Crisis: a time of intense difficulty.

Yup, that definitely describes a pandemic. And the resulting economic ripples. And the resulting isolation, and fear.  And none of that is new information for you, who are doing your best to lead your organizations through this.

We are so attached to control, to managing every situation, and to looking at our competitors to make the decisions that stay in lock step with them. And we cannot know or control a germ. So how do lead? That’s a different discussion than what do you do. Let’s explore.

You already know how many people are working remotely. You have deployed your technology to be as efficient as possible, and you’ve dug into your business continuity plan. That is the doing. How are you being?

Leaders are the calm in the storm. That isn’t a descriptor of your emotional state, it’s your behavior. How are you gathering information from your people? Both up and down the org chart. Talking with those you report to might be more financial, more business-oriented, that makes sense. They are also having the human experience of crisis. Check in on their emotional well-being, and report on the emotional well-being of your team, and those in the organization beyond that.

Let’s go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for a review of priorities.

Judy-Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs_5 copy

We all require our physiological and safety needs to be met before anything else happens. So the panic about my job, about my home, the chaos of buying water and toilet paper, these things emerge as meeting our very basic needs. And, as employers we don’t consider these as our responsibilities. I’m not saying they are. How do we allow for our people to meet these needs in a time of crisis so they can be present to the work we need them to do?

When we have uncertainty about our health, our security, or our employment we spend our emotional energy focused on securing those things, instead of doing productive work. What communication are you offering your people to meet this need?

Many of us already work remotely – aka – wherever we are and whenever we are awake. How many of your people have not had this experience? As we consider how belonging plays a role in our workplace, we begin to unearth a host of other needs that are not met in a sudden shift to remote working. How can you create connection while maintaining social distancing? Especially when considering people who are adapting to working from home.

I go back to safety and to shelter. Have we considered that not everyone who works for us has a place to work at home? What options can we offer? What we do right now establishes the culture we have in our organizations. Not what we say, what we do.

Continuing up the pyramid, thinking about respect and status, have we initiated a new policy about remote working? That might seem odd if several people (layers) have already been doing it without a policy. If we want to build respect and self-esteem, does remote working require a policy, or expectations?

This is unprecedented stuff. We haven’t been here before. And, what we do now moves us forward in the direction we can choose. Five questions you can ponder. Five questions that elevate leaders and your organization. Your leadership matters now more than ever. Go get‘em.

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