Demonstrating Active Care During a Time of Crisis: An Application of Propulo’s Safe Production Leadership Model
By Madison Hanscom, Ph.D.
Employees want to feel like they matter. A common complaint is that leadership doesn’t dedicate enough time to listen and respond to the needs of employees, which contributes to perceptions that management does not care. These perceptions are an important component of safety culture and overall functioning of the company. During times of crisis, this can be even more of a problem. As leaders try to address new, competing demands that have emerged as a result of COVID-19, the resource of time has become even less available. Although it might seem more difficult to show you care, this is when it becomes even more important.
Leaders can exhibit Active Care during a time of crisis in several ways, including:
Taking genuine interest
It is important to show personal concern and respect for your employees as people, not just workers. Do this by taking genuine interest in them. Ask them, has the pandemic impacted their life personally? How about those around them? You might also consider asking them what they are grateful for. If you do not have the time to touch base, consider scheduling brief individual check-in meetings with your direct reports ahead of time to hold yourself accountable.
Celebrating and mourning
Think about how you can celebrate victories and grieve losses with your people. Keeping track of what everyone is going through might be difficult, so here’s a helpful tip: keep a “team events journal” where you can track what is happening with your team members. For instance, did one of your direct reports mention her mother was tested for the coronavirus and she is anxiously awaiting the results? Ask her when she expects to hear back, record it in the journal, and ask how things are going during your next check-in. It can also be useful to set a calendar reminder to help you remember when to follow up on events.
When you are actively listening, you are really listening. You are not thinking about what you’re going to say next, gearing up to jump in with your opinion or advice, or glancing at your phone. You are fully attending to what your employee is saying. This is even harder when working during a crisis because there are so many distractions. Also, if you are working remotely, you might only be talking to this person through your phone or a computer screen. This can make it tempting to check email or think about other responsibilities like the dishwasher that just finished a cycle. Put yourself in a physical and psychological space that allows you to give your undivided attention. This pays off – when you are actively listening, you will likely ask more meaningful and constructive follow-up questions and provide richer and more specific feedback.
These principles hold true during times of prosperity, crisis, and also the transitional periods in between.
Times of change and recovery can be difficult, but by demonstrating these leadership competencies in a consistent manner, leaders can work towards building a successful “new normal”.