As difficult as scaling our businesses down last year was, it is shaping up to be just as difficult to scale them back up again. There is pent up demand for people wanting to gather and as live events come roaring back, it is a critical time for leaders to step up and pave the way for their team members. In difficult situations, leaders must set a positive example, because the rest of the team is looking to them for hope, guidance, and reassurance. Here are three things you can focus on now to help your team navigate the road to recovery.
1. Acknowledge the stress, but don’t let it get you down.
Facing a full event calendar with a team that is a fraction of what it used to be is daunting; and bound to increase stress levels. There is a common misconception that leaders should have all the answers. I don’t believe this to be true. The best leaders are willing to be vulnerable, admit what they don’t know, and then bring together the right people to help them solve problems. Trying to pretend that everything is fine when you are at your breaking point does not serve you or those around you well. Instead, acknowledge the difficulty of the situation and the impact it is having on you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t get overwhelmed thinking about how you will get from A to Z. Take small, manageable steps from A to B and then B to C and so on. Breaking down a challenge into smaller tasks inspires confidence and can reduce stress.
2. Paint a vision for the future.
People are willing to work hard, especially when they know what they are working towards. Acknowledge and communicate that a lot of the solutions being put into place are short-term as a way to help companies get back to a better place. Asking people to work more hours can crush morale when there is no end in sight. Take some time to think about where you want to be a year from now and let your team know your plans. G.K. Chesterton said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” When a team has pride in the company they work for and who they work with, they will run through walls for you. Painting a vision of what they are working toward is a reminder that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
3. Invest in relationships.
The greatest equity in the world is created through relationships. Our team members need us now more than ever to lean into them. As leaders, we must understand their emotions, challenges, and capacity to help them get through the rebuild of our businesses. New team members will be added, people will be asked to do things outside of their jobs, and the scars from last year are not fully healed. We have to value our people for more than the job they do and recognize them as a whole person, not just an employee. Taking time to ask meaningful questions of your team members and actually listening to the answers will let them know that you care about them and their well-being. Talent is already hard to come by, and investing in relationships with your current team members can help ensure that you retain the people you have.
Making time to focus on your role as a leader can seem like one more thing to add to your never-ending to-do list. However, I would suggest that it is the most valuable use of your time. We may be nearing the end of COVID, but the long road to recovery is just beginning and is filled with challenges. It is a road that will push some teams to their limit, and it is a road that will be much easier for those leaders who recognize the difficulty, paint a vision for the future, and strengthen relationships with their team members.