Leading when you’re exhausted
16th February 2021
Many business owners got through the first wave of CV19 on mix of adrenaline, unseasonable sunshine and gin. Summer hove into view and it felt like we were over the worst. Then winter hit.
From a leadership perspective, this time around feels very different. At the time of writing 10m people have been vaccinated, but the home stretch feels like a marathon, the finishing line still unclear.
I talk to recruitment CEOs, all day, every day. Almost all complain of ‘Groundhog Day’, of struggling with ‘pandemic fatigue’ and feeling powerless when trying to motivate and lead their organisations.
This time around it is about psychological stamina [HBR, 15 Dec 2020]. Stamina is key because this second wave is, frankly, boring. Cultivating stamina is crucial to successfully completing this particular marathon.
Urgency v Importance
In stressful times, it is natural to focus on those things deemed urgent. The temptation is to push everything else out – ‘we’ll deal this when Covid is over’ – and reward ourselves with a rest.
I see this a lot – just getting through the day is deemed a success. Maybe that was the case during the first wave – this time it is essential for leaders to think beyond the now and get ready for the inevitable frenzy that will happen as competitors clamour to win back lost business and reclaim lost clients.
We advise taking time to work on your strategy and plan for 2021 [and beyond]. What needs doing to be a stronger company at the end of the crisis [your plan] and how are you going to do it [your strategy]. Acting now will reduce the inevitable stress post crisis.
Motivating: Compassion and Containment
Firstly, life for most employees, whether working in isolation or in their workplace, is rubbish right now. For families, the stress of home schooling, being cooped up and work insecurities is enormous. Those that are single, in shared accommodation with limited living space are also suffering. The grey winter skies and the constant rain serve to top it off nicely.
Leaders need to acknowledge all of this, share their own struggles and empathise whilst understanding that the team need you to be strong for them. Compassion is a big part of leading.
It should however be balanced with what HBR call ‘Containment’. Too much caring and compassion can drive people into a learned helplessness trap. Passivity is dangerous to the individual and the business. As leaders, we need to find our second wind, to put pressure on ourselves and those around us to ‘step up’. Motivational speeches aside, this can be achieved by focussing on activity that lays the groundwork for the future – planting the seeds that will be harvested in the future.
There is currently no clear end in sight. We do know however that this will end, very likely in the next 6 months.
As we enter the final stretch, one of the biggest challenges leaders face, is finding the energy in themselves and their teams. We are all sick and tired of pep talks along the lines of ‘pulling together’, ‘getting through this’ etc. Instead, we need to understand ‘how’ we are going to get through this and ‘what’ needs doing.
At Hyvve we advise clients to celebrate success linked to being well prepared for post crisis times. Divide long projects into sprints, cull the endless VC meetings, cut out irrelevant projects, focus on making less equal more. Shorten the team’s working day but expect more. Measure progress and celebrate it.
About The Author
Justin Pearson, Founder | Hyvve | Helping recruitment CEOs evolve and grow their organisations email@example.com
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