Your team isn’t just a collection of employees, they’re a family. And until now, you’ve been able to navigate your team through all the various challenges you’ve faced, both as individuals and as a group. But the coronavirus has plunged us all into uncharted waters, and there’s just no leadership map for a pandemic.
The only way out, really, is through. Your team is looking to you to get them through to the other side — but taking care of them also means taking care of yourself. In the face of a pandemic, being an effective leader means learning how to nourish and protect yourself so that you can nourish and protect your team.
One of the scariest aspects of this pandemic is that we just don’t really know what we’re dealing with. Because it’s a new virus, we’re scrambling to learn what it does, who is at risk, and how it’s spreading.
That also means we’re not only trying to figure out how to mitigate today’s threat but also to figure out how to prepare for tomorrow’s. The questions of whether there will be a second wave in the fall, or whether those who have been exposed develop immunity are everything right now.
The fact is, the survival of your business may well depend on the answer to those questions. And with so much uncertainty, chances are your anxiety is off the charts. So until we have more answers or, better still, an effective vaccine, you’re going to need tools to cope with that anxiety.
When you’re battling anxiety, the key is to practice extreme self-care. That means eating well and getting sufficient sleep. It also means exercising regularly to work off some of those stress hormones.
Above all, it means learning to practice mindfulness. There are, actually, many ways to practice mindfulness, from meditation to yoga to losing yourself in soothing music or a distracting art project. The key to mindfulness is learning to nourish yourself by getting quiet, being still, and reconnecting with yourself and with the moment.
What matters with mindfulness is staying in the moment. It’s about learning to be present in the here and now, rather than ruminating on the hurts and losses of the past. It’s also about keeping your center. Rather than worrying about what might happen, staying mindful helps you control your anxiety by learning not to borrow trouble from a future that hasn’t arrived yet.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot about this pandemic that we don’t know yet, and a lot that we simply can’t control. When you’re a business leader, and you have an entire team counting on you for their livelihood, feeling such a loss of control can be downright terrifying.
But there are things that are within your power. You and your team are far from helpless. What matters is to focus on those things that are within your power and let the rest take care of itself.
Take stock of where you and your team are now and start planning accordingly. Consider what is most likely to occur both inside your company and in the pandemic world outside it, but don’t forget to factor in best and worst-case scenarios as well.
It’s a lot like the process you followed when you were starting out as a business leader. You built a plan and you embarked on something entirely new, armed with a strategy for meeting most any contingency, the commonplace, and the unlikely.
Now is the time to marshal those same powers of agility and resilience, prepping your company, and your team to adapt as needed in order to survive. When you have a plan in place, you and your team will feel calmer, confident, and more competent.
Creating a plan also means preparing for the worst-case scenario as well. For example, as a leader, you have to be willing to acknowledge and respond to sometimes harsh realities.
In the wake of the pandemic, your staff may not be the same. Fear may tempt them to actions that would have been unthinkable in the pre-pandemic world. You may need to prepare for disciplinary issues, even severe ones. An economic collapse, for instance, might predictably lead to an increase in employee theft. Protecting your business, and your staff, may mean installing metal detectors or instituting other loss prevention strategies. Above all, being proactive can inspire the calm and the confidence that you need to lead your team effectively through this crisis.
Leadership is never easy. But leading during a global pandemic presents challenges that they just don’t prepare you for in business school. However, it is possible to remain a calm and collected leader, even in the face of chaos. It begins and ends with self-care, nourishing your own mind, body, and spirit so that you can continue to feed and nurture your company, and, above all, your team, no matter how the virus may threaten and thieve.
By Indiana Lee, BOSS contributor