There are many things you need to do as a leader: strategize, build relationships, influence others, and get results. But when times are tough, what does your team need from you?
Leading through challenges with resilience allows you to do more than survive in the short-term; it sets you and your team up for success so that they can ultimately thrive.
Regardless of your title or industry, one thing is certain: At some point, your team or organization will face adversity. The key to weathering these inevitable storms? You.
Here are 6 research-backed steps managers can take to reduce emotional stress, move past obstacles, and keep your team engaged—even when times are tough:
Evaluate Your Options
As humans, we don’t like change and, as a result, tend to overvalue inaction and undervalue action. Whether it’s a company-wide crisis or an issue specific to your team, it is within your power as a leader to transform how you and your team react.
What actions are you considering taking to remediate the tough situation you are facing right now? Use a weighted pros and cons model to follow through on a plan: Write down the benefits of action and inaction. Then write down the costs of action and inaction. During tough times we need to make conscious the process of action vs. inaction.
For example, your resources have been cut and you’re struggling to get your own job done, let alone helping everyone on your team. But if your key employees are stressed and struggling to cope, taking a small amount of time to work with them now may save you 50 hours in the long run.
Check Your Expectations
As a leader, it’s easy to jump straight into solution-mode without first tending to your own emotional needs. But when our Iceberg Beliefs—subconscious beliefs about how the world should work—are fractured, we often react emotionally. This makes it difficult to think rationally and keeps us focused on problems instead of solutions.
Navigate around your Iceberg Beliefs by doing a realistic reset on your standards, focusing on progress over perfection. For example, if you believe that, “If you want it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” Reframe that belief that isn’t serving you by telling yourself, “If I help others, I make the team stronger and make more time for my own growth.”
Assess Your Team
Research shows that when times are tough, empathy and mentoring decrease in the workplace. As a result, anxiety and frustration begin to flourish and productivity and engagement fall.
The first step is to prioritize your efforts: Who needs your help? Over the next few days, look for the people on your team who display limiting behaviors, such as withdrawing from the group, complaining, excessive worrying, and procrastination, which can all be triggered by negative emotions: These are likely the team members who most need your support.
Talk to Your Team
When there is a lack of information during times of change and uncertainty, people will fill in the gaps with assumptions. Keeping communication as open as you can is especially important.
For example, check-in with your team regularly. If you don’t have time for frequent meetings, send an email at the end of the day to share updates. And rather than asking general questions like, “how are things,” ask something more specific, such as “I noticed that X is happening. Do you need any additional support?”
If you get questions that you’re not able to answer, respond honestly, “I don’t know, but I’ll work to find out.” Or “I can’t share any details now, but I promise to update you as soon as I can.”
Share Difficult News
Communication during tough times often involves delivering difficult news. Too often leaders will jump to cheerlead their team through when they need to first acknowledge the challenge and feelings at hand.
To communicate more effectively, you have to first meet your people where they are. First, use empathy to imagine your team’s worries and concerns, then acknowledge the challenges in front of you with the team. Solicit reactions and listen and acknowledge concerns. Then introduce some positive thinking: For example, say that even though things may be hard, you will be there every step of the way. Finally, discuss specifics and what this change or challenge will require.
Find the Good
When times are tough, it is crucial to cultivate positivity in the workplace. In fact, in poll after poll, employees show that they value meaningful work and a connection to purpose most, even more than salary and benefits.
Positivity-building actions are especially important when we’re being asked to do more with less or going through a transformational change—because it’s exactly under these circumstances that our brains tend to go especially negative.
Take a few moments to celebrate team progress and small wins and publicly call out others for a job well done. It goes a long way and doesn’t cost a dime.
Learn how you can empower yourself as a leader and your employees with resilience.