Leading in times of unpredictable, extended crises can be exhausting. Business leaders often have no time to prepare in the face of uncertainty and challenge. However, during times of crisis, no job is more important than taking care of your employees. Effective leadership understands the team’s circumstances and distractions, and always finds a way to engage and motivate.
However, it can be an uphill battle to keep employees happily engaged during crises. When the coronavirus pandemic first started, many leaders rose to the occasion and made every effort to protect employees, retain customers, and secure their business. Despite the scale of the outbreak, leaders made a genuine effort to retain control and restore emotional disturbance.
Their priorities were to keep employees informed, even when they were dealing with a torrent of misinformation themselves, and scrambled to provide employees with a suitable means of working remotely.
Those who genuinely cared for their employees managed to keep the bottom line up during tough times, often creating more resilient and stronger teams than ever before.
As the pandemic lingers on, many employees are either still working from home, or they’re reboarding back into the work environment; but a large percentage of workers still feel less than prepared to return to work. In fact, employee preparedness and alignment have been steadily declining. A Gallup Panel found that 20% of employees in the US are less likely than they were in May 2020 to:
- Feel prepared to do their job.
- Be communicated a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19
- Be informed about what is going on in the company
- Feel that their organization actually cares about their overall wellbeing
Everyone, including managers and employees, feel weary and look to leaders for communication and direction.
It could be argued that managers are the linchpin of the employee experience that connects the front lines to higher levels of management. They must assume the role of a coach to effectively lead employees through a crisis.
The Difference In Managing Vs. Coaching
Managers oversee the work of others. Their job duties mostly include onboarding (or re-boarding in the case of employees returning to the workforce) new employees, evaluating progress, making decisions, dealing with conflicts, delegating tasks, and conducting meetings. In most cases, most managers use ‘directive leadership’, which involves defining clear objectives and rules for employees without any room for feedback. This strategy, for obvious reasons, isn’t always effective and their efforts often result in disengaged employees.
Being a directive manager should be reserved for situations that require expediency and decisiveness (during emergency situations).
Coaching, on the other hand, is a process that aims to improve and uplift both performance and employees. It is extremely effective at enabling employees to achieve their goals. The term ‘coaching’ refers to a two-way communication process between team members and managers. Coaching your employees may feel counter-intuitive at first, but the results definitely pay off.
A coach has to listen more than they talk, and often ask questions while they relay information. Coaches don’t just present a list of solutions; they create a culture where all team members contribute to the solution as a whole. This enables employees to reach their full potential.
Coaching Tips During A Crisis
Below are a few managerial tips to follow during times of crisis.
1. Communicate Like Never Before
Provide continuous feedback and open up the lines of communication. Transparency is key during times of uncertainty and will help employees thrive. Make sure to let your employees know if they are meeting their expectations. Employees who communicate regularly with their managers are three times more engaged with their work.
2. Motivate Instead of Command
Balance direction with inspiration. Coaches show employees their potential by pointing out their good and the value they provide. This develops their self-confidence.
3. Ask, Don’t Tell
Because crisis affects both employees and managers equally, team members need someone who can demonstrate empathy. One way to do this is by asking them questions and listening more than telling them what to do. In our RealTime Coaching Program, we use the WDIP method. W: What do you want? D: What are you doing? I: Is what you are doing getting you what you want? P: What is your plan?
4. Help Employees Grow
Consistent coaching helps your team learn and grow regularly. Managing is about helping employees find clarity about where to go and how to get there. This will, in turn, empower your employees with the ability to navigate through difficult circumstances.
5. Engagement Report
New problems require new solutions. Take a People-First approach with the Engagement Report, the latest offering from TTI Success Insights that will reveal the how and why of your team’s behavior.
The Bottom Line
Your employees are more than just human capital; they’re real people facing challenging circumstances. As a manager, you can’t solve every problem or answer every question. But there’s one thing you can always try to do – actually care for your team members. When you get this right, you create a workplace environment where emotional connections are deep, innovation becomes second nature, and employees become resilient in the face of adversity.