This article is part of our ‘RE:FOCUS’ resource pack. View more here.
There is pressure on middle managers all year round, but it takes special skills for a middle manager to tackle the pressure in a time like this. The quality of your leadership is reliant on how you perceive stress, how adaptable you are, and how you manage to navigate adversity. When faced with a situation you’ve never experienced before you aren’t sure of what you’re supposed to do and how you’re meant to do it. Managing your emotions will help you weather such a storm and come out stronger, says Rich Fernandez of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. Here we outline some ways which will help you lead in times of crisis.
Practise empathy… first with yourself
Being compassionate and being understanding to yourself. This is not normal and blaming yourself for shortcomings or less-than-great decisions you may have made will not help. This is a real test of resilience, flexibility and critical skills. The first thing you have to consider is that you do not have all the answers and no one is expecting you to. Believing in your capabilities as a leader – i.e. an encourager and supporter of your team members is already a step in the right direction. Self-care is important, and you may need to draft time out in your schedule for lunch hour. Since 2-minute visits to your desk are now hindered by distance, it is easy to forego communication altogether or for a constant barrage of messages. Scheduling could be your friend here.
Empathise with your team
Understand that this is a tough time for everyone. Whilst you need to be clear of your priorities are and what you expect of your team, you need lead human-first. Your team will remember your attitude and leadership in such a time – the good and bad. It is important to recognise where you fell short with your team and address it in a transparent manner. An apology goes a long way and the probability is that the whole team will respect you more for it. Similarly, your understanding and empathy in a time when terms such as “uncertainty”, “unknown” and constant change are the rule of the day will be appreciated right now and in the more positive times ahead.
This is an opportunity
Although it’s easy to fall into a trap of negativity, consider this an opportunity. Reframing it as one will give you a chance to challenge your creativity and come up with new solutions that will once again open new doors and opportunities. Spending some time to work on ideas that work for now, may trigger and develop ideas that can be translated into something which is relevant to a future scenario. Being faced with a suddenly new situation may open up new possibilities you didn’t know existed. One way to make the most of it is to have brainstorming sessions with your team on a regular basis. Some days it may result in something great, other days you end up discussing house plants. The bottom line is: communication is flowing between the team and you never know what sparks an idea.
Communicate outside of your team
As middle manager, it can get lonely, but t’s probably best to avoid sharing your fears and concerns with your team. Seek your friends and find a secondary outlet where you can vent. It’s not a good idea to unload on your team. Find a friend who you can vent with and vice versa – everyone needs a sounding board. A fresh perspective will help you solve some issues too.
Communication is the be-all and end-all
Timely communication with your team, even if it’s simply “I don’t know yet”, will go a long way. Celebrate the small wins, and schedule regular meet ups. As a middle manager, now is also the time to schedule one-on-one meetings with your team members. A simple “how are you?” shows empathy and understanding – even outside the scope of work. Feeling the pulse of your team leads to making better decisions overall and your team feels listened to.
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