Balancing the tensions of post-pandemic leadership challenges

By Robert Half on 31st July 2020

Good leadership is all about balance, but the pandemic has thrown the workplace off kilter. Learning to adapt to these new leadership challenges can put your team back on the path to success.

Robert Half Manager, IZ Leadership Development Programs, Katy Tanner, recently hosted a leadership webinar in which she outlined the four most common leadership tensions that exist right now, how they threaten the balance, and which strategies can bring them back into alignment.

Webinar: Balancing the tensions of leadership

1. Self-leadership and team leadership

As leaders, our ability to lead ourselves and remain self-aware is crucial right now. Understand the manner in which you show up, how you act, how you set the tone and know the impact this creates within the team.

Address your preferences
Leadership preferences are really powerful, especially when you consider the myriad working environments available at the moment: home, office, and hybrid. Be aware of your ability to balance the needs of working from home and from the office — is everyone being treated fairly regarding access to support, communication, inclusion and development?

“I think that's really important — that you're aware of your own preferences, and you don't let them hinder your leadership style or your balance,” says Katy.

Check your mindset
Your mindset impacts your behaviour, your attitude, your actions. It’s also the same for your people — if you sense a negative attitude within your team members, record a call and listen back to yourself. This will serve to give you an insight into your communication skills and how your approach impacts others.

Resilience and agility
Over the last 18 weeks, these two soft skills emerge time and time again regarding excellent leadership qualities. Leaders who have shown resilience and grit during the course of the pandemic have definitely helped bring their companies back into the black. 

“It's a lot of responsibility but if not you, then who?” says Katy. “That ability to understand that you're going to get it really right and sometimes you're going to get it really wrong. The power is knowing when to adjust.”

Setting the pace
As the leader, you set the pace. At its core, pacesetting is about providing clarity, direction and goal definitions. By setting the right pace, you build team confidence because you coach people, you create routines which build discipline. You also offer personal and professional support and take that vital team pulse check.

“We've seen staff mental health become really high on the agenda over the last six to seven weeks,” said Katy. “We're dealing with levels of fatigue and levels of exhaustion, and things never seen before and we need to make sure that we are offering [support] individually as a leader.”

2. Solving problems and seeing opportunity

Approach problems holistically
As a leader, there’s real merit in problem solving — it allows you to identify key priorities and prevents you from being distracted from goals. It can also be quite limiting in that it narrows your focus and prevents a future-looking view.

Retrace your steps
Over the course of the pandemic, it has been easy to miss key opportunities. Has your organisation missed the chance to improve processes or connect with customers in the last 12 weeks? Any findings could be used as part of the reimagination stage.

Use the resources you already have
By observing patterns and themes, by doing research, and by making use of reporting tools, you have the puzzle pieces you need to make an educated guess regarding opportunities which can be carved out. 

“The key here is not to over-complicate,” said Katy, “it's just really reacting to the current situation at hand, but also being proactive about the future.”

3. Performance expectations and current reality

As businesses go through process and infrastructure changes, there are a number of key behaviours which will help to create a culture of performance.

Delivering feedback
Giving timely feedback is important in helping people move forward. Success is a moving target and leaders should help their people by setting crystal clear expectations.

Show intensity and fairness
Having the ability to demonstrate intensity to your team is harder than ever now that half are at home and half are in the office. As a leader, it’s your job to figure out how you plan to maintain this energy.

Openness to innovation
What worked previously might have become superfluous, so business leaders should aim to make the most of technological advances with a view to identifying future opportunities.

Celebrating successes
People need to feel successful — they need a sense of progress and celebrating small wins can help them achieve this. Creating that culture of performance is essential, even in an unpredictable landscape.

Consistency of connectedness
Pulse checks and individual team meetings are vital in creating a sense of camaraderie and will increase levels of engagement which will, in turn, enhance performance.

4. Team culture pre and post COVID

Culture is the cornerstone of any company but is likely to have slipped down the list for many over the last 18 weeks. As furloughed staff are steadily onboarded, we will inevitably see culture shift again.

To create a healthy team culture, you need to rely on three core pillars: process, technology, and people. Leaders should examine the structures and processes in place, then leverage technology to explore this capacity in order to maximise the productivity and engagement of people. 

Questions to ask:

1.    Process
Which of your current processes would you want to keep? What needs to be improved upon or adjusted? Are there new gaps which will need addressing? 

2.    Technology
What tools, reports and platforms are needed to keep people working in an agile way?

3.    People
Try to understand the experience of current employees and those that are coming back. What is it going to be like for those that are still on furlough and what are the best ways to keep everyone connected? 

“Ask yourself what you should start doing, what you should stop doing, what you should do more often. When it comes to process, technology and people, this will definitely help you maintain a positive shift in culture, or get you closer to it,” Katy says.

Achieving balance in leadership during this time isn’t about providing one approach over the other — it’s about developing that ambidexterity to move between them. It requires self-awareness, practice and contextual awareness but it can be achieved with the right support and resource.

Contact the Robert Half team for hiring solutions and support.

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