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How to Be Present with COVID-19 Reality

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Utility Leaders must be present for those they lead – physically, mentally and emotionally.  But, how can we be truly present for those we lead given all the restrictions during this COVID-19 Pandemic?

Speakers and leadership coaches are inundating leaders with tons of leadership advice during this time.  I don’t believe that we can digest all there is to read and continue to effectively do our jobs.  We still need to hone our leadership skills in spite of the crisis we are in, and what better time to focus on our crisis leadership skills?

To get you started and to summarize the very best points I have seen in the past three weeks, I offer you 3 simple ways to be a better leader (and follower) during this time. Yes, being physically present is difficult right now. We must focus on being mentally and emotionally present for those we lead because that is what they need the most. Use these three principles:

  1. Lead with Heart. Even if you feel pretty stable, secure and in control, many people you interact with are very anxious. Everybody has their moments of doubt and concern. Do not be dismissive of their feelings. Instead, acknowledge their feelings and join them in their concerns.  Don’t say, “I can see that you are concerned about the pandemic, BUT. . .”  Saying “but” minimizes concern. Instead say, “This is a tough situation AND I am concerned along with you. Thank you for bringing this up. What do you think we should do?” “And” shows that you have heard and embraced their concerns.
  2. Over Communicate. Get out in front of your people using all means possible. Call them, write them, email them and, yes, use video applications. Yes, that means doing video conferences and video calls, even if you are not perfect or comfortable in front of the camera! Be vulnerable, be real, be yourself and most of all, be present and communicate as best as you can. Tell your employees what you know and what you don’t yet know. Commit to keeping them informed on the stuff you don’t know when you do know. Be as visible as possible and stick to the mandated restrictions in your area and at your workplace.
  3. Focus On What You Can Do. Don’t focus on what you cannot control. It is so easy for us to be Monday morning critics of decisions other leaders make. We have the luxury to be critics because we don’t have the responsibility of making the decisions. If you are a follower – and we are all followers in some way – be grateful that you don’t have the responsibility of making certain decisions. Your circle of interest is always larger than your circle of influence, so concentrate on what you can influence. Support your leaders, and respectfully give them your advice when needed. Be sure to disagree with them if necessary, but do it privately. Then, go and execute your duties publicly and enthusiastically.

In addition, here are four of the best leadership sources I follow to formulate my thoughts, along with an article or video link from each author:  [All offer free resources!]

Kevin Eikenberry – Remote Leadership

Table Group - By Patrick Lencioni

Leadership Freak – Dan Rockwell

Ascension Presents - Father Mike Schmitz

 

Want to be a better leader and more “present” person after COVID-19 restrictions subside?

I’ll send the first 10 people who ask A FREE COPY of “Must Be Present To Win.”

Send me an email at Doug@DougSterbenz.com

It can transform your effectiveness at home and at work.

Add my book to your reading list.

Doug Sterbenz's picture

Thank Doug for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 16, 2020 4:15 pm GMT

Over Communicate. Get out in front of your people using all means possible. Call them, write them, email them and, yes, use video applications. Yes, that means doing video conferences and video calls, even if you are not perfect or comfortable in front of the camera! Be vulnerable, be real, be yourself and most of all, be present and communicate as best as you can. Tell your employees what you know and what you don’t yet know. Commit to keeping them informed on the stuff you don’t know when you do know. Be as visible as possible and stick to the mandated restrictions in your area and at your workplace.

I love this one (as well as the rest, of course), especially because the current situation has employees not only uncertain as to what's happening next, but for how long. Not knowing when the light at the end of the tunnel will shine through compounds the stress and anxiety exponentially-- so these aren't actions needed once, but on a continual and check-in basis. 

Thanks for sharing, Doug!

Daniel Ohlendorf's picture
Daniel Ohlendorf on Apr 18, 2020 3:02 am GMT

For office employees, as an extension on Over Communicate I would also add the importance of instilling a sense of normalcy.  In a situation like this it is a welcome retreat to still have team meetings, 1:1s, all hands, and other business as usual collaboration (granted now primarily by WebEx).  Leverage video but also make it clear that the atmosphere is comfortable so your teams are not trying to show up in business attire.  For team focused meetings, utilize ice breakers and other techniques during the meeting to make this a time that the team grows closer despite the physical distance.

Karen Marcus's picture
Karen Marcus on Apr 21, 2020 7:16 pm GMT

Great suggestions, Doug. I think a lot of people are really frightened right now and seeing steady leadership can help them to ground themselves and see the situation more realistically. 

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