Optimism abounds as lockdown eases. For example, some people have found the lockdown a (surprisingly) positive experience. They have had less travel, fewer distractions and more time with their families. Yet for others, the past months have been really tough. Their routines disrupted at best, trauma and loss at worst. This polarisation of views can be difficult to navigate. However, navigate it you must if you want to avoid conflict and a downturn in performance. You cannot underestimate this challenge. Your natural mindset, as a leader, can have a significant impact on performance.
If you felt Covid meant there were limited opportunities, limited resources and limited money then it’s likely you have a scarcity mindset. Some had temporary closure forced upon them whilst others scrabbled around trying to maximise these limited opportunities and got by. Others were more fortunate. Those in sectors of growth, buoyed by the pandemic, even thrived. Whichever situation you found yourself in, change was forced upon you. Leaders at all levels were forced to pick up the pieces and manage as best they could.
There was no roadmap for success.
Many have struggled to keep on top of the challenges. This struggle has led them to be more remote (not just physically) with their teams. Conversations have in many parts become more transactional. Many leaders stoically focused on the work in progress. Some superficially tried to create levity by holding quizzes, fun and games. Neither approach really allows people to explore the very real experiences they are having. The country opening up again changes the landscape once more.
There are abundant opportunities for those willing to access it. Optimism, better organisation and growth are indicators of an abundant mindset. Your team will be curious more innovative, more robust and resilient. All qualities that combatting the pandemic demands. You are exacting in your expectations and create an environment of high performance that your team engages with. Inspiring your team with a focus on a ‘better tomorrow’ is crucial. It’s not, however, the main priority because, at times like this, you also need to show your care for individuals and the team as a collective. You will confidently ask probing questions. This will be followed by listening (really listen) to what is being said, and what is not said. Following this, you need to act on this information to clear the way for high performance.
For those businesses still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, the country opening up is a chance to regroup and challenge their thinking. Leaders at all levels must take positive action. You need to lead from the front with this mindset of abundance to steer a steady course. Results revolve around relationships. You need to reconcile the inevitable polarisation of views to avoid a battlefield that will limit your resourcefulness and performance.
As you move forward, the dynamics are complex and uncertain. If you are ready to have meaningful conversations with your teams that allow you, together, to establish clear boundaries and goals.
Look at this diagram showing mindset and take moment to consider which side of the fence you are on.
Are you shying away from ‘real’ conversations? Maybe you’re concerned to open up a Pandora’s Box that you think you are ill-equipped to deal with.
Do you feel you are expected to have all the answers? Maybe this encourages you to retrench into the relative safety of your comfort zone? You might feel the problems that this new environment brings are just too complex to deal with.
Imagine one member of your team feels it’s essential to still wear masks because they want to minimise the risk of spreading and catching the virus. Meanwhile, others think the threat is over. Maybe they have already been vaccinated and therefore it is not necessary. Many businesses will have a company policy about this in the office. However, defending this policy is more complicated in practice outside the direct office space e.g. outside team meetings, toilets, heavy traffic areas.
This is a tricky situation for any leader to navigate. You might decide to let things be, allowing each individual to do what they feel is best for them. But this simple decision can have significant consequences. The person who feels the need to continue to wear a mask might feel anxious and unsupported. After all, if they are wearing a mask, they are protecting their colleagues but their colleagues aren’t protecting them. If you believe that face masks must be always worn, those who feel the threat is past might feel an unnecessary and uncomfortable infringement on their liberties.
Do not underestimate the potential threat to performance if you fail to deal with this seemingly small challenge. And that is before we even discuss issues like physical proximity and touching. Whilst workspace can be easily managed, walking up and downstairs, lifts and communal areas can be a little trickier.
Looking at the example above, is it any wonder that many managers will shy away from tackling the problem? This is because people have a habit of trying to work out all the possible scenarios before dealing with something. It’s done with positive intent, they want to get it right. Yet, by doing this we are making the issue much more complicated than it needs to be. Failure to have these conversations will trip you up round the corner. This is the scarcity mindset at work.
Know this, people don’t expect you to have all the answers, they need the conversation. They do need the opportunity to explore issues together. You don’t need to make it ‘heavy’. Your conversations can be spirited and exploratory; building a spirit of collaboration. Realising that you don’t need to have all the answers dramatically reduces the pressure to perform. This then helps you to enter into conversations with an open mind and curiosity.
Why not have a collaborative session. It may go something like this:
Preparing people for change is the perfect opportunity to open up these conversations. No one had the luxury of doing it when the pandemic struck. If you fail to do it now, you are letting everyone down. There is no excuse. Now is the time for companies large and small to see their People as partners in the business. In doing so, you can leverage their immense (and often latent) skills to buid back better.