We are still in a time where our “new normal” at work and home do not feel normal. Everyone is adjusting to something significant that is impacting them such as knowing someone who is sick from or highly susceptible to the coronavirus, feeling vulnerable about the security of their job, or adjusting to all the changes they have had to make in their lives. Most people have days of grace and gratitude and equal days of feeling overwhelmed. How does this impact how you show up at work?
1. Frustrated with your leader
I have been hearing about people’s frustrations with their leader. The leader isn’t being clear. She is all over the place and overwhelmed. He is impatient and not grasping the seriousness of how this is impacting people. Is there an opportunity to turn your frustration into a way to support your leader? When you offer, “Is there anything I can do to support you?” be specific with what areas you could contribute. Most leaders are overwhelmed and in a state of stress with little time or ability to think creatively about all the scenarios in front of them. Here are some examples of how to offer support.
Presentations and talking points: “I could help you put a draft PowerPoint together for this upcoming meeting and include talking points that we have been discussing as a team and I’m hearing from other departments.”
Reports: “Would it be helpful for me to manage this weekly report. I could gather the information from the team and put it into a final draft report for you to review before it’s time to distribute.”
Recommendations: “I know we need to figure out this XYZ problem. I could talk with Sue, Abraham, and Gianni and brainstorm our ideas on solutions. We can summarize our ideas and present to you next week.”
Quality work: You still have control of managing the quality and timeliness of your work if your boss is not in a place to accept help.
Communication: You can repeat back to your leader what you are hearing them saying and confirm expectations and timelines. “I hear you saying that the financial report is our biggest priority this week. Would it be helpful to give you a draft on Wednesday so we have a day to review before finalizing on Friday? Is there anyone else I should talk to about the information before I send it to you?”
Whatever you offer to do, the more specific you can be, and align it to what you enjoy or do well will help your effort be well spent for you, your team, and your leader to keep moving towards a goal or maintain productivity.
2. Frustrated with your team
I hear leaders frustrated with team members who need too much clarity around priorities, who are not able to focus like they used to, and who are struggling with all the changes. Is there an opportunity to turn your frustration and anxiety around the performance of the team into a way to lead by example and shift your communication approach? For example, as you think about communication with your team:
Priorities: Are you sharing enough information about current priorities within the larger unit or organization in addition to your team’s goals to provide the team context and understanding about the current state of the business?
Feedback: Are you reaching out to your team and asking them what information would be helpful for them to know more about or rumors that they hearing that they would like to have addressed?
Delegate: Do you have a list of priorities, deliverables, and internal or external relationships that the team could help you with that you are sharing in your individual and team meetings to solicit help?
Reconfirm understanding: Are you explaining your expectations and timelines clearly and checking with the team about their understanding of what you are asking for
Utilize early adopters: Are you utilizing members that adopt change fast and are viewed as leaders among the team to initiate efforts and conversations with other team members needing help with adjusting to all these changes?
3. Leading By Example
Employees look to leaders’ actions and words during times of change to determine if they will follow and be engaged or just do the bare minimum and jump ship when they can. Leaders look to employees to see how they are adjusting to change. Who is reliable, doing quality work, helping others, and thinking about ways to adjust and pitch in wherever they can?
For both scenarios, I would recommend being clear and specific about how you want to be perceived during this time and putting actions in place that support your vision. For example, do you want to be seen as a leader that adjusts and remains focused on the changing priorities for the business and communicates honestly and respectfully about good and challenging news? Do you want to be seen as an employee who can be counted on to perform during uncertainty with confidence, collaboration, and respect? You can:
Write down how you want to be perceived and take one, deliberate action each day that aligns with your vision. Examples of actions could be asking more questions than telling people what to do in a meeting, it could be noticing your tone of voice when you are frustrated, it could be slowing your speed of talking and allowing space for dialogue, or it could be sending an encouraging note about what you are grateful for.
Ask empathic and helpful questions like, “What are you proud of for how you are handling all the changes at work?”, “What are you still finding challenging in handling all the changes at work?”, “What has been the biggest adjustment in working from home?”, “What have you appreciated during this time?”, “What is one thing I could do to support you and the adjustments we have had to make?”
Take time for yourself each day. Examples include taking deep breaths throughout the day to slow down your heart rate, your raising mind, and your stressful thoughts. Practice mindfulness or meditation in the morning to help you be still, center yourself, and be intentional about how you want to experience the day ahead. Watch something funny. Listen to uplifting music. Exercise, drink water, and eat less banana bread.
This is not easy. We have not yet established our “norms” of working under this type of stress and uncertainty. I have provided a few examples to remind you that you have a toolbox of helpful skills, experience, and wisdom to reach towards and utilize. You don’t have to be perfect. It is helpful to be intentional with your approach and actions, to be patient in remembering that everyone is experiencing this time together. As Maya Angelo so powerfully said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” A thoughtful question, a benevolent action, a meaningful pause, and a helpful tone of voice can help you and others breathe and figure out the next best step. These gestures create engagement, appreciation, and results.
Janeen Shaffer is a PCC certified coach helping individuals and leaders with their internal development and external performance. If the article resonated with you … follow me on LinkedIn, or contact me at email@example.com, www.shaffercoach.com, IG @janeen.shaffer, Pinterest Shaffer Coaching + Consulting.