Just as we’d begun opening our doors to welcome a bright, functional future, it seems as though we are starting off the new year with a bit of deja vu. And while it may be tempting to use old tactics to solve a similar problem, you may want to reconsider. What worked for us during the height of the pandemic won’t necessarily work this year. In the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on conversations with several senior execs about the year ahead. Leadership demands so much of us, especially amid tumult, but I believe this year will require us to do a few things quite well. Based on what we have seen from leaders at all levels of the organization during the pandemic, I have little doubt we will do our best to rise to the occasion.
Clearing the Fog While Steering
Eighteen months ago, we were completely in the dark about our future and how it might be shaped. Thankfully, we now have some new light on the subject. We know that this disease will continue to impact us, though less drastically.
And so, we have to ensure that we are making good progress planning and preparing for our world beyond the 3- to 9-month mark, while simultaneously dealing with the urgent issues right in front of us—supply chain woes, absenteeism, talent wars, vaccine mandates, and all the new ways of working these issues will demand.
It’s not an easy balance, but it’s one we’ll need to strike again and again in 2022. It is time to get back to focusing on the bigger picture and longer-term planning.
Holding onto and Fighting for What Matters Most (uh, your employees)
Given that the talent market will remain tight, it’s potentially now or never to have individualized conversations geared towards development and long-term goals with employees. Leaders should consider these questions:
- What are we providing to our employees outside of compensation and benefits?
- How can our employees contribute to our organization in a way that energizes them?
- How can our employees leverage their skills and interests to create a mutually beneficial environment?
- How do we provide our employees with the development that they need and balance that they want?
- How can we ensure employees feel comfortable bringing their true selves to work?
In very real ways, our performance as organizations will rise and fall on the basis of the stability of our workforce. Much of this is within our control, depending on how attuned and responsive we are to the needs of our employees. Leaders must be willing to develop more “intimate” relationships with their employees, listen to their input/concerns and act accordingly.
Minding Your Mood
Lastly, we need to prioritize self-management and, more specifically, mood regulation. In coaching executives, I notice that mood is frequently overlooked. For better or worse, moods in the workplace can be contagious and teams are extremely sensitive to mood cues from leaders. In many respects, our mood can positively influence our teams to perform better, so it’s vital that our less attractive moods don’t seep through. This is especially important in a virtual environment as we may only see our entire team once a day, week, or month. If your normally cheerful face is showing signs of stress or reveals that you’re feeling especially down, your team will notice.
The purpose is not to neglect your own emotions and put up a façade, but to realize that the people around you depend on your strength and resilience to overcome stressful times. Leaders must find creative ways to manage their mindsets and headspace before meetings. By being more mindful of our dispositions, we can keep our teams steady in the face of continued turbulence.
The future is bright, and it is functional. But to get there, we, as leaders, must hold steady and tune in to these important areas.