Leadership and How to Manage and Rally Assignees in COVID-19 Times

There are public places to control and corporations to manage amid this coronavirus. As some US cities reopen, though, it has been reported that not many are heeding the warnings of the necessary precautions people need to take. Some owners of restaurants and bars (if they’ll remain open, considering the growing number of people who tested positive for the coronavirus) face serious risks as a consequence.

The corporate world is another thing, though. Global mobility managers can, of course, stay at home and make phone calls to recruit talents. Still, others are letting their employees come to work, with social distancing in mind. 

In both cases, true leadership is called for. Former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly was quoted in an HBR report as saying that ”leaders can operate and lead more effectively by dynamically adjusting how they take care of their employees through the unique challenges of each phase….”

Some of the measures he suggested for leaders in their organizations:

  • Define the conditions that will ensure a safe reopening of their operations, from in-home services to offices and stores
  • Ensure ongoing, honest communication with existing and furloughed employees, in a way that is truthful, humane, and caring: highlighting that some things are not changing such as the company’s core focus and values
  • Help employees on the payroll deal with “survivor’s guilt” — the guilty feeling stemming from the fact that the employee is employed (and compensated) while many of their friends and colleagues are not 
  • Celebrate inspiring news. Good news helps workers’ mental health, which is likely compromised right now  
  • Highlight how the company’s activities contribute to the common good and are making a difference in people’s lives. Define how the company is able to continue to support the local community

A key requirement for companies in this phase, he added, will be to avoid broad policies that don’t take into consideration the very different circumstances different employees face. “Companies must ask themselves, which employees are above the age of 60 and therefore more vulnerable at re-opening? How are they being served? Which employees do not have the necessary space and infrastructure in their home to be able to work productively, and would therefore be candidates to come back to the office sooner rather than later?” 

Beyond the management approach to leadership, Carl Robinson, the founding partner of coaching firm Vantage Leadership Consulting, offers some insights. Here are his own four recommendations for the kind of leaders we need now, as reported by Fast Company:

Deliver a compelling message 

Have a message that makes others want to believe and follow them in times of crisis  Seize every opportunity to lead others to the “high ground” by giving them a vision of what’s possible and don’t be afraid to deliver the same message over and over again. Your followers need to know that you believe in it deeply.

Show confidence

No one will follow a leader who is halting in his style or uncertain about how things will turn out. A leader who is confident earns the trust of those around him. Showing confidence means that you’ll have a game plan, and you’ll inspire your team to carry it out. Remember, it is a group effort. Having confidence also means consulting others and having the courage to seek input from the whole team.  

Be poised

“Poise,” as Robinson explains, “is the ability to respond appropriately to what’s going on without conveying negative emotions that may cause people to question your objectivity.” A leader who is poised recognizes and acknowledges the downside of events but balances that with optimism about the future.

Be tenacious

Resilient leaders have tenacity or grit. They are not overwhelmed by the challenges they face, but they have the determination to get beyond those obstacles. As Robinson explains: “A resilient leader has an eye on the longer-term picture. A resilient leader is responsive, not simply reactive.” Those people who work for a leader who says, “We’re going to come through this,” become believers and followers, he concluded.