The Covid-19 situation is putting our resilience to the test. Working has taken on a whole new meaning, whether we’re essential workers or working from home or furloughed. We’ve had to pivot as individuals, teams, organizations, and in our personal lives as well. Good leadership has always been important, but now how we guide our people has become a central focus. It requires an increased level of awareness. It requires being a Conscious Leader — and breaking with the old patterns and habits so deeply embedded in what we do.
How can leaders overhaul their approach and better support their people? Start with mental health, and pay attention. People are under incredible mental strain — no matter the circumstances, and this won’t end when the initial crisis is over.
Here are 7 ways to tend to the mental health of your workforce, and help you as well, as your people get through the Covid-19 crisis:
1. Remove some pressure.
Your people still need to deliver results, but give them flexibility. Recognize the need to balance performance with downtime and model that yourself. If people see that you’re constantly connected, they’ll take that as a sign of what’s expected.
2. Provide clarity.
Your people need to know how the crisis is affecting the organization, and its workflows, and what you’re doing to respond to it. Present a clear vision of your direction of travel and hopes for the future. No one knows exactly what is going to happen but keep people updated as the situation evolves, and show you are mobilizing towards a longer-term vision.
3. Co-create the answers.
No one expects you to have all the answers. Between all of you, you can figure them out together: how to support each other when working from home, pivoting your service offer to the current needs of the customer, or finding out what people need to support their mental health and wellbeing. It just requires you to spend time asking more questions and listening to what others have to say.
4. Give people more than work.
Your people may be under tremendous work and personal pressure — and they need to know you’re concerned with their lives and needs as well as their deliverables. Check-in frequently, and ask them how they’re doing, and care about the answers. Discuss their personal development and wellbeing. Share some of your own thoughts and feelings as well – be open about your own experience of what’s going on. Show that you’re human too.
5. Check-in with yourself.
Don’t just click into hero mode: if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of everyone else. Make sure you take breaks and time outs, fuel your mind and body, get enough sleep, and keep the high intensity to short bursts. The model that, and model being calm and rational, for those on your team. Long stints of massive energy expenditures aren’t good for you, or those around you.
6. Look at your buckets.
These are the things that need your time and attention, such as relationships, kids, family, exercise, friends, home, spirituality, personal development, and self-care. How much attention are you paying to your buckets? Make sure each one is getting the attention it needs – and that will be unique to you. When we spend a lot of time filling up certain buckets, other buckets become depleted. What buckets do you have, and how much attention are you paying to them? What do you need?
7. Learn the language of emotions.
Even those in touch with their feelings often find it difficult to articulate them. For leaders, it can be even harder. Try these two exercises with yourself and your team:
1-10 temperature check: Ask everyone on the team to rate how they’re feeling on a scale from 1 (not good) to 10 (very good), then open up a conversation on why they gave themselves that score, and what would need to happen to raise it. I often do this at the start of a meeting as a check-in, and it brings up some powerful insights for all of us.
Look at the Feelings Wheel: use this wheel to identify the emotions you’re experiencing right now. Consider why you’re feeling this way, and notice the range of emotions you may be experiencing. Consider what is driving those emotions. Remember, no emotion is bad — it’s a normal part of the human experience. Try this out as an exercise with the team, and find out what words people choose for themselves.
We’re all under inordinate pressure right now. By becoming more aware of what is going on inside and around you, you become a better, more conscious leader. Create the space for people to speak up, maintain consistent direction, and work with your team to keep on top of what matters most. You will be respected for it. How you lead during this time of crisis may be your most memorable legacy.
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