It is so important to confront your own fears, anxieties and frustrations. When we are thrust into a crisis situation, it’s only natural for that to cause inner strife. When you start by working through your own struggles, you can get yourself to a place where you’re able to respond – rather than react – to the people and situations around you. You’re able to deal with what comes your way with a clear mind, adapt more smoothly to changing circumstances, seize opportunities for personal growth.
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How to Create New Levels of Engagement in a Time of Crisis
Coaching can help you and your teams cope with fear, anxiety and uncertainty and establish new habits that empower you to connect, engage, inspire and lead with courage and compassion.
When a crisis arises – global or otherwise – we find ourselves dealing with a new reality of strangeness and uncertainty, with new recommendations, guidelines and theories emerging sometimes hourly.
People get scared, stressed and overwhelmed. Their attention gets divided between work, home, family and constant media updates. They worry about their loved ones, their own wellbeing and what the future will bring.
As leaders, we need to take the lead in adapting to the new reality. We can no longer overlook the humanity of the people we lead. Nor can we expect them to show up in full work mode, leaving their personal life behind. As the silos of work and home fall away, we have to work that into how we lead if we are to lead successfully.
Here are some challenges your team or organization may face in crisis:
- People not knowing what to do
- Distribution of workload
- Work expectations
- Motivation and productivity
- Effective collaboration
And here are some underlying challenges your employees may be facing that drive the above:
- Anxiety about the world, their health and their job stability
- Uncertainty about their contribution at this time
- Feelings of disconnection or isolation
- Difficult or distracting home situations
- Inexperience with self-management
- Lack of sleep due to stress
- Caring for sick family members
- Attempting to homeschool or parent young children while working
Although this may look like a time of struggle and roadblocks, it is also an opportunity to build engagement on a new, and more enduring level.
Now is the time to lead from the heart and embrace the possibilities for deeper engagement and trust within your team. Now, more than ever, we need true leadership that starts with leading yourself first, knowing your impact, and taking responsibility. This might mean unlearning who you are – or who you’ve always thought you need to be – and learning who you want, and have the potential, to be.
What worked yesterday simply will not work today. We need to come up with new ways of working. Every person needs to be engaged in a new way. In a crisis, what will keep companies going is having their employees engaged at high levels.
Getting to this place requires 3 main areas of focus:
We need to understand the reality of others. We aren’t all working in the same environment or emotional space. Get curious about others. What does their reality look like and what is your impact? In situations where the physical workspace is stripped away, one positive is that we no longer have the option to only acknowledge the person as an employee. We have to acknowledge them, and accept them, as fully human and all that comes with that.
In a time when so much is out of our control, having a sense of shared direction can help ground people in a powerful and truly engaging way. Without a physical office holding people together, it’s natural that individuals, teams or departments will start feeling isolated, that cliques will form and that we’ll struggle to relate to each other. Creating a sense of shared direction means establishing routines and virtual channels that create connection and keep people motivated to work together, support each other and consider their impact on one another and the organization.
There is so much advice flying around about using times of crisis to learn a new skill, take up a hobby, declutter your home and so on. This may be what personal growth looks like for some people, but for most people, true personal growth is something else entirely. For some, it can mean:
- Confronting inner demons without the distractions of the outside world
- Learning how to self-manage anxiety, fear, anger or other challenging emotions
- Growing through grief over the loss of normalcy and sense of security
- Navigating difficult or even toxic relationships with household members
We have this incredible opportunity to help the people we lead with their own personal growth. But we can’t do that if we don’t embrace the full depth of true personal growth, and understand how to create safe spaces for people to take these critical steps.
Although much can change during a crisis, here’s what will remain the same:
Our need to connect… for community… for leadership…
As humans, we will never stop needing to connect with each other. Positive connections fuel us in a way nothing else can. In times of crisis, they help us feel supported, inspired, understood and grounded.
We can accomplish incredible things when we’re part of a team. When we have a strong sense of community, we do things for each other and with each other. We know our role and we think about our impact.
In every crisis, leaders emerge. When those leaders choose to lead with compassion, they don’t just get us through hard times. They also create lasting impact that endures in positive ways once the crisis is over.
6 Steps to Create Engagement in Crisis and Beyond:
Ask yourself these questions:
- What scares me right now?
- What angers me right now?
- How am I showing up for others right now?
Then ask yourself:
- What do I currently know as fact?
- What impact do I want to have?
- What do I know about others’ situations right now?
- How do I want to show up for myself and others?
Where we would once bump into each other in the hallways, at the water cooler, getting a cup of coffee… crisis situations often strip that away. That informal, but deeply impactful daily connection goes missing at a time when we need connection more than ever.
Here are a few ideas for creating connection:
- A daily call for team members to share personal struggles (work related or not – remember, everything is directly impacting everything else).
- A daily “get up a stretch together” video conference.
- Fun challenges or theme weeks like pictures of your pets, embarrassing things your kids have done on conference calls, etc.
- Regular one-on-one calls with individual team members to check in and see how they’re doing (you might also want to ask if there’s anyone on the team they’re worried about).
- Acknowledge recent media updates or rumors right off the bat – if you know something’s going around, get on a group call and bring it out into the open – don’t let it fester.
As the leader, you might have to set the example and be the first to get vulnerable. Share your fears, struggles and how you’re trying to deal with them. When you take the first step, you create a safe space for others.
Your outward mindset is so important during a crisis. Before you act, spend a moment to consider the impact and outcome intended. When connecting with your team, ask yourself:
- How can I help them feel more appreciated?
- Did I contribute to them feeling unappreciated?
- What tone am I setting for my team?
- Who am I not hearing from? (Time to reach out!)
How you show up tells others how they are allowed to show up. If you’re dropping the “work mode” mask and being human, it gives your team permission to do the same.
When emotions run high, it takes a lot of energy to mask them. Let your team be real. Let them drop that extra load. They’ll not only feel more appreciated, relaxed and engaged, they’ll also have more energy to put into both their work and home life.
Expectations around getting things done have to change if people are going to be successful. What each person is capable of will depend on their unique situation, as well as on how things continue to evolve as you move forward.
Here are some tips for setting reasonable expectations that empower, not overwhelm, your team:
- Ask people what they feel they can give.
- Ask, “What can I do to make things better for you?”
- Reach out after only a few days to see how it’s working and modify expectations, if needed
- Start every day with the question, “Has anyone’s situation changed?”
- Pay attention to the unspoken – tone of voice, energy, body language over video, a change in email or IM responses, etc – ask about any changes one-on-one and without judgement.
- Talk openly about your expectations of yourself and how/if they change.
Now is the time to embrace flexibility, compassion and your own vulnerability.
Working together helps us connect. Since a crisis situation can stop us from stopping by each other’s desks, we need to be more intentional in getting people to collaborate.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Break people into small groups of 2 or 3 to solve a problem or brainstorm ideas.
- Create a list of tasks that require 2 or more people and let people “sign up” for them.
- Design virtual team building exercises.
- Create projects with short deadlines – Deadlines push people to get to work, but when you don’t know what things will look like down the road, keep your deadlines as short as possible.
What are you all working towards together, in the moment? That answer might change weekly or even daily, but it always matters because it’s what binds your work together and helps people understand their contribution within the big picture.
Here are a few tips to create this:
- Determine a mission statement for the team (it can be about your goals, something like “We’ll get through this together”, or something silly or based off an inside joke).
- Start each meeting saying your mission statement together (this will feel ridiculous, but it will also feel good).
- Talk often about your team’s role in the organization and what’s happening because of the team’s contribution.
- Share what it means to you to be able to rely on the team at this time and encourage others to share how the team positively impacts them.
- Talk about the future – Talk about how you see the team evolving post-crisis and discuss how the steps you’re taking now are helping set the stage for later success.
The Crisis is Temporary – The Impact is Not
Crisis is a scary time, but it is also a temporary time. Not knowing when it will end is difficult, but it’s so important to remember that it will end.
However, how you choose to show up now will have enduring impacts beyond the crisis at hand. Don’t let your team fall apart. Actively create new pathways of engagement and connection and pay attention to the culture you’re creating. The result will be a whole new way of approaching leadership that will empower you and your teams to thrive in times of stress, and continue to take you all to greater heights when this difficult time ends.
Whether you need guidance to navigate and thrive through a current crisis, or want to prepare your organization, teams or leadership for any potential crisis down the road, please connect with me to discuss your needs.