Doing the Difficult Thing

Trust and confidence will be low and anxiety high among our employees post pandemic. There are key things you can do as a leader to draw the poison and put your people back together again says Desiree Perez, Leadership Coach & Aviation Consultant

“We all may know that the pandemic and its effects are outside of our control.  This is still a situation that affects many of us on a mental and emotional level. Being confined to our homes and being impacted through illness and job loss has encumbered us to fear for our livelihood along with difficult challenges to handle.

As leaders, we need to be prepared for this eventuality. There might be employees that are affected by the current situation because they are not able to cope with it. When events like these occur, we need to be equipped to handle potential resentment and emotions towards us or our organizations.

As a result we might ask: ‘How do we properly handle situations like this?’, ‘How do we handle situations where behaviour may seem irrational or uncontrolled?’.

One of the key ingredients of re-building our organisational cultures is to build trust with our employees. It is important that they understand that they are being fully supported within your areas of responsibilities and those of the organisation. Creating trust and therefore psychological safety are vital to success.

  1. Approaching difficult situations as collaboration v adversity:
    Winning and losing are often how we approach conflict. The result of this thought process is that we will try to prove our point, making the conflict more like a competition rather than a platform for collaboration. Instead of approaching the employee and sharing that their behaviour is not acceptable, it is important to approach the conversation from a collaborative standpoint. How can we collectively create a win-win situation?
  2. Speak human to human:
    During times such as our current situation, we need to approach our conversations with employees by having empathy and compassion. While it is important to do this with all employees, it is extremely important for the employees that are noticeably challenged by the effects of the pandemic.
  • Some of the things to keep in mind when having these conversations:
  • Just like me, this person has beliefs, perspectives, and opinions
  • Just like me, this person has been through the pandemic which has affected all of us
  • Just like me, this person has a family that they care about
  • Just like me, this person wants to feel respected, appreciated and competent
  • Just like me, this person has hopes, anxieties and vulnerabilities
  1. Anticipate reactions:
    Before having difficult conversations, it is important that we are well prepared and take a third-party perspective. Asking ourselves: ‘If I approach it from this standpoint, what are some of the objections I might get?’. This will also help with preparing to respond to those counter arguments and expose any weaknesses in our statements.

Some of the things we can ask ourselves during the preparation:

  • What specifically do I want to convey?
  • What are three possible objections I might get?
  • How do I want to respond to each of these possible objections?
  1. Using curiosity instead of blame
    When something does not work out the way we envision it, it is easy to place the blame. As we rebuild our cultures, curiosity can be a helpful tool in doing so. As human beings, we are quick to act from a place of assumptions without knowing the perspective of the other person. If we do that, we are not ready to have a conversation. Instead, we need to adopt a learning mindset.

Here is how:

  • Facts: State the facts in a factual, unemotional way. ‘We have noticed that you are often responding emotionally to challenges’.
  • Enquire: ‘I am assuming that there are several factors at play, maybe we can uncover these together?’.
  • Solutions: Ask for solutions. Those who create a problem hold the key to the solution. A positive outcome is dependent on their input and buy-in. Asking the person directly, ‘how do you think we can solve this?’ will have them create their own solutions.

While this pandemic has certainly had some devastating effects on our Industry, it also holds opportunities. Opportunities to reassess our leadership styles, our organisational cultures, and how we would like to emerge from this. But beyond this, it is important that we are supportive of each other and show empathy and compassion that supports those who might struggle the most. This is no easy feat; specifically, if this person holds resentment.

As always, if you would like to talk through any of these situations or think of a plan with regards to your leadership and organisational culture, please do not hesitate to contact me at: [email protected]

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