Governor Cuomo told us that we will start to consider reopening NY after May 14th. For some there is a light at the end of the tunnel. For others there is just more darkness. What we learned after 9-11 is that getting back to work is easy for some and challenging for others. Our leaders have the power to create positive work environments that give people what they haven’t had for a month, a sense of control. They way to do that is to stockpile positive experiences and we intentional how you lead.
The best leaders look to the future and bring people along with them. In the life changing work of Viktor Frankl on Man’s Search for Meaning he talked about the importance of “Tragic Optimism.” His work was related to the holocaust one of the most terrible events in history. We can learn the importance of leaders instilling sensible hope so we have something to look forward to. This does not mean ignoring the facts and the reality of the coronavirus crisis. It means realizing that at some point we will be back at work and being intentional about getting back to work matters.
The way companies and employees handle this crisis has large financial implications, now and when we get back to work. A 2017 report by Aon found that in the current digital age the impact of reputation events on stocks has doubled. In the aftermath of a crisis how a company’s management prepares, handles, and behaves can add 20% of value or lose 30% of value. According to the World Health Organization Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact. The approximate cost to the global economy is $1 trillion lost in productivity annually. Given the perfect storm of predictors of anxiety during Covid-19 crisis such as, lack of control, ambiguity, no clear path, and constant media coverage that number is likely to be larger.
New Yorkers are no strangers to bouncing back after hardship. But what we learned in the aftermath of 9-11 was that the companies that treated people well and balanced their financial needs with their employees needs not only made it through. They became stronger. We don’t have control over much, but we do have control over how we lead. Here are seven steps every leader can take to start the journey.
The “Successful 7” What Leaders Can Do Today
Anticipate Anxiety by Asking
The greater awareness you have of what will make people anxious will give you insights into what people are nervous and fearful about when coming back to work. Think of this as something similar to everyone getting a flu shot. You create an anonymous list of all the things that people are worried about and put together a team of people that can start to plan on how to work together to decrease some of the concerns. Flexibility is key. Some people are ready to go back to full speed work in an office today. Some won’t be ready for a while. Don’t let a fixed mindset get in the way of building good will and creating the climate your people need to perform.
Create PreTraumatic Growth
The work of Tedeschi and Calhoun at UNC have taught us about Posttraumatic Growth The nonprofit Hold the Door for Others focuses on pretraumatic growth. The goal is to build Growth Resources before during and after crisis. The better prepared you are for a crisis the less likely it is to have a debilitating negative impact on you. Based on their research of families of 9/11 and 18 years of experience helping people grow through adversity, trauma, loss, and crises, the nonprofit Hold the Door For Others created the OTHERS(S) framework. The Growth Resources and a self-awareness tool are designed to not only buffer the negative impact of crises, but lead you to growth.
Lead with Growth
Emotion is contagious so be intentional in your interactions and focus on helping people feel connected, positive, motivated, and in control. Growth Leadership is a people first approach that starts with yourself so you can help others. Focus not only on the needs of the moment but building people and business for the future. Employees who see their leaders focusing on doing what’s right will remain loyal and engaged for years to come. Don’t let navigating the crisis become a greater crisis.
Create Reintegration Resources
Dr. Ron Delanois who is the Chair of Orthopedic Surgery at LifeBridge Health taught me a valuable lesson. He told me that people high achieving people want to learn on the run, he called it “Snackable Leadership.” It’s not always the case that someone has undivided time to sit down for an hour and “learn.” Create a list of topics related to reintegration and ask people to sign up what they want to teach others. Have people create videos that are 5 minutes or less and include a call to action and practical tips. Start now and you will create a library of snackable learning.
I learned about Reciprocity Rings from following Wharton professor Adam Grant. The premise is that people naturally want to help one another so why not leverage each other’s resources? It creates a cycle of positive emotion and productivity. Two things we will need a lot of upon getting back to work. In it’s most basic form you have people identify a wish list of things they want to accomplish, learn, or need. And without pressure people volunteer to leverage their expertise, skills, or networks to help one another out. The organization Give and Take has found Reciprocity Rings aren’t just feel good initiatives they lead to financial and relational benefits.
Lead with People and Purpose to Get Profit
We are all built differently. Recognizing what our motivational currency is and how to adapt prevents us from going solely in the direction most comfortable to us in tough times. When you communicate start with a people and purpose first approach. If you start there it will help you connect with people where they are and in return people will be motivated to be loyal to the company.
Lead with Laughter
It’s so difficult to look to the future when we don’t know what the future of work looks like and when it will happen. Make a commitment to giving employees mental breaks and balancing their fear with some fun. When you lead with a little laughter productivity and creativity go up, and anxiety and burn out goes down. The best part of leadership it is a skill that can be learned. The more effective you are as a leader the more positive experiences you will create in this uncertain time.
With providing sensible hope and the Successful 7 with a people first approach you will help many get through this and be stronger psychologically, physically and financially on the other side.
Written by Dr. Rob Fazio. Have you read?
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