The spring of 2020 will be an event we will all remember the rest of our lives. Similar to 9-11, Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the moon, or the assassination of President Kennedy, we will never forget it. It is my belief that we can take much more from this than a memory. There are leadership lessons from COVID-19 that we can use everyday for the rest of our careers. But those lessons must be captured now, while we are living in these times.
While there are other personal and professional lessons you might take from these times, I believe there are leadership lessons from COVID-19 available to every leader – if they recognize and apply them. Here are five things to learn now that will benefit you forever.
The Power of Empathy
Everyone on your team is in the same situation, yet individually they are living different situations. Here are just of few of those differences.
- Some are working while living alone and while they have no distractions from people, they are fighting boredom and loneliness.
- Some are working with a spouse or significant other working in health care or elsewhere on the front lines in the public.
- Some are working but also trying to teach their kids too. (Some with, and some without another adult in the house).
- Some are working, wondering if they might be fired or furloughed.
I could continue, but you get the picture. While these differences are more obvious now, people’s individual situations are always different. The best leaders know what is going on with team members so that they can support, encourage and help people succeed in their work. This is always true, but right now most leaders are more aware and attuned to these differences.
If you don’t know how your team members are doing beyond their progress on tasks, now is the time to step back and practice empathy. If you are practicing empathy now, make it your new habit.
More Frequent Communication
There will always be instances of poor leadership communication, even in a crisis. During the past few weeks there are also many leaders who have consciously worked hard to create better communication with their team members. Times of crisis give us plenty of things to communicate about, and if you are leading remotely that has likely led you to communicate a bit more than usual too.
If you are finding yourself communicating more, being more intentional about what and how often you communicate, congratulations. Remember what this looks like, and don’t stop when things “return to normal.” Rather, make more complete and frequent communication with your team your new improved normal.
The Folly of Micro-management
While every employee (you included) want better communication with and from their leaders, they don’t want to be micro-managed. While micro-management is never a great approach, in a newly remote working environment, leaders often try to exert more control. Thankfully, many leaders have had to let go of some of the urge to micro-manage because they have been so busy themselves or saw that it wasn’t helping.
If you have let go of the reins, hold on to that lesson, regardless of where your team members do their work. Remember that your team doesn’t want to be micro-managed any more than you do. Set clear expectations about the purpose, quality and timeliness of the work you expect from people. Provide support as they need it. Agree to how progress will be tracked, then let people do their work.
That approach works now and always will.
The Value of Using Technology Effectively
Sending everyone to work from home forced everyone to rely on technology more than ever. Perhaps your you and your team still aren’t using these tools as well as you could. Chances are though that you are more comfortable with them than you were before and recognize the possibilities of those technologies more than ever.
If you (and/or your team) aren’t using your available technologies as well as you could, use this time to build your skills and best practices. And decide today how you can use some of these tools more effectively in the future, even when you are passing people in the hallways of the office.
The Opportunities of Effective Virtual Meetings
Let’s face it, meetings have been the bane of work life through your career. Few things create a greater groan than looking at your calendar and seeing a day filled with meetings. Making meetings that were already poor virtual, doesn’t necessarily make it better.
What working from home has done is made meetings less routine because we must use technology to make them happen. For some teams, that has made meetings even worse. But others have used this shift to try to get more focused, more intentional and try to make meetings better.
If your meetings are a bigger mess than ever, use this time to work to improve them (you could start with my LinkedIn Learning course which you can preview for free). If your meetings have improved while everyone is on webcams rather than in the conference room, make sure to talk about what is working and resolve to hold those lessons for all future meetings.
While these lessons can be powerful, there are other leadership lessons from covid-19. Make sure that when you look back at the spring of 2020, you have lessons that you learned and can continue to apply from this experience to help you and your tam be more successful. That is one thing that is in your control now, that will create good from this difficult situation.
One way leaders can learn from their current situation and challenges is with the help of a coach. While there is great value in having a coach long-term, sometimes a leader needs a boost, a fresh perspective, and some tactical help. This is why we have created the Leadership Coaching Bundle that an organization can purchase to provide specific coaching to individual leaders when needed. You can learn more and find out how to get started here.