We are in the midst of this crazy disruption in the marketplace right now.

We are seeing everything from striving businesses with double digit figures, to so many businesses being highly affected by the situation and locked in their impossibility to pivot their businesses to adapt.

Some leaders are coming out as idols, while others are being overwhelmed by stress and by the responsibility they feel on their shoulders.

BREATHE…

If you are feeling overwhelmed and are being pulled right and left from your boss, from your teams, from your customers, from your family and from society overall,… I am here to give you some food for thoughts on how to structure and cope with all the different hats you have to wear, and all the different roles you are called to cover, right now.

It is a rollercoaster and many leaders do feel exhausted at the end of every day.

I am going to give you my perspective on what you as a leader can do right now in all the different roles you are covering contemporarily to address your overwhelm, change your perspective and look with more positivity to the days and weeks ahead.

We are going to look at:

  1. How to show up for yourself
  2. How to show up for your team, and your people
  3. How to show up for your customers and clients

So that at the end of this post you will be able to take one day at the time, one role at the time, without the overwhelm.

Let’s jump right into it.

THE NEW (TEMPORARY) NORMAL

At first, most of us thought that this crisis would be just something passing by, that it would be over in a matter of a few weeks. And, therefore, we were mostly focusing on surviving, and did not believe we had to be too intentional about this whole new upside-down set up where family is around us all the time, and teams are, instead, remote and far away from us.

But it has been a few weeks now where we came about to realise that this IS the new normal. That this is not going away any time soon. And so we need to shift from survival to how do we thrive in this time.

As a leader, you have the opportunity to be intentional in how you handle this situation and how you drive your business to a learning and winning position.

I have created a guide for you to download and print out (link at the end of this post). It is a great tool to have with you during your working days, as you move from one role to the next and make sure you stay focused, calm and intentional. 

#1 - TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

With everything going at at this time, it is a difficult time to prioritise self-care. Yet, you know you have to take care of yourself.

Give yourself permission and do it in a way that is not detrimental for the people that need you the most.

We all need silent time to ponder, to be creative and to think. So make sure you do spend some quality time doing that.

I know from myself, that there is always something on the computer that can occupy your attention and this is why you have to be intentional about carving out time for yourself.

If you just leave it to chance, most of the days it won’t happen. So my tip is: introduce regular times into your schedule that you will be dedicating to yourself; block them in your calendar, put reminders and alerts to make sure you don’t miss out on them, and don’t snooze them away.

It is your opportunity to implement new disciplines that you might actually benefit from also when this crisis will be over.

Think about the security message on the plane: the recommendation is to put YOUR MASK FIRST BEFORE helping others. This is exactly the same. So give it the priority that it deserves.

And it should cover:

  1. Your mental health – audiobooks, podcasts, books
  2. Your physical health – exercising regularly, could also just be a short walk. And feeding your body with the main nutrients it needs to function regularly and properly.

The point is that you need to put in place just enough discipline to keep you healthy mentally and physically, as you are trying to serve your employees, your customers and your family.

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MAKE EVERY DAY YOUR BEST DAY

#2 - TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEAMS, AND YOUR PEOPLE

When I think of ‘people’ here I am mostly talking about your teams; but, in a way, a lot of these principles actually apply also to your family, your beloved ones.

So let’s start by asking the questions: What do my people need?

I can think of mainly three areas:

  1. Being Relatable 
  2. Being Persistent
  3. Providing Clarity

A) BE RELATABLE

Be exceedingly human.

Your people need to feel that you are experiencing the same things as they are.

Be vulnerable.

Being too cool and professional does not work in these circumstances.

Best is behaving appropriately vulnerable. What do I mean by that: you don’t want your team to panic, but you also don’t want to put on this mask and pretend that you have everything under control, when – let’s be honest – we don’t really do now.

So it is about finding that balance between admitting that we don’t know, and yet conveying a reassuring messages of positivity.

If you respond with empathy – your people will feel that they are not alone in this. And it does take some of the heaviness away. There is actually scientific evidence about reduction of level of stress when people speak up their worry. it is called Emotional Similarity. If you want to know more about it, you can follow the link to the findings of this research here.

Practice empathy with your people and don’t shy away from encouraging your people to speak up and talk about their worries: being worried is human, and that it is ok to feel that way.

It is about being honest, saying ‘me too’, yet without being hyper-emotional.

You have to be emotionally intelligent as well as human.

Now, if you happen to be overwhelmed by emotions and have a hard time practicing appropriate vulnerability, then this is a good time to ask for somebody – either within your team, your boss or a peer – to step in. Unfortunately, our teams need to feel they can rely on us and being too vulnerable might make them more worried than needed.

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B) BE PERSISTENT

Be there for your team. Don’t be afraid to be overly present: in 6 months from now, nobody is going to complain that you reached out too much. But the opposite will be true.

Community is extremely important in times of crisis. So, talk with people in your company every single day.

It is hard to panic when you are in constant contact with your team and everybody else within the company: you share the burden, you keep yourself busy and relevant; and everybody seems to come out with more peace of mind. This applies to you as well as your team and speak openly with them to encourage to be more than needed in contact with colleagues.

This is not the time to isolate yourself.

We should all have more meetings, more Zoom calls. And not just on specific topics, but also just to work virtually together. To try to replace those casual conversations that happen spontaneously when you work together in an office, in a virtual setting. 

We do that at work without planning for those interactions: it is what happens in between; in between meetings, in between calls, in between jobs;  we have to replicate these in this virtual time. 

This is not the time to be efficient. Relationships are not about being efficient. It is about being empathetic and effective.

Spend quality time to listen to your people.

What might feel like ‘inefficient’ use of your time, a ‘waste’ of time, it is actually fundamental for building on and reinforcing those relationships. Because people are going to come out of this crisis more efficient and more engaged if we do invest in the relationships now.

And if you treat relationships as a transactional experience, it will be hard to maintain healthy relationships. 

When meeting with your teams, individually or in groups, try to separate clearly the tactical meetings from the community driven meetings. You tend to see a lot on the internet two different types of gathering and, I would challenge that there is one in the middle that gets a bit overlooked:

  • You need Tactical meetings – great to knock down and solve issues;
  • We added Social gathering – Afterwork on Zoom and similar, which are fun to chill out
  • And then there is the need for something in-between: that time to hang out together around our work. It is neither completely social, nor tactical.

This third type of gathering can be in the form of getting together for an hour, and do some independent work – each one on their side of the screen. Or you could talk about your customers, or about what you are working on, or a similar topic that would not represent the subject of a tactical meeting. 

It is that incidental and carefree timelessness that we spontaneously enjoy when we share an office space and that has been taken away from us in this new virtual and remote setting.

Being intentional and persistent in the time invested in the relationships will prevent individuals to drift into isolation and silos. It will make sure that fear does not fill the gap.

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C) STRIVE FOR CLARITY

Your people need clarity. Today. Now.

We don’t know how long this crisis is going to last, and what will happen after the crisis is over and when we are going to look at the impact this crisis had on us, individually and as companies. We cannot control that and so we should not spend any time thinking about that.

Instead, it is important to focus on what we can control. Focus on coming together as a team, and build in enough clarity even if it is only temporarily. Agree on goals that you want the team to focus on for the next 8-12 weeks. And you can do this by answering the question:

What is most important right now?

What do you want to be true in 8 to 12 weeks from now, that is not true today?

The more specific you are the more the team will be able to focus their energy on it.  I believe this to be an opportunity to work on something you usually don’t have the time for. It could be something around the way you communicate internally, to the team or the organisation, or external for instance.

The point is to shift from feeling that this period of uncertainty has been inflicted upon on us, and make something good out of it instead.

Brainstorm with your team on how you want to leverage this period: it is extremely powerful and gives the team a whole new purpose.

Your objectives is to maintain continuity, to avoid people getting distracted and disengaged. Being proactive and intentional about clarifying goals is a powerful tactic to align people and diffuse some of the chaos.

 

After you are clear on the objective, agree on the leverages to achieve that goal. This should usually be about 4 or 5 leverages.

And, finally, you need a way to measure progress on the leverages; and you will be able to review those measures on a weekly basis with your team.

Each week, revise progress on the individual levers.

You want to have a healthy conversation about the things where you are behind, and use the collectivity of the team to address and solve the issues.

Investing in this period of crisis to offer specific clarity on what is expected will make the team feel anchored and connected; and you will move together towards something real and valuable for the team.

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#3 - TAKE CARE OF YOUR CUSTOMERS

And last but not least, you want to think about your customers, your clients.

What do your customers need from you right now? 

If your business is a B2B, you will need to think about how you show up for your customers in a way that is not tacky, but that keeps your business going. And your approach will be very different depending if you are in a B2C environment or a B2B.

In both cases, authenticity and truly caring for your customers is really important. This is the opportunity to collaborate and show that you are there because of them. I am a strong believer that any business’ only mission is to serve its customers and, in times of crisis like this, the opportunity to come out from the crowd with real values and purpose is exceptional. And not to be missed.

In a B2B environment is probably easier having an open dialogue with your customers; so take the opportunity to show up and be there:

1) BE OPEN

Some other business owner might want to take advantage of the situation. So you should anticipate your clients and customers skeptic objections and be ready to address their concerns. Be open. Tell them that you are reaching out to them, not to be opportunistic, but because you really care about them. This is not about you. This is about them.

2) OFFER CLEAR CHOICES

Some customers might be really overwhelmed in this moment and, if you are not specific about what you can offer to them to help, they might not take the offer because of lack of clarity on their side, not because of lack of interest. 

Instead of saying “we are here for you” or “we are open for business”, give them options. Alternative and specific options of solutions you can offer to them.

When people are in crisis, they cannot process and think out of the box.

If you give them specific options instead, it is much easier for your client or customer to pick and choose one.

It all starts with asking questions and listen carefully.

  • Do they have specific needs that you can serve? great. Be specific about what you can offer to address those needs.
  • Do they just need somebody to vent out their concerns, insecurities and frustration? great. Be the quiet and empathetic listener and keep asking questions rather than offering solutions. When the time will be right, they will reach out to you. 

There is not one size fit all. There is never one. And in this uncertain time, this is more true than ever.

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Wrapping Up...

We will eventually go back to normality, we just don’t know WHEN that time will come.

And I actually believe that some of us won’t go back to the same style of work we had before the crisis.

At least our earth would appreciate if we did keep some of the practices we are now rehearsing over and over: less travelling, leveraging digital tools more than traditional face to face meetings, etc.

In this blog post I spoke about what is happening to the CO2 levels in the world right now during the CODID-19 crisis, and how the risk is that, we will accelerate so much after the crisis will be over, that we will get back to a worse place than we were BEFORE the crisis (from a climate change perspective). 

I trust many of us will have the sensitivity to challenge our habits and have a proven success of leading teams even if we are not sitting in the same space all the time, to really opt for jumping on a zoom call rather than on an airplane…

If you have not downloaded it yet, don’t forget to download my free resource by clicking on the link below 👇 You can keep it handy as a print out or just keep it at hand as it will help you stay focused, structured and organised.

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LEADING IN TIME OF CRISIS

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