Navigating change is something all leaders face. Unfortunately, sometimes that change is dictated by a crisis. Soft skills, like emotional intelligence, are at the core of keeping moving parts in sync while pushing forward during a crisis, even when you don’t have all the answers. Nowhere in recent history has this been more true than in the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, there are leadership lessons that have emerged (and are still being figured out).
The pandemic is still making trending news, yet here are four lessons that leaders have learned in handling workplace crises during a global crisis.
1. Remote Work Is Indispensable After COVID-19
Managing virtual work during the pandemic hasn’t been easy. Employers scrambled to make sure employees had what they needed to work from home. Additionally, employees not only had a steep learning curve in the remote work arena but many were also expected to simultaneously juggle professional productivity with parenting.
In spite of the scheduling headaches, the threat of burnout, and the employee isolation that remote work brought, at-home work situations are here to stay. The reality is, when location is a non-issue, a company may have better luck attracting top talent. And companies can also reduce overhead expenses when less office space is needed. As for employees, many have learned to appreciate the increased flexibility of a remote or hybrid work schedule as a result of COVID-19 making work from home the new reality. Despite initially complicated logistics, at-home work is turning out to be a win-win for both the employer and employee.
2. Creativity and Adaptability Sustain Enthusiasm
Things change––sometimes the change is predictable and at other times it’s unexpected. During the pandemic, there were predictable outcomes, like the development of a vaccine. But other factors, like the duration and consistent re-emergence of social distancing and masking, were possibly underestimated or altogether missed.
And because change often brings challenges, leadership’s ability to problem-solve and think critically are essential in turning those problems into opportunities. When leaders possess a vision to create and recreate situations that become unrecognizable, the staff is more likely to remain optimistic during that uncertainty. Keeping staff engaged by using change as a professional development opportunity also signals hope and purpose.
3. Workplace Culture Matters
Caring for employees and cultivating a hospitable work culture is critical during a crisis. Key qualities of this healthy workplace culture include the leadership’s ability to communicate and remain visible during stressful and uncertain times. Thus generating morale and clarity, which help employees make unexpected adjustments. When situations call for staff to take on new or more responsibilities (as during the pandemic), a healthy workplace culture includes giving staff members a voice during that transition.
COVID-19 showed us that when leadership creates space for employees to ask questions and make suggestions, it fosters an environment of trust. Even in situations that require decisiveness, leadership that demonstrates transparency and vulnerability meets less resistance than leaders who appear unapproachable and disconnected. Moving forward, we can expect the best leadership to be humanistic leadership.
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While the pandemic was and continues to be a time of great uncertainty it has also been a catalyst for ingenuity and growth. The key takeaway for leadership is that being proactive and not merely reactive makes the difference when it comes to employee morale.
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