DON’T JUST BE A BOSS, BE HUMAN
How to lead well during Massive uncertainty
Your employees aren’t robots. They aren’t random numbers or the project they’ve been assigned to. They aren’t just the woman in cubicle B, or the guy who answers the phone when you call into HR. They are people, flesh and blood and hopes and dreams. They have hobbies and families, worries, and diagnoses. If you stop and take the time to consider each person you lead, it may surprise you how little you know about who they really are—not as an employee or a comrade in chasing the bottom line, but as a fellow human being.
This year has been tumultuous, to say the least. We have been stretched and twisted in every which way, and have been forced to wear hats we never anticipated, and certainly never adequately prepared for. Stress levels are at an all-time high; income and job security are at an all-time low. Businesses are struggling. Employees are struggling. People are struggling. Leading during this time in history is no walk in the park.
Today, as I was pounding out the miles on my bike, I was meditating on these challenges we’re facing, as leaders, and how they affect those entrusted to us. A quote attributed to both Theodore Roosevelt and my mentor, Zig Ziglar, popped into my head: “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
In this time of uncertainty and upheaval, great leaders look for ways to guide others through troubled waters with vision and, most importantly, compassion. It can be tempting to stick to routine and processes and avoid expressing concern for the team. However, they are more than a cog in a wheel. When they are shown that you care for them on a personal level, you have the potential to build connections with them that will inspire them, on the job and off.
I learned this valuable leadership lesson during my own season of sorrow. Over the period of thirteen years, I lost eleven people who were very close to me. As you can imagine, that kind of rapid-fire loss really knocked the wind out of me. Just as one storm would pass, another one would form and decimate me. During this time, a few people took the time to reach out to see if I was okay. They would usually say something like, “Hey, I don’t know what to say, but I just want you to know I’m here.” They didn’t need to have all the answers, but their simple reassurance was the compassion I needed. I knew things would get better, and that hope and encouragement kept me going.
There are two big takeaways I would like to offer you:
1. During times of disruption, your voice is more important than your words. Even if you don’t know what to say, let your team know that you care. Even if you don’t have all the answers, letting them know you are there can do wonders.
2. Your voice is the expression of your humanity. Call your team. Zoom call them. Even take the time to go see them. Don’t merely send a text or an email, but make the effort to connect in a personal way. When I received those phone calls and personal visits during those scary times, they made an incredible impact on me. They showed me that I mattered.
During this time of massive uncertainty, it’s a given that each member of your team is struggling in some way. They are searching for reassurance, security, hope, and even protection in the middle of chaos. You may not be able to offer up solutions to their problems, and that’s okay. The simple act of convincing them you care can revive your team, re-energizing them to follow you into whatever comes next.
Uncertainty may feel discouraging and hopeless, but, in reality, we have never been given a better opportunity to lead well. Take the time today to reach out to others within your circle. Even if you don’t have all the answers, show them you care. Show them they matter.
CREATE AN ACTION MAP IN THIS TIME OF UNCERTAINTY
If we can’t provide certainty, we must turn to the next best thing—clarity. You may not know how to become clear on your next steps, and don’t worry—you’re not alone. I have developed a tool called The Success Blueprint, included in my course, to help leaders such as yourself chart a path toward greater clarity. As you define what clarity looks like in your life and career, your team members will also benefit—a true win-win situation.
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