Reflections from the Pandemic – How inclusive leadership behaviours can support an effective return to work

February 10, 2022by Carina furlong0

A phrase we have heard consistently over the last couple of months is “At least we are all in the same boat”! What is clear is that, we are all in different boats in the same choppy waters of uncertainty. Everyone is dealing with the pandemic differently, everyone has different circumstances, challenges at home, caring responsibilities among other competing priorities.

So what can we learn from the last 5 months that will support us in engaging our teams to move into the next phase of return to work?

And how can you as a manager ensure your teams are effective, productive, healthy and collaborative over the next few months and build sustainable work flows and practices?

How someone is managed has the greatest correlation to employee wellbeing, engagement and productivity at work. Gallup’s perspective on Employee burnout causes and cures recent report highlights that 8/10 employees experience burnout in work at least sometimes.   Pre Covid-19 Talking Talent’s research told us that nearly 60% of professionals felt worn out by the type of work and environment in which they work. Imagine what that figure would be now!

How organisations and managers guide their talent through the next phase will be pivotal to their future success.

Here are 5 key areas to consider:

1.  Crystal clear communication on expectations

Move your lens from hours worked to output – provide your team with crystal clear clarity on roles, responsibilities, priorities and expectations. Where an employee has flexible work practices and autonomy to complete their task, they are more likely to be engaged. Giving a clear context for their engagement to be nurtured is key. Ensure the communication is consistent, regular and transparent.

2.  Frequent feedback

Provide frequent and useful feedback on output and behaviours. Recognise specifics that are being done well and provide useful supportive feedback where expectations are not being met e.g. ‘what I would like to see more from you’ when addressing a stretch.

Practice active listening to truly understand what is going on for the team, exploring what are the specific barriers and enablers for them to thrive and flourish.

Also be curious at what is not being said? Ensuring that you create the space to capture what is not articulated. We can get quite operational and it is good practice to pause if you have a feeling that something is not right and asking good open ended questions and assuming nothing.

3.  Supportive behaviours

The role of the manager is to create a culture in which their team can thrive and deliver on expectations. Ask yourself, how often do you ask your team what support they may need from you in order to be at their best more of the time? Simple questions like ‘how can I set you up for success?’ or ‘what do you need from me to be successful?’ can gain strong results. Ensure you create the space where everyone feels safe to speak up about their own concerns.

Provide a fine balance between support and stretch to constantly enable your team to achieve their personal best. A good example of a reflection practice on a weekly basis include – what’s working/ what’s not/ what could I do differently? Being able to be agile in your approach is necessary as the next month’s roll out and the challenges gain momentum.

4.  Focus on strengths and diversity

Adopt a strengths based approach where you review the diverse talents, ideas and insights from your team. Welcome diverse ideas, opinions and perspectives and demonstrate a willingness to act on them.  Are you providing support for groups who have challenges during the transitions – illness concerns, extra caring responsibilities?

“Employees who have the opportunity to do what they do best are 57% less likely to experience burnout frequently. Why? When people have the opportunity to tap into their strengths, they are more engaged, more effective, less stressed and more focused on doing their best work — rather than seeing their job as a burden.” source: Gallup

5.  Encourage collaboration

A collaborative culture where teams are created, nurtured and learning and experience is shared, creates sustainability and long term success.   Social isolation has been a big factor for many during the lockdown, indeed those with an extrovert preference in their personality types have struggled with the lack of human connection. Are you creating a culture where everyone in the team can make their strongest contributions?

A strong focus on these 5 areas will support you and your teams to successfully transition into the next phase of work post lockdown in a sustainable way.

Ultimately, a workplace where employees can feel and perform their best is a win-win-win — for the company, its workers and its customers.

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.

Albert Schweitzer

Carina furlong

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