For nearly 16 months, businesses everywhere have had to grapple with the magnitude of the global pandemic. As workplaces continue to shift to the post-pandemic future on the horizon, the biggest question remains: How do we lead better moving forward?
Leaders have shifted to a more human-centric approach of people management in order to adapt, thrive, and innovate. Without putting people first, I am finding many organizations are getting left behind.
To pivot your business and leadership strategy, there are certain — albeit counterintuitive — workplace priorities that you can no longer ignore or be “too busy” for. Consider these three:
1. Slow things down
“Speed kills,” goes the saying. In times of crisis, it can feel like every situation is an emergency and the choice to speed things up can actually lead to more chaos and confusion. When leaders get sucked into a vortex of urgent and impulsive decision making without thinking things through, the walls begin to crumble. Exercising a level of patience and slowing things down, processing your emotions, and getting varied input from different stakeholders, especially those who make the company run (the employees), will actually produce better outcomes in the long term.
2. Give them feedback
A strained employee-to-manager relationship is a leading indicator of employee turnover. Rather than investing in perks, invest in training managers on how to give feedback and navigate productive conflict. These are the prerequisites to building a culture of psychological safety, where people feel that they can bring their full selves to work and take risks without fear of negative consequences. The reality is, offering virtual happy hours won’t make people want to do better work. But if people trust their managers enough to voice ideas and take risks without fear of failure, they’ll want to do better work more often.
3. Lead with love and care
As mental-health challenges in the workplace increase, empathy, care, and compassion have become the new emotional currency. Understanding each team member’s unique experiences, challenges, and opportunities for improved success will greatly increase their engagement.
These days, the leadership game has been elevated to unprecedented heights. Leaders now have an enormous responsibility to take care of people. And in truly human workplaces — those companies that are also profitable and making a mark in their industries — people empowerment shows up at every leadership level and runs counter to fear, control, and self-centeredness.
This is the essence of leading with love and care. It is what’s prevalent in the employee experience, which carries over to the customer experience to produce extraordinary business outcomes. In practice, it greatly reduces suffering and anxiety, raises performance, and increases value, loyalty, and trust across the organization.
Love in this sense is a verb, not a feeling. It’s packed with pro-social behaviors and positive intent on behalf of serving the needs of all stakeholders, especially employees on the frontlines. Actionable love and care are what will unleash the human spirit to reach its full potential.
Barbara Fredrickson, University of North Carolina psychology professor and author of Love 2.0, did an extensive study on human emotions and found that a person’s engagement at work is established and fueled by feelings of love and care. Fredrickson told Fast Company:
When people are made to feel cared for, nurtured, and growing, that will serve the organization well. Because those feelings drive commitment and loyalty just like they would in any relationship. If you feel uniquely seen, understood, valued, and appreciated, then that will hook you into being committed to that team, leader, and organization. This is how positive emotions work.
By leading with actionable love and care, leaders set the tone of engagement within their businesses. Try it and be convinced.