Right now, there is one question all leaders have to answer: “What type of leader do I want to be?”
When the dust settles after the current crisis, employees will remember how we led and what we did to support our businesses. Luckily, many expert consultants and thought leaders recently came together to share recommendations for navigating the challenges many of us are facing.
Last week, our friends at Scaling Up hosted the Re-N-Vent Summit, which brought together 12 top business leaders to give their advice on what to do now.
Below are just a few of my biggest takeaways:
Necessity is the mother of invention. I have seen that play out so many times over the past few weeks. From new tools to completely pivoting business models, leaders are finding innovative ways to make lemonade.
Margaret Heffernan, tech CEO and entrepreneur, stressed in her session that we are not alone. In odd ways, going virtual has made it easier than ever to connect with your network, which makes this the moment to reach out and strengthen your relationship base. More often than not, people who used to be difficult to match calendars with are now more available to have a 15-minute conversation.
Margaret also mentioned that people are more willing to try new things and work with you in ways they never would have before. Leverage this time to connect with one or two people outside your typical circle each week. Think customers, connections from past conferences, or those college peers you talk to only through LinkedIn comments. Understand what’s going on in their worlds and brainstorm ideas or initiatives that could help your company during this time.
While Oreos can be a great quarantine snack, they’re not the best communication tool. Sandwiching hard feedback—the act of providing praise, criticism, and then praise again—undermines the message of both the positive and constructive feedback. It is better to carve out time to deliver your message and focus on each message one at a time. Whether you’re coaching an individual employee or sharing company-wide communication, don’t pull a punch. Better to lean into your authentic self.
In a recent Emplify survey, we found that almost 60% of employees report feeling fearful, anxious, and stressed. Especially in times of uncertainty, employees need clear and transparent communication, not a sh*t sandwich.
It’s hard enough to give employees your undivided attention in person, let alone when virtually. Making employees feel seen and heard is more important than ever. David Marquet, a former Naval Commander, explained his zero or 100 rule: if you can’t give someone or something 100% of your time, then give it zero. Or as Ron Swanson says:
David says that routine and creating space for focus are two ways to give 100%. Also, during 1:1 conversations with your team, turn off notifications and refrain from checking email; be present.
We all know that when we can, we should be using video with our employees. However, it can be energy draining to be “on” all day. Zappos Chief People Strategist Hollie Delaney shared that the company uses Apple’s Memoji feature in video chats, letting team become unicorns or cartoon versions of themselves. They still get the human connection while providing a creative outlet and a break from being “on.”
Not using Facetime? You can also use the “virtual background” feature in Zoom or turn yourself into a potato on Microsoft Teams. What are some other ways to creatively help your employees manage their energy?
As more businesses move to remote work, striking a balance between providing autonomy and micromanaging employees can be difficult. Ron Lovett, serial entrepreneur and author, provided an excellent framework for encouraging autonomy while ensuring alignment.
When a team member — regardless of title — has an idea, encourage them to think through these questions:
1. Is it the right thing for you customers?
2. Is it the right thing for your company’s purpose?
3. Are they willing to be held accountable?
If the answer to all three is yes, then they should go for it. Eighty percent of the time, the people closest to the work will make decisions better than those in the boardroom. Encouraging these contributions will also help to identify high-potential employees while moving past hierarchical bottlenecks.
Using this framework, you can create your own three questions. Empower your managers to communicate this practice to their team during 1:1s and coaching conversations, and be sure to model it yourself with your own direct reports. Setting clear guidelines and empowering your employees this way helps to create trust and psychological safety — especially in a time when those two attributes are critical for an engaged workforce.
Emplify’s CEO and Co-Founder, Santiago Jaramillo, also walked through our new Covid-19 Well-being Assessment. This is great tool to assess the remote-readiness, overall mental well-being, and specific needs of your employees during this time. Click HERE to check it out.