As leaders, we are being called upon for advice, support and guidance more so than ever right now. Even when most of us have never lived or worked through a crisis such as the Coronavirus pandemic which is affecting businesses, individuals and economies all over the world. What experience do we have that we can draw upon? Think GFC, when you started your business, lost your first client or your first employee. At the time it would have hurt, or been really challenging, but you got through it. That’s why we are leaders. And our people will be looking to us for guidance and direction like you wouldn’t believe.
In uncertain times, our people deal with stress, change and ambiguity in many different ways. For those of you who have been in my Extended DISC workshops you will recall the fears of each of the behavioural styles, along with the signs of those fears creeping in and ways to alleviate them. For those that haven’t, it is important to recognise that we are all different.
We all have different styles of leadership, and in turn require different leadership styles, particularly through significant change. If your business hasn’t already, you may be close to turning off the lights of your office and directing your teams to work from home. This change will significantly disrupt your employees work patterns and routines and cause stress and pressure that may not be evident to you when working remotely. If working from home is not possible in your business, your people are probably starting to fear for what is to come. Calling in unwell, well maybe they actually are unwell, but perhaps their anxiety and stress levels are at an all-time high. Don’t add to their stress. Keep calm, communicate and ask your people how they are doing. Empathy in your leadership style needs to be at the forefront today, and in the coming weeks.
A quick recap on the styles:
D – Dominant. The D behavioural style is the most assertive. They like shaking up the environment and overcoming opposition to get results. Likes to be in charge and make things happen. Leads and controls.
I – Influence. The I behavioural style is the most social. They like connecting and interacting with others. Often the centre of attention, and sees the positive side of life and people.
S – Steadiness. The S behavioural style are the most calm. They like a steady and safe environment so tends to not like change or surprises. Fairness and justice are important. Often agreeable on the surface and can tend to focus on the negatives.
C – Compliance. The C behavioural style is the most cautious. Likes things to be correct, in order and be detailed. They avoid mistakes, strive for perfection and is eager to learn. Tends to be aloof.
When faced with stressful situations, each person deals with it differently. Extended DISC’s definition of stress is “… a defence mechanism to change in the current environment and the adjustment process it causes”. So, what are your peoples most dominant reactions when under pressure? And what are their biggest fears?
Under pressure, a D style will have a lack of concern and tend to overlook how their actions affect others. The biggest fears include feeling a loss of control. They need to be in control.
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and significant disruption to businesses, communities and individuals, think about ensuring your D style employees have projects they are in control of, where they can continue making headway with their goals and driving the business forward, albeit in possible self-isolation. Your D style employees will cope quite well away from the office, but make sure you have a mechanism in place for team meetings via video or teleconference, so they can tell you all about what they have been doing and achieving. If they are in sales, keep them focused on their deliverables and challenge them to build stronger relationships with their prospects. Why not get them working on new revenue streams in light of the changed working conditions.
Under pressure, an I style may become highly disorganised and tend to focus so much on people that they may overlook details and tasks. Their biggest fear is social rejection or isolation, not being included in groups or teams. Your I styles are going to struggle the most without the face to face social interaction of their team mates.
If you are working from home, make sure you have regular check in points, team meetings via video and support groups. In fact, get your I styles to run the support groups, they will keep the team energised and positive whilst at the same time getting the social contact they need to be successful. Without the daily office commute and day to day operations, your I styles could become quite easily distracted and unreliable. Keep in regular contact and their spirits high, and they will bring the rest of the team along for the journey! If you notice them getting involved in everything, or seeking attention from everywhere, give them more opportunity to interact. But be firm with your expectations and required outcomes, otherwise they could be busy being social, not productive!
Under pressure, a S style employee will become a workhorse and be too willing to take on others responsibilities and requests. Their biggest fear is change or loss of stability as they like things to remain the same and have a stable and secure environment…Oh oh.
Firstly, communicate with your S style employees on a one to one basis or in small groups through this initial phase of uncertainty. Let them know what you are thinking and how the business is going to respond should you be forced to close the doors and work remotely for a period of time. Chances are, your S styles will be able to offer a great deal of insight into some of the key processes and procedures that need to be considered as part of the change. If they are forearmed with the ‘why’, they will be a great asset. But make sure you continue the rhythm and discipline you have in regards to processes, team meetings, 1:1 meetings and the like. Keep it stable and secure, even though you will be working in different places.
Under pressure, a C style may become overly critical with a tendency to focus too much on the details and lose the bigger picture. Their biggest fear is criticism of their work as their greatest desire is to produce high quality work. All the time.
Details may be scarce in the first instance, particularly if you as the leader are an I style. Keep them focused on their very detailed work, provide specific information in writing, give feedback and clear instructions and don’t force them to make decisions quickly. Give them the time to think and know that the end result will be pretty spot on. Your C style employees will largely cope very well working remotely, but make sure you check in with them when you say you will.
These times are unprecedented it’s fair to say. Our leadership strengths will shine. Our leadership weaknesses will be strengthened.
The best possible advice I can give is to continue being you. Be authentic. Honest. Vulnerable. No-one has all the answers, which is no different to ‘normal’ daily life. It will be those who rise to the challenges we are facing in business right now, that will see a stronger and more effective team come through at the end of it all. Whenever that may be.
If I, or NextGen HR can assist you or your leaders in effectively leading remote teams, please contact us at any time. We can video, call or sit 1.5 metres away from you (for now) if that is your preference.
All the best, and keep moving forward.
Xavier @ NextGen HR