This time, when we are forced to slow down and connect in a very different way, has allowed for deeper introspection and opportunity to discover how we can create a better and brighter future.   It is clear how past leadership – or lack of – is impacting how effectively teams guide their way through such a vulnerable and confusing time.

Those leaders that groomed trust and allowed for psychological safety in their teams now see those strong bonds allow for honest conversations on what they can do to keep going and do more than just survive the day to day.  Those leaders that have inspired loyalty through empathy and candor still have to deal with a drop in productivity, teams wrestling with anxiety and a disruption in cash flow – those difficulties don’t go away.  What is different is how their teams are navigating through this – they are able to support each other and their Leader, ensuring the focus is on the mission, as well as, their collective well-being.

But how did these Leaders get here?  What did they sow to now reap these benefits?  One client, I’ll call her Mary, took over a team a few years back, where the team was under-performing, each person in a silo working on their function’s priorities rather than having a cohesive approach to a unified purpose.  With a direct empathetic style and a clear vision Mary took 3 critical steps:

  • Looked at the team’s purpose, process and performance and with them, diagnosed where they were aligned with their organization’s needs and where they needed to step up.  Not an easy conversation with her new team, and not done in one shot.  She took the time to work with her EVP, her team and key stakeholders to create the right focus to guide the team’s work.
  • Worked with each direct report to determine their strengths, motivation and relevant development needs.  She shared needed feedback, coached and provided learning opportunities where appropriate and had the tough performance conversations that were long overdue with certain team members.
  • Asked for and created the conditions for honest feedback about her leadership.  She was vulnerable and open to receiving feedback that would allow her to support and challenge the team in their growth.  As we worked together, I observed how she wrestled with some tough but fair feedback – to her credit, she took it and transformed it into the behaviors the team needed from her to accomplish their key results.

Building on these 3 steps, Mary has now a team that is working 17-hour days on the organization’s front lines as they respond to COVID-19 in their community.  Yes, they are exhausted.  Yes, they are anxious.  Yet – the sense of trust, camaraderie and cohesion is truly inspiring.  They take care of each other and their leader without anyone prompting them to do so.  After a harrowing first week of shutting things down – they all divided work so that one person in the team could “log off” for at least half day and recover – and they ensured Mary was part of that cycle.  The entire team recognized the need to recover while balancing the need to remain at the front lines – ingenuity took over to meet both needs simultaneously.

The team Mary walked into a few years ago would not have acted this way – the empathy and candor she sowed in her team, the leadership and vulnerability she sowed in their interactions, the trust and focus on key results she sowed in their approach is what she harvests today.

Question is, when you look at what you have sown, are you satisfied?  If not, how can you shift your approach?  What is that one small thing you could do today, for a better harvest tomorrow?

If you are looking to sow strong healthy seeds for the future, we can help you.  Contact us at [email protected] for a complimentary consultation.