Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard renewed grumblings from leaders about the resurgence of COVID-19 via the delta variant. Perhaps one leader in the medical field said it best when she shared, “I was hoping that the worst was behind us, but now there are more positive COVID cases in our county than when we had shut things down. I’m tired. Our team is exhausted, and I have a real concern about how all of this will impact our team.”
There is no disputing the psychological challenges of the 18+ months we’ve endured. We live and lead in exhausting times, so how do we effectively navigate this time and space in such a way that helps our teams? We believe there are a few key strategies leaders should apply amid this latest COVID-19 surge.
Recognize the Emotional Toll
It is well documented that COVID-19 is impacting some people’s bodies, but nearly everyone’s mind. The resurgence of this virus comes with a wave of challenges (e.g., logistical, emotional, relational, etc.) We’re worried about our families, our friends, our freedoms, our businesses, our communities, our nation, and our world. Research tells us that our cognitive skills are hampered in fundamental ways when we see even moderate increases in anxiety and worry. For instance, we aren’t as self-aware, nor are we as attuned to the emotions of others. Our critical thinking and cognitive skills are negatively impacted when stress crosses over a threshold, meaning we may take more risks than appropriate, or we may experience “paralysis by analysis” and be incapable of making even the simplest decisions. Unfortunately, it results in an insidious cycle. The longer we deal with disappointments, frustrations, anger, and sadness, the more likely we will struggle to connect with people and make strategic decisions, which adds more frustration, disappointment, anger, and despair. So, we must STOP and admit (to ourselves and others) the toll this is taking on our minds.
Mindfully Bring Compassion, Joy, and Hope to Our Work
To combat negative emotions, we need to experience compassion, joy, and hope. As leaders, we can infuse our collective work with these topics. As we interact with others, we should listen for the feelings behind their words (sometimes “okay” doesn’t mean that someone is genuinely okay), ask questions about how they’re doing, and explore unmet needs or concerns that we might be able to address. To bring some joy to our interactions, we can listen to our favorite songs or tell our favorite audience-appropriate jokes. A crucial key in challenging times is to be attentive and actively engaged in the emotional battle being waged in our own hearts and the hearts of our team members.
Take Care of Yourself and Each Other: Mind, Body, and Soul
We all have circumstances that impact our moods, and, currently, we are experiencing some of them collectively. There are contagious negative emotions all over right now and, left unaddressed, they can be detrimental to our personal health, relationships, and organizational results. For this reason, leaders need to do things that spark joy and bring energy and encourage their team members to do the same. In times of increased stress, our bodies need extra self-care. Wise leaders know this and encourage their team to do things that support their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being in times of increased and prolonged stress. Research suggests that leaders who demonstrate this kind of care for their team get better long-term results because employees perceive support and subsequently return that support with greater organizational commitment, which has been shown to increase performance and reduce withdrawal behaviors.
Question to Consider: Which of the strategies above do you need to improve upon so that you can better support your team during this season?