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Leading Remotely During an Uncertain Crisis

Last week Anna Whitlam People ran virtual roundtable sessions on Leading Remotely During an Uncertain Crisis. The level of interest was very indicative of not only the pressure Corporate Affairs and Communications professionals are under as leaders, but as individuals as well, recognising that in addition to the responsibilities they have to their organisations and teams to see them through these unprecedented times, that they also have a responsibility to themselves, for their own safety and wellbeing.

We had leaders “in the room” navigating global teams and infrastructure challenges, on the front-line managing the implications of the crisis through multiple time zones, cultures, layering stages of the pandemic, conflicting government regulations across various sites, managing entire workforces moving to work from home for the first time and lobbying for their business as an essential service. Amidst the high-pressure workload and hours that surround the discipline during a crisis, they are also trying to manage their team’s health and wellbeing, performance and engagement, and juggling their own new way of life working from home, with small children, and no longer having the ability to rely on the support of carers, family and friends due to social distancing and government mandates.

Dan Umphray, CEO of Lead Positive Consulting, talked about the science of what happens during times like these; “it’s like the world has had a monumental injection of cortisol, and the stress chemical injection is impacting Corporate Affairs Leaders as they try to balance some semblance of order and structure to help people feel more certain about the near-term future.”

In Corporate Affairs it’s often about helping people find the right assumptions, cutting through the barrage of information and clutter. In a social context, people tend to use their brains in a way that leverages experience and thoughts to try and make sense of a situation. But in this environment, where views are at right now, regardless of industry or your personal situation, it’s universal – we are all facing the same leadership challenge – and we need to be able to regulate in this moment, to be able to lead our teams effectively through the uncertainty.

Using Professor Sir Cary Cooper’s model of resilience, the group shared stories and insights across all facets of resilience currently being tested personally and professionally – Confidence, Purposefulness, Adaptability and Social Support.

Here are some quick tips to enable resilience for yourself and your teams during a Crisis:

  • Have confidence – Reframe your inner monologue from feeling consumed by everything to choosing an order of focus to deal with stressful situations.
  • Be adaptable – working from home is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Embrace technology and new opportunities to connect in meaningful ways. Take note of the innovations and learnings that arise from these new ways of working.
  • Find purpose – don’t lose sight of the long game – we will get through this, and the actions we take now can set you, your teams and your organisations up to thrive on the other side.
  • Find your social support – have regular daily VC check-ins with your team, set up WhatsApp groups, attend peer coaching circles, reach out and just ask someone you care about – Are you OK? Make sure you and your teams have someone to offload and cathartically support everything you are dealing with. Finding ways to replace the “water cooler conversations” in a virtual setting will enable those in isolation to still feel connected and supported to overcome the adversity.

 

Reflecting on the stories shared in these sessions, and the conversations I’ve had with countless professionals over the last few weeks, it is evident that despite all the doom and gloom, people are recognising the incredible opportunity that is also being presented, possibly for this once in a lifetime moment in their careers.

A significant global event such as this forces us to shift our mindsets, our ways of working, reinventing ourselves, how we communicate better, more authentically, and how we connect with the people in our lives that are important to us – be it customers, stakeholders, or family and friends.  COVID-19 binds us as a global community, and as Corporate Affairs and Communications professionals and Leaders of people, we have an incredible responsibility and opportunity to shift the narrative of how that plays out.

Remember, don’t lose sight of the fundamentals of leadership; think about resilience and the basics that you need to put in place in order to show up effectively as a leader – so that you and your teams can continue to deliver exceptional outcomes now and in the future.

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