Leading During a Pandemic

Leading an organization right now can feel like driving to a destination you’re not sure exists on a road that’s changing right before you.

In this situation, we need to accept that the typical ways of leading a team may not prove successful. The simple question of what success looks like right now isn’t easy to answer with either clarity or consistency.  What success looks like in these situations is not at all clear.

While it’s unlikely that leaders can bring true clarity and certainty to the present moment, there are leadership practices that can help promote the well-being of the organization and its people. We recommend the following:

First and foremost, ensure that employees are healthy and safe in the workplace.
    • Stay up to date with the latest safety guidelines.
    • Prioritize their health and safety when making business decisions.
    • If work-from-home is working, ignore the pressure of bringing them back to the office just because that’s the way things used to be.
    • Allow employees to take extra measures to protect themselves at work.
Enforce the rules.
    • Employees desire and deserve safety (and OSHA requires it) and are looking to their leaders to create and maintain stability.
    • Consistency will be essential to keeping the workplace both safe and orderly during these strange times.
    • Enforcing company rules and policies, along with the rules of your state or locality, will increase both safety and overall trust in leadership.
Be compassionate and fair.
    • The mental and physical stress of the pandemic is affecting people differently, so they may need different treatment.
    • Adjust your expectations when employees are in a caregiving role, sick themselves, lonely, anxious, dealing with children who are home 24/7 for the foreseeable future, living with unruly pets, or all of the above.
    • Understand that everyone is dealing with productivity, morale and scheduling issues along with you.
    • Good leaders will accept the situation and set about making it as workable as it can be for employees and the organization as a whole.
Focus on the overall mission of your organization.
    • Analysis from Gallup indicates that people in a crisis look to their leaders for trust, compassion, stability, and hope. Don’t underestimate the need for hope right now.
    • Remind everyone of what you’re all doing and why you’re doing it. Ensure they understand how heir work is connected to the mission and success of the organization.
    • Hard numbers and specific projections are still important, but they may not be the most important thing to highlight at this time.
    • Communicate that at the end of the day (month, or year) your organization will still be able to deliver a quality product or service that will make the lives of your clients and customers better can go a long way toward instilling hope.