Leading During COVID-19: A Time for Compassion


business-leader-speaking-to-team

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Leaders face a new world of challenges influencing employees during COVID-19. Everyone is under tremendous pressure with the uncertainty of tomorrow. Many people have loved ones they may not be able to see or speak with directly because of social distancing. Others know friends and family that have lost jobs as the economy reels. 401K’s are tanking. Critical home supplies are increasingly scarce.
How do we manage these stressors at home and still lead others effectively at work?
It’s more important now than ever to effectively and compassionately manage work and workload along with people’s emotions and well-being. An old framework from psychology may be useful in simplifying steps we can take. Nearly 80 years ago, researchers at (the) Ohio State University researched and developed the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire (LBDQ) to identify specific behaviors successful leaders exhibit. In a nutshell, identified behaviors were divided into two categories: Initiating Structure and Consideration. Basically, get things done and treat people right.

Taking action
Using this framework, here are steps you should be taking now to lead effectively during these uncertain times.

Initiating Structure
Leaders need to be mindful about scheduling tasks and allow more time for assignments and responsibilities to get done. Clarifying and simplifying expectations will also help. People are distracted, tired and may not be fully attuned to their work despite their best intentions. Regular communication and touch-points, in person or virtually, makes it easier to ensure work is being done properly and as timely as possible. Show more flexibility and patience when action item completion is delayed. Encourage more teamwork so people don’t feel isolated.

Consideration
People are looking for good news and reassurance as their personal lives are shaken. Previous blogs have addressed the power of recognition and positive reinforcement to optimize organizational performance from a behavior analysis perspective. It’s also critical from a humanistic standpoint. Recognizing effort, and not just results, makes people feel appreciated and valued. Consideration involves being friendly, respectful, treating others as equals, looking out for the welfare of everyone, and being accessible. This is as important as ever.
• Take time to connect with your employees.
• See how they’re doing.
• Listen to their concerns.
• Offer to help in any way you can.
• Let them know they’re not alone.

Showing genuine caring and compassion in these difficult times will forge bonds and relationships that will endure long after this virus has passed.