As I write this, The world is several weeks into the COVID-19 crisis. Nearly a million and a half people have been infected with COVID-19, and multiple thousands are dying daily. Most of the US (where I live) is under a stay at home order, and all non-essential local businesses are closed. Kids are no longer in school, colleges have shuttered their campuses, and organized sports have come to a halt. Multiple times daily, we hear the phrase “unprecedented in our lifetime.”
In my sphere, I continue to work with leaders daily who are running companies and organizations throughout this season. These leaders are facing massive challenges that were non-existent even a few weeks ago. Because many of us are leading in a climate we have never navigated before, I will, on this blog, be providing coaching for leaders who are leading people and organizations through this crisis. I am in this same boat. I lead a large team and am in a leadership role in multiple organizations. Much has changed, and we had little time to prepare.
On to today’s topic: During times of relative peace, good leaders work with teams to “bring them along” through critical decisions. They get buy-in along the way from key stakeholders. Their teams, in regular times, help shape forward strategies and decisions. By the time big decisions are implemented, the whole team has been a part of the process.
But all of a sudden, we can’t even meet with our teams in person. Collaboration has become much more difficult. Critical organizational decisions now have to be made within hours or days rather than weeks. Due to these new realities, leaders now are faced with the challenge of figuring out how to make collaborative decisions and bring leadership teams “along’ in the COVID-19 era. To this end, I offer these three principles for solving “The COVID-19 collaborative dilemma.”
How do I “bring a team along” and get buy-in from them when there seems to be no time due to real crisis?
1. Acknowledge Yourself that (nearly) Everything Has Changed.
We are not in a business-as-usual season. Much of what we were doing even a few weeks ago is now out the window. Never in our lifetimes have we globally not been able to eat at restaurants, gather in groups, get haircuts, or see live sporting events. Grocery stores across the world have empty shelves. Millions of businesses are closed. Companies are shifting from making cars or technological devices to manufacturing medical masks and respirators. Nearly everything has changed. As a leader, you must acknowledge the global and local disruptive nature of this crisis. Though we are hopeful based on historical precedent that this pandemic will pass, it’s here with us for now and seemingly will be for a while. It’s not business as usual. We’re in uncharted territory.
2. Reshape the Expectations of Your Team.
Once you have acknowledged yourself that nearly everything has changed, make sure that your team understands how this affects your business. This communication is vital because of the necessity of creating new expectations among your team concerning how things will look and function in your organization for the foreseeable future. The critical thing to grab here is the importance of changing and clarifying expectations. This past week, I moved our (full-time) events coordinator onto our communication team. We aren’t currently putting on events, but communication is a top priority. We have re-deployed several people on our team into new areas of focus. We connect on Zoom and slack daily. Nearly everything has changed. What we were doing three months ago we are not doing today. Make sure that your team understands this current reality.
3. Look for New Strategies to Collaborate and Achieve Team Buy-In.
While acknowledging the current reality that we find ourselves in and reshaping team expectations, each leader needs to be creative with strategies to lead his or her team well. A large part of this is figuring out how to collaborate with our teams even during this crisis. Now is not the time to go it alone, but rather to implement new strategies for collaboration and buy-in from your team. You’re going to need to get creative. Team collaboration will likely need to happen much more quickly and be accomplished via asynchronous communication (Slack, Voxer, etc.) and video conferencing. But you can still collaborate.
And remember. We need leadership now perhaps more than ever.