Leading a successful company is both rewarding and challenging. There’s plenty of work to be done, from driving the success of the company and its clients, to building and maintaining its culture, to offering meaningful employee engagement and opportunities for learning and growth. But ever since the coronavirus joltingly pressed pause on normal routines and lifestyles — and how and where business is done now and for the unforeseeable future — the role of leader has expanded significantly. In short, it requires much more flexibility.
My specialized staffing firm is composed mostly of women. Since we’ve always been a virtual company, the notion of working from home didn’t hamper the way we do business. But after having hours of conversations with my employees and relationship managers, I’ve realized that things have changed greatly for them. Those who are mothers, especially, are being squeezed from all sides. Many children are learning virtually from home, and more partners are home working. The family unit has been turned upside down with a new schedule and more complex challenges.
What should a leader do? I see these four actions as essential to guiding companies and employees through the pandemic and beyond.
Listen. Strong leaders are also empathetic leaders who understand what their employees are going through and listen to their very human concerns. In times of great stress and uncertainty, people often feel afraid and need to be heard. Developing the ability to listen without judgment and not trying to “fix” with advice is as important for leaders as it is in individual relationships. And being vulnerable by sharing that you sometimes feel challenging emotions may encourage your team to express their vulnerability as well.
Help find solutions. Consider how you may be able to help make the hard times a little easier for your employees. For example, you could provide more flexible work hours, additional time off or access to enhanced learning opportunities that help your team members advance their careers.
Encourage well-being. Show that your company cares about all its employees with added touches, such as providing an uplifting and positive weekly meeting. We offered our team a virtual mindfulness guide to help them get centered. We also give shoutouts on our weekly video-based town halls to individuals and departments going above and beyond, and we open the meetings at least five minutes early so folks can socialize before the call. Additionally, we celebrate our wins together on video calls on a monthly basis. Employees’ well-being directly impacts how they perform and engage at work, so encouraging them to get enough sleep and exercise regularly can contribute to their overall wellness.
Lead by example. Your behaviors at work, your communication style, and how you handle wins and setbacks all affect company culture. You can’t delegate creating the culture that your employees experience. If you want to reflect particular values, demonstrate those values in your actions. The culture at TrainingPros encourages having work-life balance and being of service in the community. I make sure to walk the talk and am especially aware of the needs of my local community and where I can best be of service.
Making the right managerial and executive decisions is challenging enough during good times — and it’s even harder amid a global pandemic. We’re all in this together, so don’t be discouraged. Remember to keep your eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel as we head toward a brighter future.
Leigh Anne Lankford is president at TrainingPros. Her expertise is in learning and development (L&D) with a background in instructional design, project management, eLearning and facilitation in the health care, software development, finance and service industries. Prior to TrainingPros, she founded an eLearning tool company and worked in various corporate training positions. Lankford received a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of West Georgia and a master’s degree in human resource development from Georgia State University. She also earned an Information Mapping® Professional™ Certification and a Six Sigma Green Belt certification, and she is an active member of the Association for Talent Development. When learning leaders have more projects than they have people, TrainingPros can provide the right L&D consultants so they can start their projects with confidence. TrainingPros is a WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise. Visit TrainingPros for more information.