Leading in Uncertain Times

Unfortunately, the world has gone a bit upside down over the last few months. We’ve seen countless layoffs across many different industries and countries. Now, more than ever, we’re also seeing leaders truly emerge and help their people navigate through the choppy waters.

Be Clear

One thing I’ve now noticed that great leaders like Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister of New Zealand) have done, is that they are really clear and direct about what they say. People understand them and the thoughts behind the policies or words.

As a leader in these crazy times, please remember to be clear with your teams. Let them know the reasons behind the decisions you make. Speak over multiple channels (email, slack, video, voice) while you are remote so your message is heard.

The consequences of not being clear, direct, and transparent mean that you will lose the trust of your colleagues. When you lose their trust, there won’t be anyone left to save your company.

Be Understanding

We’re all fearing for the worst. We’re no longer just worried about the next performance cycle. We’re also worried about our families — if they are safe. We’re worried about our job security and for those around us. We’re worried about that cough we developed or what we touched.

In these fragile times, you as a leader should be more lenient towards your colleagues. Ask them how they are doing and really mean it. Check-in on their mental health and their situation. Are they going outside? Do they have enough social contact?

Be understanding that working from home can demotivate some individuals. We all crave social contact — some more than others. How is the work-life balance while working from home? Do you get enough sleep? Are you challenged enough right now?

Be Trusting

Trust takes a lifetime to earn — but a second to lose. As a leader, it is your job to hire the right people for the right job. You hired everyone under you and now is the time to trust them to do their job their way.

If you have leaders under you, you need to let them guide their teams how they see fit. Micro-cultures will emerge as remote work picks up in your company. You’ll witness some teams preferring slack while others prefer to video chat.

Build up your team’s trust in you by hosting AMAs/town halls. Explain your decisions as a leader and bring accountability and transparency. What are you spending your time on? Do you have the same meetings you had pre-covid? How is the business doing? By being honest with your team, you’ll find they will respect you more and bring that trust in management to keep the company humming.

Be Flexible

I know flexibility has been tossed around lately for leaders. But what does it really mean? Being flexible is not just in your working patterns. i.e. It’s not just letting people work odd hours because their internet is better or because they need to take care of their children during the day.

Flexibility as a leader means that you need to adapt your management style to these changing times. You might’ve previously held a monthly chat with your team — but now you might need to hold it weekly because everyone is feeling isolated and lonely.

You might’ve been “hand-off” as a manager previously and now you need to be “hand-on” because design reviews are a much longer process and no one has written an RFC before.

Being Flexible as a leader can mean a lot of things. It’s the ability to reflect on yourself and your team and adapt/adjust to the new-new.

Last Words

Leading in these uncertain times will be a challenge. I can tell you it has been a challenge for me. I’ve been unable to visit my new office at all, so gaining the trust and respect of my colleagues, managers, and the team has been hard as they have all previously met face-to-face.

I’ve seen some destructive behaviours during this challenging time and have tried my best to patch them. The best thing you can do is a leader is to remain clear on your expectations and transparently give feedback (good and bad). Trust that your team knows best how to work and be flexible with your own management style.

Originally published at https://www.alexaitken.nz on May 22, 2020.




Writer and engineering manager @ Traveloka // www.alexaitken.nz

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Alex Aitken

Alex Aitken

Writer and engineering manager @ Traveloka // www.alexaitken.nz

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