By: Jeanette Marais, CEO of Momentum Investments
Never waste a crisis
Crises reveal true leaders and the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has provided that test. None of us are familiar with the status quo and with anxieties riding high and job security not a given, there has never been a more crucial time for strong leadership.
The single most important differentiator of a true leader would be whether he or she really cares. If you have empathy, and can put yourself in the shoes of your people, the rest will fall into place. People first, business later. Provide reassurance and direction for those struggling with unfamiliar situations and worry about their future.
Communication and well-being
Beyond all your physical protection measures, one has to make sure employees know where to find information, guidance and support for mental health. Maintain open channels of communication to hear how employees are feeling and, importantly, listen and respond. Consider establishing a hotline or central contact point for employees – and develop in-house channels and hubs to respond promptly to employee questions and concerns.
A leader should not be afraid to share her own story and should be courageous enough to be open about their own struggles.
Regular and honest communication is a must. Provide context. Share need to know information and offer employees the opportunity to voice their ideas on how to operate more effectively and efficiently during the crisis. People are overwhelmed by the amount of information they get and a leader needs to translate the message to what is really important. Less is more.
Be Human first, then a leader
I love being a leader in this time: Initially the crisis asked for decisiveness, braveness to make decisions with very little information or facts, it asked for calmness and direction. It asked for open and regular communication, and not to sugarcoat the negatives, but being transparent and changing tact as new information became available. At stages it was necessary to acknowledge people’s state of mind, and there I had to stand strong in my conviction that we will overcome this, and I had to find ways to motivate, and to focus people’s minds on the possibilities ahead. And now, it’s also about celebrating the wins, even when they are really small, and to appreciate each other.
A leader should not be afraid to share her own story and should be courageous enough to be open about their own struggles. Like everyone else, leaders also had to learn new skills and adapt to the physical distancing from their people. Develop digital and interpersonal skills side by side. The digital platforms provide the tools to still connect. What I love about this way of working is that we’re all more human, more real. Although we have been distanced physically, we have been invited into one another’s homes. I now look forward to my colleagues’ young kids’ happy faces popping onto a Zoom screen, my team have come to expect my dog on my lap. Just this humanness is a huge shift for me! Authenticity is what brings the message across.
Really grasping the implications and requirements of the business strategy will help you to respond to rapid changes and challenges, while simultaneously making the most of emerging opportunities. Lastly, to keep strong one has to look after your own emotional well-being and health, and to do this, you have to create boundaries – determine where work ends and home begins.
We have the opportunity now to learn and grow from this experience. And move forward to a new normal with a better reality for all.