Practical Considerations for Leaders in Times of Uncertainty

May 11, 2020 Mina Morris

First Published on LinkedIn

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way teams accomplish work and has inserted a new fear of the unknown into the workplace. It’s becoming increasingly clear that leaders need to help employees adjust to this new landscape. They must quickly adapt their approach to managing teams.

As an organizational psychologist, I’ve been reflecting on how principles of human behavior can guide us during these unprecedented times. It’s reassuring to know that psychology can offer some useful techniques for building resilient teams – ones that can bounce back from adversity and continue the important work of the organization.

Here are some tips to help your teams cope.

Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

A basic air travel safety procedure applies equally well on land as it does in flight. When faced with adversity, it’s imperative to take a breath and get in a good head space before attempting to help others.

  • Take a look inward, observe your thoughts, and assess whether or not you are in a productive mental state.
  • If necessary, look for ways to decrease your own stress before trying to help others alleviate their worries.

Understand Individual Differences

Acknowledging that individuals on your team may experience things differently is a psychologically sound leadership practice. Viewing situations from an individual’s perspective lends insight into his or her workstyles and communication preferences.

  • Consider whether an individual is driven by data or emotion.
  • Adapt your communication strategy to match an individual’s needs.

Managing the Here and Now

Worry is the enemy of resiliency. Unfortunately, during turbulent times, the mind may wander from one concern to the next and envision poor, or even catastrophic outcomes that may never materialize. Ruminating like this wastes time and energy and leads to unnecessary anxiety. Fortunately, you can help your team members take concrete steps to focus on the present.

  • Remind colleagues to focus on factors that remain in their circles of control or influence, no matter how small.
  • Suggest they pause to identify the issues they are facing and define actionable items to address those issues.

Form Adult-To-Adult Conversations

Consider the effect your conversational style may have on others. Do you come across as a parent figure by providing too much direction, or are you more inclined to give your team members autonomy, while you remain available for support? A good leader helps employees help themselves.

  • Encourage adult-to-adult dialogue as your team’s go-to strategy for problem solving.
  • Empower individuals to make their own decisions but be open to discussions that help define issues and identify resources to assist in achieving goals.

The new path we are on is wrought with hurdles most of us have never experienced, therefore, new strategies are needed. Even small adjustments to your leadership practices may go a long way toward serving the needs of your team and your organization. You have the power to lay the foundation for an even-keeled response to crisis.

For a more in-depth look at this topic read my latest paper: What psychology teaches us about managing crisis: A manager’s guide to building resilience

About the Author

Mina Morris

Mina Morris is a Partner with Aon’s Assessment Solution Practice. As an organizational psychologist, Mina works with clients to maximize the effectiveness of their talent selection processes, implement talent management systems and helps organizations manage change. Mina has extensive global experience partnering with clients in North America, Asia Pacific, and Middle East to deliver human capital solutions that help deliver business results.

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