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I don’t know what this year’s experience has been like for you, but for me it’s been a confusing, fast moving rollercoaster of events.
We have turned to the Internet for work, social interaction, reassurance, entertainment, and often just to occupy our minds with anything that relieves us from the nagging worry of ongoing crisis and all it entails. As a result, we have placed ourselves on a quick-paced treadmill, but in this case, the treadmill is on loop with our survival depending on our ability to keep up with its pace.
People often choose one of three paths when faced with difficult circumstances: freeze, fight, or flight. For the first time in my life, I’ve seen many attempting a combination of all three to try to carve out some semblance of control.
This is when we as leaders need to understand the profound significance of leading our teams with Emotional Intelligence (EQ), even when we ourselves are grappling with our own very real challenges.
The nature of our current situation forced us to produce and perform without having the proper time and resources to successfully get through the phase of preparing our people for crisis. Good leaders know this is exactly what you should avoid at all costs. This has caused our followers to feel unsettled and confused, not knowing exactly what to focus on, if “good enough” is OK for now, and wondering if their jobs are going to be secure if they are performing them “differently” than they were before. All of this has resulted in disenchantment and anger within organizations, even those who typically foster transparency and open collaboration.
Right now your teams do not need another spreadsheet, reminder email, or meeting, they need you to show up, be present, listen to them, share their worries and concerns, and, quite simply, care. This crisis is pulling back the many layers of leadership, and revealing the leaders who can communicate, show empathy, rally teams with positive influence, all the while reassuring them that all is going to be OK. As leaders can always get better at EQ.
- Reflect often. How can you bridge employees’ differences of opinion, workloads, and conversations? Zoom out, think from the perspective of each, and work to strengthen good resolutions, without taking the side of one over the other unless absolutely necessary.
- Support those in personal crisis. People are experiencing sicknesses, children schooling at home, worry over elderly parents, and in some cases, even deaths in the family. If you can afford to buy a gift card for them to order dinner, do that, and tell them to log off and enjoy some free time with their families. Or, if you can’t do that, let them log off without the gift card, but with your thanks and wish for them to have a worry free evening.
- Encourage dialogue. Negative opinions are good to share if you are also willing to rally together to come to a better understanding of the pathway(s) to solutions. Remember, whether you hear it or not, there is always going to be some type of friction in your organization. Addressing it head on and with an open mind for solving together, you are actually relieving people of stress and carrying the burden of secret irritation.
- Be honest. If there is going to be downsizing, if there will be no pay raises for the year, if you are cutting back in areas to move money to something else, be willing to tell people as much of the truth as possible.
Communicate, listen, encourage collaboration, and be honest and present. Modeling good EQ for your employees will ultimately allow for the culture of your organization to foster those same values.
Throughout 2021, being emotionally intelligent can mean the difference between your team staying to weather the storm with you vs many who will instead choose to jump ship in search of a better one, despite knowing the seas are going to be rocky in both.