The slow transition back to normal after COVID-19: How leaders can help their teams
- Even as society and workplaces slowly return to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic, much uncertainty remains.
- Leaders can help steer their teams along the journey by relying on guiding principles.
- Empathy, science, transparency, collaboration and accessibility are principles that will serve leaders well during a potentially tumultuous transition period.
It’s safe to assume that the new normal will be abnormal for a long time. The transition won’t be like flipping one big switch from off to on. It will be more like a dimmer switch that adjusts from dark to light incrementally — and there may be different switches for various roles, teams and workspaces. That’s the challenge when a story doesn’t have a clear endpoint, as is the case with the unfolding impact of COVID-19.
In the face of uncertainty, guiding principles are a bedrock of certainty. You can make clear to everyone on your team that the following principles will show the way forward.
Empathy is essential
All members of your team have stories of how the virus has affected their lives. Some will be carrying heavier burdens of loss, grief, fear or frustration.
As a leader, you may pride yourself on your resilience and ability to charge forward during adversity. But don’t presume that’s the norm. Try your best to meet people where they are.
Be a better listener than ever before. Listening can help you understand how to keep people engaged, or what’s getting in the way of their motivation. Encourage people to be kind to each other and give the benefit of the doubt as they get acclimated to new circumstances.
Science drives decision-making
Unfortunately, the pandemic has bred misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories. Political camps have formed around mitigation efforts, including even the wearing of face masks.
It’s vital, especially as healthcare professionals, to reinforce the importance of evidence-based decision-making. So, when you develop protocols for where, when and how people work, be clear about the data that support those decisions. Cite your sources, whenever possible.
Which leads directly to the next point…
Transparency builds trust
Be as open as possible about your decision-making process. This approach won’t always be easy. Decisions about policies such who gets to work from home and who must report to the office might be based on very personal issues — perhaps an employee’s physical or mental health. That’s not for public consumption.
But whenever possible, share the process by which decisions are made — or better yet, involve people in those decisions. Even when people aren’t thrilled about a decision, they are less likely to cause problems if they believe the process was fair.
Collaboration makes us stronger and smarter
In the new normal, you as a leader will need all the friends you can get. You’ll need HR to help you lay the groundwork for healthy, equitable and productive work environments. You’ll need risk managers to ensure you’re compliant with health and safety regulations. You’ll need IT and information systems partners to build out digital strategies, systems and skills. You’ll need marketing experts to tell the story of your organization’s renewal and rededication.
If silos exist in your organization, now is the time to knock them down and become one tribe with many specialties.
Accessibility is crucial
Adjusting to a new normal is frightening and confusing. People fear making mistakes. People will make mistakes. Change will continue. Business losses may force painful decisions.
Instead of spending inordinate amounts of time in planning meetings and strategy sessions, managers need to be more accessible to staff than ever before. Your people need you. They need to know not just that your door is open, but that your heart is open to them and you will make time to listen to their suggestions, questions and feedback.
We can’t predict the new normal right now, but on our way there, we can be assured that empathy, science, transparency, collaboration and accessibility will make for a better journey.