Post-pandemic leadership challenges

Good leadership is all about balance – but the pandemic has thrown the workplace off kilter. Learning to adapt to these new leadership challenges can help to put your team back on the path to success

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Robert Half

Robert Half leadership development director Katy Tanner recently hosted a leadership webinar in which she outlined the four most common leadership tensions that exist right now, how they threaten the balance, and which strategies can bring them back into alignment.

Self-leadership and team leadership

As leaders, our ability to lead ourselves, and remain self-aware, is crucial right now. Understand the manner in which you show up, how you act, how you set the tone and know the impact this creates within the team.

Address your preferences

Leadership preferences are really powerful, especially when you consider the varied working environments available at the moment – home, office, and hybrid. Be aware of your ability to balance the needs of working from home and from the office — is everyone being treated fairly in relation to access to support, communication, inclusion and development?

“I think that’s really important — that you’re aware of your own preferences, and you don’t let them hinder your leadership style or your balance,” says Katy.

Check your mindset

Your mindset impacts your behaviour, your attitude and your actions. It’s the same for your people too; if you sense a negative attitude among your team members, record a call and listen back to yourself. This will serve to give you an insight into your communication skills and how your approach might impact others.

Resilience and agility

Over the COVID weeks these two soft skills have emerged time and time again in relation to  excellent leadership qualities. Leaders who have shown resilience and grit during the course of the pandemic have definitely helped bring their companies back into the black. 

“It’s a lot of responsibility but if not you, then who?” says Katy. “This ability to understand that you’re going to get it really right – and sometimes you’re going to get it really wrong – is very important. The power lies in knowing when to adjust.”

Setting the pace

As the leader, you set the pace. At its core, pacesetting is about providing clarity, direction and goal definitions. By setting the right pace, you build team confidence because you coach people and you create routines which build discipline. You also offer personal and professional support and take that vital team pulse check.

“We’ve seen staff mental health become really high on the agenda recently,” says Katy. “We’re dealing with levels of fatigue, levels of exhaustion, and things never seen before; we need to make sure that we are offering [support] individually as a leader.”

Solving problems and seeing opportunity

Approach problems holistically
There’s real merit in problem-solving — it allows you to identify key priorities and prevents you from being distracted from goals. However, remember that it can also be quite limiting in that it narrows your focus and prevents a future-looking view.

Retrace your steps
Over the course of the pandemic it has been easy to miss key opportunities. For example, has your organisation missed the chance to improve processes, or connect with customers, in recent times? Any findings could be used as part of a reimagination phase.

Use the resources you already have
By observing patterns and themes, by doing research, and by making use of reporting tools, you have the ‘puzzle pieces’ you need to make an educated guess regarding opportunities which can be carved out. “The key here is not to over-complicate,” says Katy, “it’s just really about reacting to the current situation, and also being proactive about the future.”

Performance expectations and current reality

As organisations go through process and infrastructure changes there are a number of key behaviours which will help to create a culture of performance.

  • Delivering feedback
    Giving timely feedback is important in helping people move forward. Success is a moving target and leaders should help their people by setting crystal clear expectations.
  • Showing intensity and fairness
    Having the ability to demonstrate intensity to your team is harder than ever now that half are at home and half are in the office. As a leader, it’s your job to figure out how you plan to maintain this energy.
  • Being open to innovation
    What worked previously might have become superfluous so leaders should aim to make the most of technological advances with a view to identifying future opportunities.
  • Celebrating successes
    People need to feel successful — they need a sense of progress and celebrating small wins can help them achieve this. Creating that culture of performance is essential, even in an unpredictable landscape.
  • Ensuring consistency of connectedness
    Pulse checks, and individual team meetings, are vital in creating a sense of camaraderie and will increase levels of engagement which will, in turn, enhance performance.

Team culture pre and post-COVID

Culture is the cornerstone of any organisation – but it is likely to have slipped down the list for many over the COVID weeks. As furloughed staff are steadily onboarded, we will inevitably see culture shift again.

To create a healthy team culture, you need to rely on three core pillars – process, technology, people. Leaders should examine the structures and processes in place, and leverage technology to explore this capacity in order to maximise the productivity and engagement of people. 

Achieving balance in leadership during this time isn’t about providing one approach over another — it’s about developing that ability to move between them. It requires self-awareness, practice and contextual awareness – but it can be achieved with the right support and resource.

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