It's going to be a long time before everyone is back in the office - if we ever return to that. Leaders face new challenges and opportunities to grow: themselves, their teams and their businesses. The way we're leading needs to change - but how do you know what will work?
The fact is that there is no 'business as usual' at the moment. And that may be permanent. Yet so many businesses are approaching the current crisis, with the coronavirus lockdown, just as they always have done. And they're struggling.
Those who have the greatest chance of moving from crisis-level surviving to thriving are the one who are reinventing the ways we work together.
They're listening to their team members - and actually hearing what they're saying. They're taking action to support people, even before they have been asked. They are making that courageous shift to leading from their hearts, not just their heads.
Every day I hear from people - especially women - who are on the verge of burnout, due to juggling their leadership role, childcare, home schooling, cooking, and the sheer cliff-face of exhaustion that is only being held back by determination and adrenalin. Their employers might be thinking they're being supportive by telling them they can be flexible over when they work their contracted hours, but that doesn't really help.
It leaves employees working until late at night, before getting up super-early to get a head start before the kids wake up.
Sending the children back to school won't necessarily fix this - at least not short-term. Most schools are only able to accommodate children part time and are looking at staggering start and finish times. This means those same parents will be juggling multiple school runs each day, with a rota for their children being at home, adding in the worry about whether their family is safe.
Too many people are on their knees, pretending they're fine, when inside they're barely coping.
But There Are Aspects Of Lockdown That People Want To Keep
People are telling me that lockdown isn't all bad. In fact, I'm seeing signs of anxiety being triggered at the thought of 'losing' what some feel they have 'gained' during lockdown. These 'gifts' include:
Lockdown Life Habits That People Want To Keep
Better Quality Family Time
Spending more time at home has been less-than-ideal for some, but for many it has allowed them to reconnect with their loved-ones and that's something they don't want to lose.
No longer spending multiple hours a day crammed into a train carriage or crawling through a traffic jam has been life-changing for many. Where remote working has been a success, many are reluctant to go back to the daily commute.
A Slower Pace Of Life
Having time to cook and eat lunch, rather than grabbing a sandwich on-the-go. No longer desperately pushing children out of the door to get the school run done before the office opens. No longer stressing about out-of-hours travel to conferences and meetings. These are some of the ways that people have been enjoying the slower pace of life that lockdown has brought us.
Being Able To Work Flexibly
Some people are early risers whilst others are night-owls. Being able to choose when to work, to fit with when you feel most productive or around caring responsibilities, is empowering and increases performance and employee wellbeing.
We Need To Rethink The Way We're Leading
This crisis is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for business leaders to keep the new ideas that are working and let go of those that aren't.
Indeed, if we don't do that and assume that the ways we have always run our businesses will still work, not only will we miss a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rewrite the way people work, we’ll risk millions of employees struggling with mental health issues and burnout, which will be devastating for them and hugely damaging for the businesses they work for.
For a few years now, the world has been getting ready for a new wave of leadership, as visionaries moved from prioritising IQ for EQ (a measure of emotional intelligence), but in too many corporations, at the most senior level, this is still lip-service. The traditional 'alpha-male' model of logic-based leadership is still prevalent in the C-Suite for many organisations, where EQ can be seen as the domain of the people in HR who are paid to listen to people's problems.
With the transformations that have been happening in recent months, I'd argue that we actually need to take this one step further. EQ is still a fairly head-based approach. It's about being able to understand and identify someone's emotions, showing empathy. But it doesn't go far enough.
This is our chance to bring in true heart-based leadership into our organisations.
Leading from your heart, as well as your head, is about EQ-in-action. It's not just about empathy - it's about courageous, compassionate action and not being afraid to rewrite the rules.
Deep down - and according to the research - we all know that employee wellbeing is the key to a profitable company. Lack of wellbeing leads to drops in performance, toxic working environments, absenteeism rising, high staff turnover, and stifled creativity and innovation.
There's more to employee wellbeing than lunchtime yoga lessons and online mindfulness training. To truly develop teams that thrive takes leading from your heart, not just your head.
There are heart-based leaders in organisations, but they often feel they have to keep quiet about it and even to conform to the more traditional leadership models, in order to protect themselves, their teams and their careers.
So to inspire you, here are some of the heart-based leadership actions I have seen companies taking during the lockdown period:
Other companies, however, are going to the other extreme, insisting their teams return, even if home-working has been successful - because 'that is how it is done'. They are bringing in rafts of surveillance measures, to track employee activity in the office, all in the name of 'keeping them safe', yet creating an environment of fear and distrust.
The companies that will thrive after lockdown are those who are doing a reset. They're making courageous decisions on what to keep and what needs to change.
They realise that many people want to keep this more flexible working-from-home, once children are back at school and lockdown is over. These companies have been proactively supported those who are struggling, during lockdown and beyond.
Once lockdown is over, rising stars will leave firms who have ‘made them’ work until midnight and seek out those who showed courage to put their staff first, and moving from a culture of 'hours-worked' to ‘objective-led’ metrics on projects delivered.
I will be interviewing leaders about this for upcoming episodes of the Soul Led Leaders podcast, so make sure you're on my VIP list here, to hear about those episodes.
And two weeks ago, this need to shift our approach to leadership inspired me to create the Lockdown Leadership Conference, which runs on Friday 22nd May. Twelve global experts will be discussing the leadership challenges businesses face, to move their teams from crisis-level surviving to thriving, during lockdown and beyond.
If you're a leader on a mission to take your team from crisis-level surviving to thriving, during lockdown and beyond, then make sure you've grabbed your FREE ticket to the online Lockdown Leadership conference. It is all about helping you to discover what is working - and how to let go of what isn't. Twelve international experts in inspiring virtual teams will be sharing practical strategies and best practice.
You can register here now: www.LockdownLeadershipConference.com
You're going to learn innovative solutions - sometimes counter-intuitive - to make your natural leadership style work in the virtual world, with less effort and more fun, so you can inspire your team to stay connected and even to thrive.
This is our chance to reinvent the way we lead and work together. Are you part of the change?