Prior to the COVID-19 crisis our daily lives were so hectic with work, family, activities and deadlines. We felt as if we couldn’t catch up. It was a never-ending routine that recycled itself repeatedly. It gave us some level of satisfaction – although oftentimes we didn’t recognize or respect what we were or were not accomplishing. Our journey towards any level of success or significance was overshadowed by exhaustion and knowing that we had to garner the strength and focus to keep going.
This crisis has suddenly disrupted our lives and interrupted our routines. We’ve become anxious, and for many, in a state of panic. We’ve become a bit disoriented.
This crisis is so personal it impacts us on so many different levels.
For me personally, it has propelled several anxious moments in support and love of my mother, wife, daughter, brother, team, clients, etc. My daily routine would no longer have the same significance it once had. My new normal has now been fueled with a sense of urgency, focus and responsibility to fully unleash my individual capacity to help others cope with the crisis.
This crisis has reminded me of my father and the wisdom he shared with me (he was 50 years old when I was born). The numerous stories of his life’s journey that I still remember since I was 12 years old - until the last one he shared - just days before he passed at the age of 97. My father’s wisdom continues to give me strength and has guided me throughout the adversity in my own life.
I used to think that the greatest gift my father gave me, as his son, was his wisdom. This crisis has awakened me to think otherwise. My father’s greatest “gifts” were his patience, his ability to listen, take notes, be in the moment, and provide unconditional love. These gifts allowed him to teach me the right lessons, tell me the right stories and share the right nuggets of wisdom.
My father was the master of what I call, “moment recognition.” He knew what to do when the moment called for him. Now I understand why he was and continues to be respected and remembered by so many. It was never about his professional accomplishments. It was about who he was, and what defined him as an individual.
This crisis is a significant moment for all leaders. A moment that will either define them – or a moment that they will seize the opportunity to serve others as individuals, because of what they decided to do – in this moment.
Here are four things leaders should do when crisis disrupts people:
1. Be Part of the Solution: Unleash Your Individual Capacity
Think of the last time you fully optimized and activated your teams, your colleagues and/or a mentor. How did you feel when you influenced the outcome(s) of something important? What was it about those moments that made you feel that your contribution really mattered?
Your individual capacity can be summarized by answering the following four questions. Think carefully about these questions and then I will share an example:
Here’s the example from Brad, a senior executive of a technology company:
How does Brad unleash his individual capacity to be part of the solution: He is the “Focus Igniter”who is simply in pursuit of accelerating the end-game.
While this moment may seem obvious, don’t assume that leaders are prepared to be part of the solution. Unfortunately, many of them aren’t and their employees know it.
2. Be Human: Share Your Personal Stories
Everyone wants to know what their leaders are thinking and feeling. It’s human nature for employees to be curious about how their leaders are coping with and handling the crisis. This is a moment for leaders to invite employees inside of their hearts and minds. This is a moment to share personal stories with others. For example, when I shared my personal story, I received several emails of concern from my team and friends offering to help me cope with my mother’s current medical situation.
When leaders share their personal stories, employees see them as human as they learn about who their leaders are as individuals. A special bond fueled with commonalities forms. Don’t ever assume that leaders aren’t capable of doing something kind and/or significant in support of an employee’s personal life. Employees should expect that from their leaders. If not, that individual is not qualified to be a leader. Unfortunately for many, this crisis is exposing many leaders of their inability to lead in today’s age of personalization.
A great leader is the one who can effectively communicate with authenticity and purpose, unscripted.
3. Be Empathetic: Empathy is at a Premium
Every employee confronts a crisis differently and copes with it on their own terms. It’s easy to judge when you may not know an employee as intimately as you think you do. Our past defines our present. Show empathy towards those employees that cope with crisis in a way you may either disagree with or find it hard to understand.
It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and/or in their minds - during crisis. Remember, crisis can disorient many from their natural tendencies and behaviors. Creating an empathetic moment is when you can open your mind and your heart to respect the unique points of view of the employee(s) you serve.
Empathetic moments begin by:
4. Learn and Improve: Allow the Crisis to Elevate Your Readiness for the Future
Anthropologist, Scott Lacy enlightened me with the following insight: “A crisis of this magnitude has the power of putting us all in a state of disorientation – because we can’t lean on the old standards and those things that used to give us comfort. They aren’t as relevant anymore. And in the new normal that awaits us, those old standards and comforts may never come back. We must refresh and replenish our minds and adopt new ways of thinking. We must all take this moment to prepare ourselves for the future.”
So, what does readiness look like?
Being real, genuine and vulnerable in-the-moment. In crisis, no one has all the answers. The right mindset allows leaders to think clearly to best identify how the crisis has impacted (or will impact) their teams, their colleagues, their organization and even themselves.
Which of the old standards still apply and how many now are outdated? Have you engaged with those you intend to serve on a more personal level? Or do you still think you need to “play the part”?
Take note of the great decisions you’ve made. Recognize the outcomes from your great ones and what you would do to further improve those decisions and the outcomes they bring.
Equally, if not more important, take note of the poor decisions you’ve made. What was your mindset when you made them? Were you disoriented? Were you best prepared in that moment? Should you have delegated the decision(s) based on the circumstances you may not have been prepared for? How many people did your poor decision(s) impact? Who benefited from it? Were you being selfish? Did you really understand the totality of the implications surrounding the decisions you made? As you reflect, what would you have done differently and why?
These 4 approaches will help leaders find their focus and help them build momentum for the betterment of healthier whole.
This article was originally published on Forbes.com