To fully understand the importance of empathetic leadership during a time of crisis, think back to mid-February. How tuned in to your team were you then? I will bet you are as surprised as I am as to how different the world is just a few months later. Has your level of connection to your team kept pace with those changes? As I write this post, the United States is about four months into the response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Who would have ever thought things would be disrupted this long? Certainly not me.
We have to admit, the pandemic has had a profound human cost. Some people have lost their employment, either partially or entirely. Others have lost loved ones to the disease. Members of your team may have had the illness or had to expend time, energy, and effort to care for family members who have been sick. Most parents with school age children have been given a bit of a reprieve thanks to summer break, but during the spring semester, undoubtedly, they were stressed by juggling the roles of teacher/tutor and full-time employee. Add to that the uncertainty of schools reopening for in person classes at the start of the school year. Let’s face it, it’s fair to say that most if not all of your team members are dealing with a level of stress they’ve never experienced before.
The list I ran through doesn’t even touch on the added stress they may be feeling about their job and their role within your team, especially if your company is still working remotely.
Here is the primary question I have for you. How much do you know about each of your team members and what their concerns are at this moment? Your answer to that question will guide your next steps in helping your team feel that you are really in it with them.
Earlier this year, I wrote a series of blog posts with the theme on the importance of employee engagement. Now more than ever, that series is timely and the tips given help to focus on the isolation and added stress the members of your team may be feeling. I encourage you to take a look at those posts as they were written before the pandemic hit—I never would have guessed they would be so important now.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, now is your time to really step up and be a world-class leader—a leader who understands the importance of empathy. And more importantly, how it makes people feel. My mentor, John Maxwell, addresses the importance of empathy in leadership in one of his Minute with Maxwell video segments. He makes the point that your team needs to know that you’re close at hand. Your team needs to feel, as John says, that “You’re in the foxhole with them.” “It’s your heart that makes a difference.” I couldn't agree with him more.
And believe me, connecting to the hearts of your team during this pandemic will move mountains.
In the coming posts, we’ll be further discussing the importance of empathetic leadership during a crisis, and I’ll offer actionable tips to help you connect with your team so that your heart truly will make a difference in their lives. Until then, be well and take care.