovery.
Why is proactive leadership needed more now?
Even after months of adjusting to the new reality and dealing with the impact on their lives, the American Psychological Association annual Stress Survey shows that 78% of Americans report the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress. The respite so many were looking forward to in 2021 has yet to arrive. And many of the same traumatic events keep reoccurring, such as new strains of the coronavirus, lifting and then restarting COVID-19 restrictions, in-person then remote learning, and ongoing political tensions. Consequently, the heightened levels of anxiety can be debilitating for the teams you lead.
What does a proactive leader do?
Trauma impacts people at an emotional level, and emotions often overshadow logic. Leaders set the emotional tone, and the need for a positive and proactive manner is crucial now. The need for compassionate leadership didn’t end after the initial Covid-19 response. That need is ongoing considering the continued disruptions to “normal” life. In December of 2019, I was asked to step in to lead an organization through a significant change in leadership. It also turned into leading that essential organization through the fear and disruption of the COVID pandemic, internal dynamics, civil unrest, and other unexpected internal and external challenges. It was an emotional time for the staff, and merely focusing on new processes would not have helped them.
Emotions in our society are still running high. This emotionality also bleeds into organizations. Because of this, leaders need to respond appropriately, often while dealing with their own stress. The need for proactive leadership is ongoing, considering the heightened emotions, and disruptions, and is a key to recovery.
How Proactive Leaders Can Set a Positive Emotional Tone
Leaders can set a positive emotional tone in the following three ways:
First, do a gut check. Have you tended to your feelings, or is your fear or frustration impeding you or having too much influence on how you lead? If so, reach out to an executive coach or trusted advisor to support you and help build your resilience.
Second, connect with those you lead by being willing to show some vulnerability. Acknowledge any challenge you have with which your team can relate. Share an effective strategy you use to regain your perspective and model resilience for your team.
Third, pay attention to your communication. Make sure you demonstrate empathy, compassion, and patience with your teams. Acknowledge what many on your teams may be feeling. Then communicate optimistically about the future and the proactive things your organization has done and continues to do to keep people safe and to regain some sense of normalcy in your organizations this year. Encourage input from your team members on how best to move forward.
It is easy to get lost in all the changes in processes right now. Be sure to remember the people implementing those processes continue to face ongoing disruptions in their lives: those disruptions impact focus, productivity, and engagement. Implementing the above three actions over time will help you mitigate those disruptions through proactive and compassionate leadership.
Sue Kenfield leads transformative initiatives with her clients to build agile and resilient organizations by aligning organizational strategy and culture, enhancing human capital, increasing talent retention, and improving the bottom line for public and private companies and non-profit entities to boost growth, profitability, and improve the customer experience.