MindFire Communications, Inc.
Leading through tough times
December 1, 2020 | Erik Meade

In times of crisis, leadership is critical.

But, let’s be clear: you don’t have to run your own business to be a leader. It’s not only leading employees who report to you, but also your coworkers and teammates.

Leadership can even take place with your family and friends outside the workplace. As an individual, you can set the tone for your workplace, family and friends, and that tone will ultimately matter in both personal and professional perceptions of your personal brand.

The hard part is that leadership doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a skill that is learned through time and adversity. No matter what kind of leader you are, three things make sense: compassion, flexibility and listening.

Even when times are easy, your business’ success depends on good leadership and in turn, the ability to attract top talent.

So how do you lead when times are tough?

We know 2020 served us a load of challenges, so here are a few things we practice through both the good times and the bad.

coworkers meet virtually on a computer using video chat

Be flexible

I’m not talking about the splits. I’m talking about understanding and compassion.

When offices across the globe had to adjust to working from home, it wasn’t easy. Everyone was learning, which definitely required an even greater level of compassion because we were (and still are) all in the same boat.

Flexibility was a key part of that transition. You could rage against it all you wanted, but it wouldn’t change the outcome.

We remained nimble. We trust our employees to work from home. We understand that many employees are going through additional stress. For those with kids, they may be trying to work as a toddler is pulling at their pantleg, or for those living alone, they may feel completely isolated. It’s a range of situations, and they all have various levels of interference. So, the challenge becomes maintaining teamwork and a sense of workplace culture when everyone is remote.

For us, that has meant bringing the fun to our employees’ homes. From surprise treats to virtual meetings talking through our creative work, we maintain our culture even during this global health crisis.

Stay curious

You don’t have to know it all. Asking smart questions is an invaluable part of being a leader. With the right questions you can find the right answers that will lead you toward success.

This is helpful for projects and strategy, and it’s also extremely helpful when it comes to understanding how to work better with others. We all have different behaviors that contribute to different styles of working. Some like to dive in alone. Others thrive off that collaborative environment. Understanding your teammates starts when you ask those questions.

By staying curious, you may even discover new information about your work style and how you like to lead. A wise person admits what they don’t know, and a continued curiosity is one of the best ways to accelerate your growth along with that of your projects and teams.

Being curious, staying humble, asking questions, listening and being adaptable are all key during these tough times.

Diminish uncertainty

Generally, most people don’t thrive in the gray areas. When it comes to what you expect, be clear. This means that roles and responsibilities should not only be specific but also understood among the entire team. When each person knows the part they are playing, they can take ownership of their role and excel.

The uncertainty of the past year is a challenge we’ve had to overcome through clear communication. We’re open and honest with our employees, which helps remove one stressor from the pile of stress. They don’t have to guess what our plan is or where we stand. They know.

Schedule one-on-ones

A one-on-one meeting gives you the opportunity to learn more about your colleague. They also help foster those professional relationships. The team setting is not always the best way to get to know people.

Another benefit of one-on-one meetings is they show that you make time for your employees. Schedules are busy, and we get that. But making time for your employees should always be a priority.

This has even been true when working from home. It’s easy to shoot an email, but it’s far more engaging and collaborative to hop on a video chat. Talking through ideas is a great way to build rapport.

Keep communication open

One-on-ones are great for open communication. Do your colleagues feel comfortable telling you news – even when it’s bad? Are you understanding of their mistakes and able to guide them after? Open communication extends beyond what you voice. You must also be receptive to your colleagues’ voices.

Listening is an essential part of communication. Keep your inbox open and respond promptly to your coworkers. Beyond listening, acknowledge what they said by summing up their thoughts and then answering or responding. Acknowledging what they said is a critical part of active listening and a great way to ensure you’re on the same page.

When listening, it’s important to not take things personally. Leaders need to have a thicker skin because people will complain. What it comes down to is how you handle everyone’s different personalities and do what’s best for the entire team.

By remaining flexible, listening and clearly communicating, you can start improving your professional skills. And if you ever want to talk leadership and managing your brand, drop us a line.

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