Streetwise: Navigating Leadership in the Post-COVID Era

July 31, 2021

From our friends at Eure Consulting:

As the business world starts to open back up again, now is a great time to reevaluate your approach as a leader. A lot has changed over the past 18 months, including you. How have you changed as a leader? What new habits have you created? Which ones are serving you well? Which ones aren’t? How can you better serve your employees moving forward?

For your self-reflection, there are three main areas to think about: How you’re approaching leadership, how you’re communicating with employees, and how you’re holding them accountable.

Let’s tackle your leadership approach first.

In general, there are three different approaches to managing and leading others: Do To, Do For, and Do With.

Do To is the command and control style of managing. You tell your employees exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. It can be useful in some situations, such as crises, but when overused, leads to fear-based compliance and avoidance in your employees.

Do For is what a lot of people gravitate towards. It is the style in which you “help” your employees. Do For happens when you notice that your employee is struggling with something so you offer to take it off their plate. It can be useful in some situations, like when there is a tight deadline, but mostly leads your employees to become either dependent on you or completely bored because they aren’t being challenged.

Do With is the style that has you working alongside your employees while still letting them control the outcome. Do With means that you are helping your employees with their work by removing obstacles and helping them to create meaningful goals, but you’re leaving final responsibility for the execution and the end product with them.

Take some time today to reflect on how you’ve been managing lately. Given the crisis, have you been leaning too heavily on the Do To style? Maybe you haven’t wanted to overload your employees during this already stressful time so you’ve been using more Do For. Or perhaps, you’ve been able to Do With your employees this whole time.

We’re all human and nobody is perfect. Stress, time constraints, and distanced workforces have a way of taking us off our game. Start finding ways to Do With more often and save Do To and Do For for specific needs.

Next, let’s examine how well you’re communicating with your employees.

If there’s one thing that working from home has been great for, it’s breaking down lines of communication. Whether you’re planning to stay remote or are bringing staff back to the office, there’s a good chance that your communication could use a tune-up.

Communication is all about providing clarity for your employees. They want, and need, to know where the company is going, how you plan to get there, and what their part to play is.

Understanding where the company is going and how you plan to get there comes from having a clear vision, mission, and goals.

That comes from you sharing those with the company. You, as the CEO, may have a perfect vision of where you’re taking the company. Which is a great thing. The problem, however, is that you haven’t told anyone else.

You would probably be shocked at the answers if you stopped to ask your employees where the company is going and why you’ve chosen to grow in that specific way. It seems like common sense to you, but you’ve been mulling it over for years. No one else has the advantage of being inside your head. So make sure to share your vision and your plans out loud.

Knowing what part they play in getting you to your goals comes from clearly defined roles.

And they probably don’t have that now. Even if they did last year, almost everyone’s roles and duties have changed over the past 18 months.

Take the time now to lay out in great detail what is expected from each and every role at your company. Make sure to focus only on the role itself and what the company needs that role to accomplish. It can be easy to slip into thinking about who is in the role now and what they do well, or poorly, but you have to stay objective and think only of what the company needs from the role.

These new more explicitly defined roles will help your current staff be more effective. And better prepare your company for the ramp-up in business coming out of this.

Lastly, let’s look at how you’re holding people accountable.

When we ask leaders how well they are holding their staff accountable, they generally reply not well. Even before the pandemic. The truth is, holding people accountable is the worst part of being a leader. But your company can’t succeed if you don’t.

The good news is that accountability becomes much easier with your newly created role clarity. Accountability is really evasive when you haven’t clearly laid out what outcomes the role has to produce. Now that you have though, you can have regular and consistent feedback conversations about performance against those expectations.

The single most important part of your role is to help others grow and that can only be done through consistent, candid, and caring feedback. But you can’t just tell people something one time and expect them to nail it. As I said, we are all human. Things fall through the cracks or we revert back to old habits. You have to keep pointing to and emphasizing the results you need and the changes you want to see. A lot of people will not really hear you until you’ve said it at least 7 times (some research even says as many as 30 times).

But providing consistent feedback isn’t just about performance improvement. It also gives your employee a defined time that they know they’ll have your attention. They will be able to use that time to ask questions, gain clarity, and update you on their progress. Because they know they have this dedicated time, they won’t need to grab you at all hours of the day to run little things by you, they can save them up for your weekly (yes weekly!) one-on-one.

We’ve all been through an unprecedented time.

And we’re not even completely through it yet. But you can start preparing for the wave of business that is coming by becoming the best leader you can be. Take time over the next few weeks to reflect on these three areas. And make sure you’re showing up for your employees as the leader they need.