In football, there is a time interval in the middle of the game where players step off the field for 15 minutes. They go into the changing room to refresh themselves a little, put on a fresh jersey, receive some treatment, listen to the coach’s feedback, restrategize and return to the field. This time interval is commonly known as halftime.
The world as it were, is at halftime. The pandemic has impacted the world in an unthinkable way. Governments, private and public institutions, ground, sea and air transportation have all come to an abrupt halt. 2020 will go down as an unprecedented year in history.
Most organisations have implemented some measures in the past months to ensure business continuity. Initiatives have been taken to engage with employees and efforts have been made to provide regular communication updates. Sadly, some people have lost their jobs and businesses have had to close.
As we begin this recovery journey, precautionary measures have been put in place to practice social distancing and what we now call, the new normal. While these measures are more observable and external in nature, we need to be mindful of the internal transitions taking place in people.
Regardless, there is still a second half to play. Players need to return to their game and figure a way to win it.
Here are some thoughts as we return from halftime.
Engage your people.
Do not assume that your daily/weekly communication updates have kept everyone informed. Do not presume everyone understands what has been happening.
As people return to work physically, take time to interact and connect with them. While it is critical to get the business going, many organisations fail to understand people fuel the business. Engaged people make a difference in organisational performance.
As a leader, I have been guilty of being presumptuous. How many times have I presumed the email sent contains all the information needed. While it is true, it is not engaging. I soon realised that engagement meant I needed to interact with them, listen to them, offer a shoulder to lean on - things that I could not do through an email.
Create and offer informal and formal support groups. This can help build a community of connectedness. The sense of camaraderie creates a safe environment for people to be open with their struggles as they navigate change.
A true leader values people. Make intentional time to engage with your people. If you are busy like me (and most people), create a list of who you need to spend intentional time with. Work through the list systematically and schedule a regular time interval to connect with them. It may appear to be mechanical, but at least it is intentional.
Be (extra) gracious and compassionate
As people return to work physically, be mindful of the period of readjustment. Be realistic with performance expectations. I’m not suggesting you go all soft and easy with your people. A gracious and compassionate leader does not merely lower the targets, but rather offers (even more) support and encouragement for the employee to succeed.
Being gracious and compassionate means that you make every effort to communicate expectations clearly. Do not provide a vague description and expect people to go “figure it out”. I’m not asking you to spoon feed them either. One of the primary roles of the leader is to cast the vision. To give the people a sense of direction and empower them to achieve it.
Likewise, as a team member, you need to be (extra) gracious and compassionate to your leaders. Allow (extra) room for mistakes but cultivate collaboration and team synergy. Seek clarification and avoid the messaging chatter.
I have been told to be more gracious and compassionate. I don’t deny that I can be very focused on the outcomes, but I disagree with the misconception of what being gracious and compassionate meant. Giving people a second chance is kind, but allowing them to go through the motions a second time on their own, is irresponsible. That’s not leadership. Instead, I try my best to offer support and make clear what is expected.
While we are all stepping into unknown situations, we need to learn to take baby steps. We need to learn how to walk again before we can run. Be extra gracious and compassionate.
We perpetuate what we celebrate. I am learning this virtue of celebrating together. Celebrations (of whatever scale) is an opportunity to bring to memory a milestone. Birthdays, wedding / work anniversaries, are some of the most common occasions we celebrate. They mark a significant event in our lives and reminds us how far we have come. It gives us a sense of gratitude.
One of my clients has Celebration as their core value. It speaks of participating in the success of others. What a brilliant way to describe it! When we learn to share our success, we soon realise that this is not “me” but “we”.
In my previous organisation, we celebrate birthdays every month. We would share a simple cake and speak words of encouragement into their lives. It was a time for the rest of us also to reflect on our lives. The fact that we are still standing here and breathing, tells us we have much to be thankful for.
What are you celebrating as an organisation? Perhaps it could be the return to work for some, or even stories of how people have been helping others during this pandemic. Cultivate gratitude by intentionally celebrating together.
Prayerfully, our global halftime will come to an end soon. As we gradually return to our game, be intentional with your thoughts and actions. Let’s do it responsibly. Let us not be driven by the same mindsets and desires of our first half. We know we can’t play this second half the same way we did the first half. We need a new strategy. Let us re-calibrate to connect purpose and create value.