Dr Lynda Shaw shares her top tips of how to be a good leader during the global challenges we are currently facing and how to manage stress and performance within the workforce in these difficult and changing times.
Stay human and groundedThe best leaders lead by example. Some business leaders did well during lockdown, working side by side with their colleagues on the shop floors in leading supermarkets. Others failed miserably with management working from home whilst they expected their staff to go in to the workplace. Work as a team during hard times, exemplify the behaviours you want to develop and radiate your passion and influence. Your employees will feel supported and loyal, and work to a higher standard.
Remove uncertaintyAnxiety will be running high. Research shows that people find uncertainty more intimidating and more stressful than known outcomes, whether they are good or bad. People exposed to prolonged uncertainty will release stress hormones and display symptoms of anxiety like decreased productivity and low mood. Many businesses are going to have to make many hard decisions in the coming months or perhaps years, so ensure your business plan is clear, honest and transparent.
Communicate. Communicate. CommunicateTalk to your management and team, be open to questions and ask managers and HR to be intuitive to all employee needs. If redundancies are due to happen, think carefully before making announcements to ensure you are ready to be clear and to manage expectations. Support the workers who are going to be made redundant in any way you can.
Be flexible with work locations and patternsWork patterns are clearly going to change for office based businesses now that staff have successfully proven they can work well from home. If you facilitate your staff’s desire for flexibility and understanding, you breed loyalty and motivation. Everyone’s personal circumstances are different. Find out what bespoke support staff need and provide it wherever possible.
Trust your staffStudies show that productivity and morale increase when people are trusted and respected to make their own decisions at work. Don’t micromanage. Instead find ways to energise them.
Continue to network and collaborateBreak down barriers and reach out to colleagues, competitors, and like-minded businesses to share ideas, resources and plans. Just like we are seeing scientists working together to find a vaccine for COVID-19 by coming at it from many different angles, the same can be done in business. Being united makes us stronger.
Think verticallyLook at cross departmental projects. Ask your team to be creative and solution based and to seek out stretch assignments in a completely new territory or to take on a failing area and turn it around. Now is the time to use change to your advantage to make things more streamlined, profitable and to improve services. Don’t let your business get left behind because you didn’t think of alternative solutions or reacted too slowly.
Different people will react differently to significant changeSome may struggle with isolation, some may display anger, anxiety, fear, burn out or sadness, whilst others may have felt more able to rise to the challenges or have easier circumstances. Identify who needs support and allow workers and customers enough time to acclimatise to change. Ask for feedback and be open to questions and get everyone involved during times of change.
Stay socialThrough brain imaging, scientists have found that when people experience social exclusion and social distress some areas of the brain are similarly activated as if they were experiencing physical pain. For people to work at their best, they need to feel like they belong to a team and have positive social connections.
Be good at giving and receiving feedbackGive regular effective recognition and constructive feedback on how people can improve their performance and develop their skills even during times of considerable change. Seek out 360-degree feedback and inspire your workforce too. This might not be an obvious time to do extra training but when we learn new skills the brain has to create new neural pathways. Keep creating challenges. Dr Lynda Shaw is a neuroscientist, business psychologist and change specialist.
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