At this time supporting your staff might rank as your number 1 priority. But as a manager or CEO, it might not be your number 1 skill.
With COVID19 chaos reaching its peak many employers have been finding that the emotional support needs of their staff are becoming more apparent and needing more of their attention.
So I would like to share 6 top tips re : How to support your staff through a crisis
- The 3 “A’”s ; Available, Accessible & Approachable
I recently read a headteacher’s open door policy which stated “ as part of my open-door policy I will be available each Monday from 8.10-8.25 for any pupils to come to talk to me”.
I did laugh! 15 mins out of a whole school week did not really wash it with me.
So the first step to supporting your staff through a crisis is that you need to be available for them and the staff must know how they can contact you. When I was a CEO, I worked part from home, but staff knew that if they wanted to speak to me, they just needed to text or phone me and I would arrange a time, the same day, to talk to them. So that’s accessibility covered. Important to make it clear HOW staff can contact you and when. And the 3rd “A” is to ensure you are approachable. That’s really about tone of voice, the attention you give once they contact you, the importance you give them and the way you make them feel heard. Even if you’ve got a list as long as your arm, when your staff get to speak to you, it’s about making sure they know they are important and that their worries or concerns are important too. Here is a real-life example from my friend who says:
All too often I am on the phone to my Sales Director, and if he gets another call come through – he tells me it’s important and will call me back. He does stick to his guns and call me back and I get that some calls are a true priority, but doing this too often (and when working remotely) can give the impression that the staff member is less valued.
- Build trust & show you care
It’s one thing to say you care but you have to walk the walk not just talk the talk. As you know it takes half an hour to tidy up a room and 2 mins to trash it. It’s the same with trust. You may have established some level of trust with your staff, but as a manager you have to be consistent in showing you care. For example if you have a manager who tends to be a bit loose with their words and your staff hear him or her talking dismissively about another member of staff’s worries, then their trust in the manager will be shattered. So it’s vital to be strict with confidentiality and careful to be consistent in showing that your staff matter. If you dismiss a staff member’s concern as silly or unimportant then that will also diminish their trust in you.
- Listen, listen and listen some more!
So many of us believe we are good listeners and then we have the privilege of watching a truly great listener in action and we can see what an amazing skill active listening really is! We have all met people who make us feel that we are the only person who matters when we are talking to them and that whatever we have to say is valid, reasonable and understood.
Your staff need to be listened to right now and reassured that their concerns and worries are justifiable. That they’re not making a fuss and that what they’re worried about matters.
Be aware of the most common barriers to effective listening cropping up:
- Distraction and being preoccupied
- Mobile phones
- Noisy environment
- Mindset and personal perspectives
- Physical state
- Reassure & encourage
Although you don’t want to dismiss your staff’s concerns, you also want to be able to offer them reassurance and encouragement where you can….where it’s realistic and genuine. For example, if your staff member is worried about being furloughed and you know there is a real possibility this may happen then you don’t want to reassure them by saying “Don’t worry it probably won’t happen!.” But instead you might want to explore what their worry is around the furloughing issue…for example is it a lack of money; losing their purpose, or being isolated? And then you can offer reassurance and encouragement. If it’s a lack of money you might say “We will be doing our best for you. I am asking the Board to provide the staff with the 20% top up”. If it’s about losing their sense of purpose you might want to explore alternatives for them during the furlough period….things which will provide that sense of purpose in the absence of work. You really want to let your staff know that you are there to support them and that they can talk to you if they’re concerned.
- Remember your boundaries!
Be clear and realistic about what you can and can’t offer. I recently spoke to a manager who was being contacted by a member of her staff 30 times a day…no joke! Her staff member was contacting her about what he had been doing, when he took a 10 min break from home working and many other details. Although the manager wanted to show she was there for her staff member, I encouraged her to communicate clearly what her expectations were in terms of communication and accountability and also how she wanted her to communicate ie. at the end of the day or another prearranged mutually convenient time unless she needed support. Your boundaries will most likely be individual to you. It might be that you don’t work Fridays so you limit contact on that day or you prefer to be emailed rather than phoned. Whatever it is, communicate clearly and it’s more likely that your own energy levels will be protected, and you’ll be more productive in supporting your staff
- You or your team may need extra support too!
Are you one of those leaders, who finds it hard to spot when they need support? You end up taking your work home (difficult not to at the moment I know!) or feel exhausted after you’ve given too much and not paid enough attention to your own body or mind shouting out “Enough!”?
Well, now, more than ever before, is the time to take really good care of YOU! You can “poo poo” me if you like, but I do know what I am talking about. Having been a CEO for 13 years and narrowly avoiding burnout twice, I have had to learn how to take better care of myself. And I help other leaders do the same.
If you have the knowledge and skills to do this for yourself, please do.
But if you need to reach out for help, don’t see it as a weakness, see it as a strength.
Whether you need extra support in terms of supporting your staff or yourself, I am here to help Sometimes it’s just a case of a few coaching sessions to help you or your staff feel more resilient, like they can cope.Having been coaching staff for several years now, I am now expanding this side of my work by supporting more charities via coaching and consultancy services. During this crisis I am offering discounted support. If you’d like to explore how I can assist you or your team, I’d be delighted to schedule a no-strings-attached exploration call.