One of the discussions we’re currently having on our now weekly CEO team calls is “what does leadership look like now?” How do we replace the emergency room triage feel of the last 6 weeks and re-open well, hit the ground running, all while dealing with the weirdness?
Here’s a window into those conversations and the communication CEOs have been having with their teams.
1.Acknowledge the Funk
Although we’re getting close to re-opening, there is still a lot of funk out there. Here’s an email from an Acumen CEO that describes where the funk may be coming from.
“We have been “Humbled”, we are not in charge of anything except how we treat our families, our friends, our employees, and the people we do business with. In the last ten years or so, we have created plans for grand projects, waved our magic wands, sprinkled some pixie dust, and boom we were kings, in need of royal treatment!
Now we face fear, uncertainty, and potential financial ruin. Our crowns are like the paper ones from burger king. We wander around our empty offices, impotent, without our legions of helpers.”
This is a mindset question and can be tied to the inability to create outcomes, truly innovate or take action, too many Zoom calls, and all the other junk in your head.
It’s OK to feel funky. The key is to name it, claim it, and then move on.
Take his advice:
“So what to do? Contact our friends and co-workers, assure them, we are in this together, we will survive, and by the Grace of a Loving God, we will be transformed into more humble, more compassionate, more understanding leaders. We will call, we will text, we will zoom with, we will go to meetings with or visit with at a safe distance as many people as possible each day.”
Patrick Lencioni of the table group on a zoom call with 6,000 people discussed how we need to check in personally more often. Take the first 15 minutes of your weekly meeting and see how everyone is doing. On a scale of 1-10, how are you? This allows everyone to understand that we’re all in this together and know who needs an extra shot of empathy and positivity this week.
Another practical approach is to get outside, even if it’s just a walk while talking on a phone call. Have 3 phone calls to make? Go outside and walk and talk. I’ve talked to too many leaders whose heads are down and haven’t left the house or gone outside.
The grind is real. Get humble, name it, claim it, and tame it.
2. Give Them More
This is from an email from another CEO in Acumen to his team that has been hard hit by the shutdown of the economy.
“Control vs Surrender: Team I am “type A” and naturally a control freak and am an admitted control addict. With that said my journey the past 10 years has had several moments of total surrender in family situations that I had zero control over. Truth is in business, I haven’t had the rock bottom moment or the adversity of stormy waters and was always on an upward trajectory. Not saying it came easy or without hard work, but I was in control. Truth is guys, I got no answers to where we are right now so I am choosing surrender over control. I have spent the last couple weeks trying to steer the ship the best I could but time to be totally forthright of where I am today and where we are as an organization.”
He went on to give an honest assessment of where the company stands, the opportunities that are before them, and what the new normal will be like. This transparency, vulnerability, and a look at the mountain they are going to climb.
Your team needs more right now. More communication. More transparency. More vulnerability. More empathy. This is not efficient. Efficiency is not the measuring stick right now.
3. Be Contagious
Your emotions are contagious. If you are positive and forward-looking, so will your team. Be contagious!
Again, from a CEO in Acumen:
“Reality: “If you can’t fly, you must run, if you can’t run, you must walk, if you can’t walk you must crawl” (Martin Luther King Jr).
In other words, we got to keep moving. This 60-day stimulus package allows us to keep our team together but what we do with these 60 days is what determines the outcome of the organization. I choose to believe this time along with our last 3 weeks changes our organization forever.”
Truth and positivity. Lead your team with the confidence that gave you success before the quarantine. Your team is looking to you for guidance, assurance, and mindset. Be contagious.
4. Back to Leadership Basics
An article in the Harvard Business Review brought this point to light.
“A crisis can bring people together and facilitate a collective spirit of endurance — but it can also push people apart, with individuals distrusting one another and predominantly looking after themselves. It’s crucial to consider how your perspective might evolve. … Will the ongoing situation bring your employees together or drive them apart? Will they see the organization differently when this is over? “
The answer is yes, your organization will be viewed differently. Only you can decide if you are closer together or farther apart.
How do you know if you are closer or farther? Use Patrick Lencioni’s Trust Triangle. This is good old-fashioned leadership and team relationship basics. Start from the bottom.
You may need to spend time rebuilding trust with your team (and customers), leaning into healthy conflict, regaining commitment, and reestablishing a cadence of accountability – resetting priorities in order to get the results you need.
Nothing fancy. Just good old-fashioned leadership from you to hit the ground running with your team.
Leaders lead. Get on with it.