Having worked closely with managers for many years, I know that there’s never been an easy time to lead a team. Every era has its own ups and downs, creating obstacles that can stand in the way of success. However, what I’ve seen recently is like nothing else.
Today’s managers are not only facing the ‘standard’ challenges of leadership, but also a whole host of new challenges brought on by the pandemic. As a result, it’s not surprising that I’ve had many people come to me asking for support during this difficult time.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I can say with certainty that you’re not alone. However, the good news is that you’re also not alone when it comes to overcoming these challenges. I’ve collated a few of the biggest frustrations that leaders have to deal with right now, with some helpful tips to help you effectively manage those difficulties to be an even better leader:
Resilience amongst teams has long been a ‘nice to have;’ it’s been the sort of thing that leaders like to see, but which hasn’t really formed a major priority. Today, that’s all changing. Times are tough. Things are different. There’s uncertainty, and ways of working are shifting. Right now, resilience is a make-or-break characteristic, and leaders are finding that there is an urgent need to start building resilience amongst their workers. Building resilience at this time is such a significant challenge that even the CDC has weighed in, urging leaders to consider how workplace stress and strong emotions resulting from COVID-19 could cause many employees to feel very overwhelmed.
Overcoming this challenge means providing your team with the skills, knowledge, and essential tools they need to adapt effectively to change. And the good news is that there are many ways to do this. Tactics for building resilience include a fresh focus on wellbeing, active listening, mindfulness training, and perhaps even internal reorganization. If you’re a leader, ask yourself if you could reallocate your resources to ensure they’re doing work that meets their interests. Over the past few months, I’ve seen a big difference in outcomes between the organizations who have and have not done this well.
Managing Remote Teams
Stanford University reports that nearly half of the US workforce is now working from home full time as businesses strive to minimize transmission rates by introducing more flexible remote policies. As a result, the percentage of work days spent operating from home has increased fourfold since before the outbreak, suggesting that many businesses are relatively new to the world of remote working. For leaders, the big challenge to emerge from this is the rapid need to switch from face-to-face management to leading a remote team. And it’s not always easy. A dispersed team, and a team operating away from their usual environment, has different needs.
Overcoming this challenge means looking at new ways to form connections, not only between you and your team, and between the team members themselves, but also between employees and the business. Taking the time to promote the ‘big picture’ is massively important, ensuring your team fully understands how their combined efforts are driving the core business, even when they can’t physically see their impact.
Fostering Creativity & Innovation
While the pandemic itself is temporary, it’s creating changes in how we work, and how we do things, that are expected to be much longer lasting. Perhaps even permanent. It is clear that businesses cannot continue as normal, and thriving in a post-COVID world means adapting to a new type of normal. The key to this is innovation and creativity, designing and implementing new processes that drive growth and development. However, fostering this creativity and innovation is proving to be a big challenge for today’s leaders who are trying to find a happy middle ground between maintaining productivity during uncertainty and encouraging their employees to take new risks.
Overcoming this challenge means giving your team the confidence they need to generate change. This confidence could be created by delegating tasks to provide employees with the time they need to develop new strategies, or by ensuring transparent access to organizational data that allows workers to build data-driven processes backed by facts and figures. Confidence is key to fostering innovation.
Blending Empathy with Economy
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that today’s leaders are facing is that they’re feeling torn between empathy and economy; between doing what’s best for their people, and doing what’s being requested by the business. In the highly vulnerable economy created by the pandemic, the economics side of operations is clearly critical.
However, treating employees well and looking after your team has never been more important. A prime example to look at here is Ellen. America’s Queen of Daytime is now known as ‘the Queen of Mean’ after a number of employees spoke up about the mistreatment they received on set. Blending empathy with economy is absolutely vital.
Overcoming this challenge means being flexible and open enough to shift your perspective; to see the wellbeing of your team not as a competing entity to the business, but as the driving force behind it. Taking the time to care for your people and satisfy their needs, is one of the best ways to create a motivated and productive team that not only works hard but also has a strong interest in the future of the organization.
Evolving Employee Needs
Finally, it’s important to remember that not all challenges that leaders are facing today are the result of the pandemic. In fact, one of the biggest challenges causing headaches right now is that the workforce is shifting. Just as leaders were finding their groove in catering to the millennial worker, ‘Gen Z’ started to appear. Right now, leaders are not only finding themselves trying to continue meeting the needs of their long term employees, but also making changes to facilitate the launch of the 50 or even 60 year careers of their newest hires. And what Generation Z needs is much different; this is a generation focused on wellbeing, on the environment, and on total equality.
Overcoming this challenge means actively listening to what each generation has to say, and perhaps most importantly it means taking onboard the new aspects that are being prioritized by the workforce of tomorrow. Developing a leadership approach founded in diversity, inclusion, sustainability, and reskilling has never been more important, and the key to achieving this is to really listen in to employee needs.
Ready to put all of this into action and discover even more ways to lead your team through these challenging times and emerge stronger on the other side? Enroll in my new Inspirational Leadership University now.