Rich Grof shares how to adapt as a leader
when your employees are going through crisis

We have been thrown into a time and place where there is no handbook on how to handle a crisis like this. The coronavirus pandemic is challenging both business owners and employees alike. Everyone is responding in a different way; some are adapting well and will not be affected, while others may be emotionally triggered and overwhelmed. Somewhere in between these two extremes lie your employees.

With so many unknowns and uncertainty including changes to their regular routines, employees may be triggering and having emotional swings. You may notice that some employees are responding or handling everyday stresses, pressures, deadlines differently than they have in the past. If you notice strange or out of character behaviour, take time to check in with your employees to see how they are feeling. Some will be able to pinpoint exactly what is causing their “funk” others may be in such an emotional state that they are just responding/triggering to everything around them. Their behavior will be erratic.

These sorts of behavioral problems are difficult to deal with at the best of times. During the high stress and anxiety of the pandemic, everything will be amplified so it’s no longer management as usual.

Getting Through the Emotion

So, you may be asking yourself, “How do I work with employees that are going through this?” The best thing you can do as a manager or business owner is let them get the emotion out so that they can then process what they are experiencing. At some point, they will calm down and shift from an emotional response to a logical response. That means, as a leader you will want to make time to talk with them and listen intently to what they are experiencing. More frequent regular check-ins are a great best practice now. When you chat, don’t offer solutions initially. Just hear them out until their emotions subside and the calm down. Once they are calm, you will notice that their tone will change and that they are talking more logically which makes it a good time to address their concerns or even problem solve. If you try to talk logically while they are still responding from an emotional state it will likely irritate and escalate things.

Getting into the Right Mindset

To get yourself in the right mindset as a leader, you will want to ask yourself, “What are that my employees are going through?” You will want to check in with them about how they are feeling, what concerns them the most and ask open- ended question to start the conversation and discover more about what they’re going through. Having a gentle, calm conversation will help them move from their emotions to logical thinking.

How Will I Show Up as a Leader?

Next you want to ask yourself what kind of leader do you need to be in order to help your employees through this situation. Do they need more or less strength, understanding or decisiveness? How you show up makes a big difference. And what I have noticed as I talk to different business leaders is that we all need to be more understanding. The new normal looks different for everyone. Employees at home with children have different challenges than employees who are childless. Some will handle the current uncertainty well, while others will have disabling anxiety.  It may take some time for everyone to adjust to their new work environment especially for those working from home. Being supportive, encouraging and understanding is the best way to ensure we are all going to get through this and still be somewhat productive.

Keep a Clear Head

Lastly, you need to stay mentally clear-headed so that you can continue to manage, motivate and inspire those around you. If you are feeling overwhelmed and running on empty then you may need to reach out. Just talking to a mentor, colleague, or a business coach can help you refocus, gain a different or new perspective and attitude.

These are strange and unprecedented times. Most leaders are good at adapting to what changes show up. It’s time to adapt to this crisis with solid powerful leadership, careful consideration and understanding.

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