Leaders are depended upon to guide and support their teams through unprecedented times. The year 2020 will go down in history books as a time of chaos, challenge, and change. Here is a list of words and phrases that I cannot seem to escape from in the past few months:
- This is an unprecedented time.
- We lack certainty.
- Stress levels are extremely high.
- When will things go back to normal?
- A new normal.
Not only have I heard these words, but I have also used them. I think we are all trying to make sense of all the changes… and yes, uncertainty in our lives.
It is human nature to do this as a form of survival. We want to feel psychologically safe and secure at work. When things are changing at high levels and beyond our control, our brain is wired to fight, flop, or flee. I have done all three of those behaviors myself.
As organizations are impacted by this pandemic in both big and small ways, it is the people who are left trying to make sense of it. No one really knows what the future holds and so this looming sense of “what is next?” clouds our thinking. Leaders are needed to refocus and align the team around how to move forward.
So, how do leaders regain a sense of control and safety amidst this chaos? There are many actions leaders can take.
Here are five helpful ways to create certainty in unprecedented times:
Establish and Practice Team Rituals
According to Webster-Merriam, a ritual is a ceremonial act, an act, or a series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner. Humans have all types of rituals, from celebrating birthdays with songs, cake, presents, and balloons to what we do as we get ready for bed at night. These rituals provide a sense of security for us.
You may already have rituals on the team that you didn’t even realize where rituals. And it’s never too late to establish rituals. I recommend you choose one at a time so you can be focused and consistent until it is ingrained.
Read 8 Workplace Rituals to Boost Engagement for ideas on rituals you can begin with your teams.
Focus on Things that Have Not Changed
Teams may be so focused on the changes, that they do not notice all the things that are the same. Taking time to list all the things that remain unchanged can be comforting.
For example, the team may all be working remotely, but the team members are the same. The way you reach out to clients may have changed, but the product or service you offer is the same.
Taking time to put things into perspective and look for relationships, processes, values, etc. that remain unchanged in this new situation.
Plan in Shorter Increments
It's difficult to know how to plan in unprecedented times. We aren’t sure what the next year will look like, let alone the next three months.
In many cases, it is going to be more effective and efficient to do more short-term planning. As we see how things unfold, we can modify our plans. It is a time to be agile for sure. Many organizations are thinking through a variety of potential future scenarios so they have multiple game plans and can easily pivot in response to what the future brings.
Move Ahead with Your Event Online
Rather than continually postponing an in-person event or canceling it, go ahead and schedule your event online. If you aren’t sure how to do this, find a facilitator who is well versed in online meetings, training, or conferences and who can support you in the design, development, and delivery.
Your event or meeting may look different, but it can still be successful in an online format. Enlist help and hold your events. People still need to meet, learn, network and connect with others. You may even discover some perks of doing them online, including savings of travel time and money.
Reinvent: Think Outside of the Box
Rather than waiting for everything to go back to normal, use this time to rethink your business, your offerings, your goals, etc. The world is evolving and those who are willing to innovate and adapt to what the future brings will be much better positioned for success.
Explore what others are doing and research trends. Get together with creative people and brainstorm new ways to do things. Try things that you have never done before. This can be an exciting opportunity to reinvent if you are open to doing things differently.
While this year has been filled with some hard and unprecedented times, it may just be the beginning of an exciting new future. Your mindset and willingness to make lemonade out of lemons will have much to do with how your year ends. Look for ways to increase psychological safety for yourself and others. My hope for myself and for you is that we are able to look back at 2020 as the time that spurred significant growth.
About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and Forward, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.
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