In 2020 we faced a big challenge. Pandemic with so huge impact that most of the companies weren’t sure if they are going to survive. Businesses closed, the unemployment rate has grown up, people became more distant, governments restricted some of the usual social activities for long periods. Science has become the new hit. Known and unknown experts gave advice and made predictions on how the situation will end. Society faced an identity crisis, going through frustration (in some cases even depression), anger, resignation from feelings, indifference, etc.
What a mess, and it happened in less than 2 months. Everything started as a small number of cases in a small part of the world and then, after political correctness and arrogance, the situation became one of the biggest political, society, and employer crashes in the history of the modern world. People started feeling afraid, but not so much afraid of the decease, they started feeling threatened by what will come after the decease. Some negative scenarios have been created from established institutions and government experts to show how serious the situation has become. For some reason, people’s lives in modern society looked like a small hell for about two to three months. Threaten by a virus, the style of living of the modern human being was limited by authorities. Some people lost their jobs, others lost “hope in the future”. But there is one group of people who used this time to regenerate and renew and then start over with the things they know differently. These groups of people are calm down, reasonable, but still ready for discussion when authority comes and sets some new rules. For a couple of months, I’ve had the tuff task to create such a productive environment, allowing people to live and work normal, without generating fear, uncertainty, and internal aggression one to each other.
I’ve had experience with only one crisis – the one that happened in 2007-2009, but still not enough experience with such type of crisis. People often compare the crisis from 2007-2009 with the one that happened in 2020, but they are different. The rules then were clear – we suffer, because of some people’s greed and willingness to have more. Now, in 2020, the world suffers while we face something new and unknown. This unknown, created uncertainty and fear differently. Now, we needed to educate people on how to live and work after such great uncertainty, in imbalanced times, with a low level of fear and a high level of consciousness and adaptability. Here are some of the steps, getting the company I work for back to normal:
Analyze and plan with others
What we faced as a company was a loss of working places around us. It was terrible to see the climbing numbers of people who were made redundant in less than a week. If you are one of them, then don’t panic, just calm yourself and offer your employer a different way of relationship. Many people take the dismissal as a defeat in their lives. What we did as a company was to sit down with our employees and explain the situation. And guess what – our employees came up with ideas, plans, and proposals that we never thought of. After this first step, we had enough material to analyze different scenarios and plan for each of them.
Build a backup plan of your back up plan
After analyzing the scenarios, proposed, the company senior leadership team took hard decisions about how to stay competitive during the crisis and not lose sight of the employees already hired. It is important to have one major plan and then build a scenario where this plan doesn’t work. Your backup plan must include some points you will follow if something changes in your major plan and makes it unfulfillable. And don’t forget- even the backup plan can fail. It is crucial to building another plan that can enable you to act if your options are no more.
What a good leader does is to be open and honest with its employees. I don’t say you will have to present all the negative aspects that may happen, but still, you need to be realistic. Let’s face it, industries are doing well during the crisis and benefit from it and others who suffer. Your plan can be well established on the basis you know best. If you have made your analysis, how the crisis, have hit your company, and operations you would have built a clear picture of what you will have to do. Now, what a good leader does is to stand up in front of the employees, explain the situation as it is and inform on decisions taken, according to the scenarios that are happening in the reality. Clear communication creates engagement within company employees and rises their accountability toward tasks. In our company case, we raised the accountability from our employees with more than 65% after the crisis period has ended, by just keeping people informed of what we do and how this affects company results.
Give options were possible
During a crisis, most of the leaders set up a tone that does not allow employees to choose. But people are different. Setting the same set of rules for everyone will only generate stress and disengagement. A true leader searches for flexibility and diversity while keeping an eye on the results that must be achieved. No matter the situation, the company needs results to survive. The role of the leader in this situation is to offer options for the employees who need more space. For example, you cannot send home production workers who need materials and machines to do their job, but you can put them on shifts, ensure flexible working hours and divide workers into groups, etc. For the administrative positions, the leader must offer, but not demand any options. While we saw how people have started working from home. It is an opportunity that many of them have expected, but still, when started working remotely some of these same people started complaining about issues in the work-life balance, more time invested into a regular task, problems with networks and access, lack of clear in-team and in-company communication, etc. Not everyone is ready for remote work. Some people just need to be where others are, no matter the situation. Giving options will allow the leader to ensure flexibility and boost internal motivation and accountability toward the situation and the tasks that need to be done.
Plan regular engagement meetings
While being with people around them many people feel comfortable. Others, who stay at home may feel isolated in the same situation. Leaders need motivated, engaged, and accountable people. And while the accountability level can be controlled by the leader, motivation and engagement are internal factors. When people feel isolated and forgotten they often start thinking about negative scenarios that may happen. To minimize the risk of creating such a stressful situation the leader must invest time in setting up regular meetings with the team. These meetings must be 40% work-oriented and 60% engagement and motivation oriented. The part with the official information should not be skipped, but as social animals, people need to see themselves as part of a community and group. They want to share information about themselves and in the same way, learn about others they work with. These meetings, the leader sets up, are a good basis to build a stronger team enabling a higher level of accountability through personal involvement and informal behavior.
Many experts have written a lot of materials how can we work during and after a crisis. Some of the materials are good and offered real steps to help the process of remote working, while other materials are just an open personal position about crisis and pandemic times. But with simple words, a true leader who wants to keep it’s team safe, secure, engaged and accountable, no matter the time must invest in three things – involvement (in the decisions), clear communication (with regular updates) and flexibility (while focusing on results and not procedures).