The coronavirus has impacted us, our society, our organizations, institutions and companies, and thus our teams too.
Particularly your team, of which, as Manager you are the Leader.
The coronavirus is testing our Leadership: now is the time to live up to the challenge.
Our team members need our Leadership now more than ever: we’ve got the opportunity to make it better.
How can you maintain and develop your Positive Leadership in these challenging circumstances? We are offering to help you with 3 articles on the subject that will add up to one another over the next few days.
The point is to give you concrete suggestions to guide your teams all along this unprecedented time period.
Back to the bases of Leadership
1. Why show Positive Leadership, especially in a time of crisis?
Each and every one of our organizations and teams fulfill a mission that makes sense to them. If we are together, it is because none of us can accomplish this mission on our own. At the root of a team, we find people who collaborate with trust in order to do what they couldn’t do alone.
And what gets this collaboration going is Leadership, in whatever shape or form, including distributed leadership.
In times of isolation or protection, modes of collaboration are challenged and must be reinvented.
Your basic mission is to create “togetherness”, now more than ever.
We argue that the goal and meaning of Positive Leadership can be defined as: “Influencing people so that they collaborate as effectively (efficiency) and as comfortably (well-being) as possible to the achievement of a common purpose that is larger than their individual selves”
Concretely, in this time of crisis, think about the influence that a doctor, head of an intensive care unit, can have on their colleagues that are put under pressure from the influx of patients; think about the influence of the director of a nursing home on the staff that has to care for the elderly residents who are isolated and worried; think about the manager of a grocery store that must influence their employees to help them overcome their anxiety and keep on providing a vital service to the population, etc.
2. How to show Positive Leadership, especially in a time of crisis?
This means asking yourself: ”as a Leader, what can I try to influence? ”
At Neurolead, based off of what science can teach us about the optimal functioning of the human brain guiding behaviors in order to produce the results that are wished for (health, security, development, relationships, prosperity, well-being, performance, etc.), we suggest to see things as a rocket. In order for the rocket to reach its destination, every level must be turned on and function in the right way at the right time.
3. What are my essential missions as a Positive Leader to exert influence, especially in a time of crisis?
Needless to say, there is no consensus on what exactly Leadership is; Amazon currently has over 90.000 books to offer on the subject…
Backed by our research and experience, at NeuroLead we believe that, in order to be a Positive Leader that meets the expectation of their employees and stakeholders, 5 missions must be fulfilled, without exception:
- Animation: Animating your team means creating conditions for trust, which is the glue of all collaboration, then stimulating positive and constructive communication, solving the inevitable tensions and transmitting vital information, all this in order to foster optimal collaboration
- Vision: having and proposing a vision, not only of the “why”, the mission, the purpose, but also of “how to look at” things and challenges, a specific mindset.
- Decision: The point of a team is action, which implies a prior decision. This does not mean that you have to decide everything yourself, but that you should put into place the processes that are necessary for all decisions to be taken at the right time, in the best way depending on the subject matter: commanding, consulting, counting or creating a consensus, it all depends on you.
- Motivation: You have the power to create the conditions in which every team member will see their motivations flourish and be put to its best use.
- Attitude: “Walk the talk”: Your attitude is the key to the whole process. You will inspire your employees and colleagues by setting the example and exhibiting coherent behavior enacting the four other missions.
4. If I focus on my 5 missions as a Positive Leader, what can I do now in practice?
This is particularly the time that your team is counting on you!
We are offering 16 suggestions as to what you can do in practice which we will explore in 3 articles..
Today, we will focus on Physiology and Animation.
It is at the root of everything else: no energy, no action; no dopamine, no change; no oxytocin, no trust; no recovery, no performance. Simple and plain truth but so easily forgotten in the course of action.
You have received enough sanitary information and advice, so that we won’t talk about it here.
Our only message is this: we invite you to manage the efforts and energy of your team in the long run, like a “good sport coach” who knows that the championship season will be long. We are entering a long period of confinement, precautions, working from home, filling in for sick team members, anxiety, pressure, etc. You will have to prioritize and foster endurance.
Companies certainly know how to put pressure on objectives and multiple priorities. This time, you need to switch to BCP mode: “Business Continuity Plan” or in degraded mode. Focus on what is strictly necessary and postpone all the rest. Focus the limited energy of your team on the “Must do” and postpone all the “Should” and the “Could”. The crisis is already putting enormous pressure on everyone’s shoulders. Do not add any more. The goal is to stay healthy as long as possible, to not overload immune systems with unnecessary stress and to enable a physical recovery as professional as that of great sportsmen.
Moreover, the end of confinement will certainly induce a brutal and high-level resumption of activity that should not be underestimated in energetic and psychological terms.
Reducing the pressure to a minimum should be the watchword. Let go of everything that you possibly can.
As a Leader, you are the soul of your team, you enable it to be lively, animated, to communicate and collaborate in order to build something valuable together.
Coming back to the rocket chart from point number 2: in order to get the expected results, by the way you animate your team you can influence the Motivation of your team members, their Emotions and Feelings, and their Thoughts and Mindsets.
How can you positively influence Motivation?
The very first step is to connect with your team members. These days, there are many employees who are completely left to their own devices by their Manager, because they are working from home, or because there are other priorities. Creating and maintaining social bonds is an absolutely fundamental motivation for all human beings. “Social distancing” doesn’t have to mean “loneliness” or “abandon”. “’Physical distance” would be a better formula, but avoid “social isolation”
In practice: Start your day by making contact ; agree on a routine of contact for the team and individuals, at a particular time through a particular means of communication and make it predictable to avoid both uncertainty and intrusion. Catch up with each other regularly. Send supportive messages every day. Share useful information, pass it around and filter useless or anxiety-inducing information. Remember that there’s a lot of worry brewing, so that in the absence of information, the brains of your team members will come up with the worst-case scenario: you need to write the story yourself. Of course, connecting goes both ways: be a good active listener as well.
Take the time to connect, it is a worthwhile investment.
How can you inspire positive Emotions and Feelings?
At the moment, there is too much insecurity and not enough good news.
It’s time to nurture Psychological Safety. It is very simple. It is the idea that everyone in the team feels enough trust to express their emotions, ideas, concerns or mistakes without risking being judged, ridiculed or rebuffed. Only by trusting one another can people communicate positively. Use this opportunity to increase pleasure in communication.
In practice: With your team, discuss the benefits of psychological safety, of mutual trust; turn it into a collective goal: “here anything can be talked about without fear”, “why is that important/desirable?”. Then, put into place opportunities or moments for expression: email, chat, virtual meeting, individual talk, etc. Finally, make the effort to positively welcome anything that comes out of it; the point is not to agree with content, but to appreciate open and trustful communication: “Thank you for your idea, we will take a closer look at it”, “I understand, it was good of you to bring it up”, etc.
On this safe ground, you can develop more positive communication: the human brain is biased towards the negative; based on old evolutionary pressure for survival it grants five times more importance, priority and energy to processing negative than positive information. Imagine what it is currently putting up with!
On the other hand, studies have shown that the most productive teams and the happiest couples share a surprising characteristic: to make up that negativity bias they make the intentional effort to express five times more positive than negative things. At the moment, we are all experiencing negative overload. You as a Leader have the power to positively impact this situation.
In practice: Smile, even on videoconference. Start your meetings by asking: “who has good news?” and invite this person to tell you about their good news and others to listen actively. It might be a successful release, a commercial deal, a clever idea, a solution to a problem, etc. Observe how this positive moment then pervades the brains and attitudes of the group for the rest of the discussion. Celebrate the small successes of the day. Express your empathy, your recognition or your gratitude at least once a day. Our thoughts and our communication are made up of words; systematically choose to look reality in the eye, but with a positive or constructive vocabulary. Instead of “we have a problem”, say “we have a challenge”; instead of “it’s not working”, try “we’re still looking for a solution”, instead of using “not”, use “not yet”, in place of “we’re afraid that…”, say “we are careful and we are paying attention to…”
Don’t forget to use humor often, it will allow you to scale down the drama, take a step back, reinforce team cohesion, and don’t forget to find pleasure even in difficult times either.
How can you generate constructive Thoughts and Mindsets? By activating collective intelligence
You and your team are facing unprecedented times, an incredibly complex situation as well as new and unpredictable events.
In this situation, you must realize that your routines are outdated, your habits are unsuited, your “good practices” are largely ineffective.
It is necessary to understand that the remedy can only be found in intelligence. The only solution is to adapt.
And no individual intelligence is up to the game: nobody can save the day of the team on their own.
Your collective issues will only be solved by the maximum mobilization of Collective Intelligence.
The recipe of collective intelligence contains specific ingredients: psychological safety (see above), opinion diversity, equal access to making one’s voice heard, activation of adaptative intelligence in the prefrontal cortex of participants This is your kitchen. You are the chef that oversees the right usage and proportions of each ingredient in the recipe.
In practice : Discuss the challenges you are facing openly, honestly and together. Ask for the opinion and contribution of all your teammates. Encourage a great diversity of suggestions, points of view and propositions. Make sure you go around the table so that everybody can speak their mind, not only the extroverted and impulsive personalities, but also the introverted and reflective minds. Do not force anyone but invite everyone. Take the time to reflect.
Fewer statements, more questions. Use open and calibrated questions whenever you can:
- Ask open-ended questions to which one cannot reply by “yes” or “no” but on which one must reflect: “what do you think of…?” “What would you suggest to…?”
- Questions that are precise and oriented in a certain direction, towards a specific target or mindset
- Spark curiosity: “What are the new elements? How did the others do it? What did you discover / learn?”
- Encourage nuance: “What are the disadvantages, with which priorities? But also what are the advantages, in what order?”, “Can you give me more detail?”, “Can you elaborate?“
- Stimulate Solution Based Thinking: “What ideas do you have for … ?”, “What consequences would we face in this situation if we do nothing… or if we do this… ?”, “What are our options? Which of these are the best three alternatives? Why so?” Etc.
Orient the discussion and reflection towards Growth Mindset: “What can we learn from this?”, “What’s the lesson here?”, “What does it enable us to develop?”, “What can we do better after this experience?” For instance, currently many people see this confinement also as an opportunity to anticipate on their plans and develop some forms of structural digitalization in their organizations and commercial channels.
At the moment of writing, we see ingenious ideas flourishing in laboratories, hospitals, food retail, essential services, transportation, financial services, organizations of all kinds, etc.
Adaptative collective intelligence is currently in full swing.
What about you? How will you take action to improve your Positive Leadership thanks to your Animation, while keeping into account the Physiological needs of your team?
As Simon Sinek once said: “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”
You can animate in the most inspiring manner possible…
We will all, sooner or later, easily or with difficulty, individually and collectively, adapt to this pandemic.
And we will learn a lot from it.
These lessons will change our lives.
It will depend on our choices.
Your Positive Leadership will influence these choices.
NeuroLead is bringing this drop in the ocean to help you through it.
Next article: Vision and Motivation
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