Skills Leaders need to Navigate the Biggest Picture

March 31, 2020

Last week’s blog post discussed what I felt was a leadership tipping point that had been reached in the face of the Coronavirus crisis. Each day and each week, we seem to get deeper and deeper into a new reality. One of social distancing that has now been extended from 15 days to an additional 30 days. As Stephen Covey says, it only takes 21 days to form new habits.  I believe we are in the process of a fundamental change in how we relate to others from here forward. You can see it when you go to the grocery store and everyone is already conditioned to maintain the six-foot distance from each other. This will manifest further in how we relate to our neighbors, colleagues, and even in how we go back to completely normal situations a few weeks ago like sitting in church, school, or a training room. Everyone will wonder, does someone have a virus I might catch? Do I really want to be sitting this close or have my children this close to another?

Leaders will have a unique challenge in this new environment. I believe there are 5 key things they must be able to do. The first is be open to learning from the crisis and using it as a self-development opportunity. My mantra is that leaders must grow other leaders, but you really can’t successfully grow others if you don’t learn to grow yourself. Journaling is the best way I’ve found to do this. When I say journaling many of my students will sigh and say, “you mean like a teenage girl would journal?” 

The answer is “NO” not like a teenage girl! Like a leader! Really take the time to reflect daily on your own interactions with others – both superiors, co-equals and your subordinates. What went well? What could have gone better? What did you learn? What did you teach? Leaders that really embrace this process will always be the ones that grow the most and grow others the most. In fact, use what I call my 33 & 1/3 rule. 1/3 of your time should be learning from others that are more experienced than you; 1/3 should be spent exchanging ideas with your co-equals; and, finally, 1/3 should be spent helping to mentor those newer to the profession than you are. In this way, you will be able to fully embrace and exhibit what I call the 4 Be’s that are so important in times of crisis such as this one:

  • Be Seen – leaders must be seen by their people. This means beyond where they would expect to see you. Be present where they are and when they are. If you work primarily a day shift and have subordinates that are on a swing or over-night shift, take time to be present and seen with them especially during a time like the Coronavirus emergency.
  • Be Heard – make sure that your people hear directly from you whether it be in written, electronic or direct communication. Make sure they talk to you and that you talk to them. DON’T let the intermediaries muddle your message.
  • Be Present – this may seem like the same as “being seen” but you and I both know leaders and even colleagues who are seen but are not really present, right? They think they are doing the right thing by being seen, but really, they are not engaged with their people when they are there. Make sure you engage your people. Be part of what they are experiencing. This will help you grow empathy as a leader.
  • Be Reassuring – Just as the general public is wary of what is going on, so are your people. As leaders of first responders, many are stressed by the unknowns we are facing in this particular crisis. Reassure them that this situation will resolve itself and that you are there to help support them. Remember, just as you are worried about your family, they are as well. As people on the frontlines of dealing with people who may carry the virus, they worry for themselves and for their families. With schools closed, parents are distracted about all that they have to do both on the job and at home.  Reassure your people that you genuinely get it and are there to back them up where you can.

By focusing first on your own self-development as a leader, you will be able to execute the four “Bs” effectively. In doing so, you will see a transformation in yourself as a leader and in the leadership skills of your people. Next week we will wrap up this 3-part series by sharing what I think are good tips for leaders to successfully navigate this turbulent and uncertain time.

Last week’s Leadership Summit was so successful that we plan on doing a second one in the next couple of weeks. Would love to hear from you as to what topics would help you as the leaders on the front lines during the Coronavirus Crisis.

Thanks again and as always remember Leadership Rocks,

Be safe out there,



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