Paul Thallner is founder and CEO of High Peaks Group, a firm specializing in team effectiveness, executive coaching, and leadership development. Paul is a regular contributor to Adventure Park Insider (API). As part of API’s ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 virus situation, Paul will be sharing guidance and advice to help aerial adventure industry leaders navigate the developing, unprecedented scenario.
It’s the responsibility of leaders to show empathy, unprecedented optimism, and flexibility that will lead their business out of this crisis. How successful we are at this may all come down our ability to self-direct and problem-solve on a regular basis.
Here are three things leaders can do to help their team through the current crisis:
Be open about external effects on people. You and your employees are carrying a lot of extra emotional baggage right now. Everyone’s thinking about their kids who are home from school, their elderly parents or family members, their 401(k) or savings accounts, etc. Similarly, anyone in a leadership position is now getting questions from employees they just can’t answer, like “when will this be over?”, or “am I at greater risk if I come into work?”, or “shouldn’t we just close down?”
Dialing up understanding, curiosity, and empathy for your team will help dial down the elevated levels of stress, pessimism and rigidity that makes problem-solving more difficult. And you NEED to solve problems right now. Do that by making yourself available, giving people a chance to say what they want to say, and listening with compassion as they talk.
Be flexible and nimble about decisions. It’s difficult for a leader to change his or her mind once a decision is made. But, let’s face it, we’re experiencing upheaval on an hour-by-hour basis. So, YES, circulate the information and communicate the plan. BUT, also be ready to update your team(s) when things change.
For example, you may make a decision to stay open only to have your Governor close the whole state down. It’s OK to change your mind—in fact, showing your flexibility is a form of strength. Yes, it feels like falling forward in the dark, but letting go of decisions is just as important as making them—even when you know new information is coming.
Do that by: checking your ego at the door, act decisively, communicate transparently, and allow ideas to come to you from your teams.
Think about what you need in order to outlast this crisis. The myth of the heroic leader is a huge trap. You will do nobody any good if you a) get sick or b) snap under the pressure of this moment.
Now is the time to think about and implement something that’s going to keep you mentally and physically sharp throughout this process. The most obvious one is getting enough sleep. If that’s a problem, don’t medicate yourself to sleep. Try exercising for 30 minutes instead. If that doesn’t work, you can try the military method soldiers use to fall asleep even during combat. Other techniques include short meditations or distracting your brain with stress-less inputs like literature or sports.