Coronavirus-related workplace disruptions have thrown a lot of time-tested leadership advice right out the window.
You need new habits to help your employees thrive under pressure, especially while your team is working remotely, says Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of Chicago-based staffing firm LaSalle Network. In an Inc. webinar on Monday, Gimbel offered some advice you likely haven't heard before. Although LaSalle has a strong company culture in place--the company is a 12-time Inc. 5000 honoree and two-time Inc. Best Workplaces honoree--Gimbel said he's been forced to adapt his leadership style in these uncertain times.
"I wish that all of us as entrepreneurs, CEOs, owners, and leaders of companies could be doing what we do: running our companies based on a normal economy, a normal world, with normal challenges," said Gimbel, who is also an Inc.com columnist. "Unfortunately, that's not where we live anymore."
His unconventional methods, he noted, have already boosted both productivity and morale among his 250 employees. Here are his four most eye-opening tips:
1. Encourage micromanaging.
Pick your spots strategically when it comes to overseeing work projects--then dive into the details with your employees headfirst. The rationale: Getting involved on the ground level creates accountability among employees and allows them to learn directly from their boss.
"As long as you leave for an extended period of time after jumping in to micromanage, it's a healthy situation," Gimbel said. "But at times like this, when you might not know the severity economically of what's going on with your business, it's called for."
Your tone here matters. In high-stakes situations, you may not have time to explain your demands. Gimbel offered some potential language to use: "I'll teach you about why we did it later on, when we both have time. But today, you've got to do it. Just do it."
2. Don't preach balance.
You always need to safeguard your employees against overwork and burnout, but now isn't the time to prioritize work-life balance. Rather, you need to preach survival.
That means being strict about vacation requests, for example, if you need all hands on deck to keep your company afloat. "Now is the time when we come together," Gimbel said. "It's a really important message: Work should be a distraction to the craziness, and being employed and continuing to grow your career is a positive, not a negative."
3. Don't spotlight individuals.
Toss your "employee of the month" awards out the window. There will be time for individual recognition later. For now, it's more important to make sure your employees are focused on helping the team.
You can still incentivize individuals to work harder or smarter. Gimbel said he recently asked his employees to start self-reporting their workloads on a daily basis, as a motivational tool for any staffers who aren't yet giving it their all. "You need to know where you compare," Gimbel said. "How hard are people really working? When they see that self-reporting, you get a little extra push--and that's what we need now more than ever."
4. Be aggressively honest.
When employees ask about potential pay cuts or layoffs, your best answer is always your most honest one, even if that means saying "I don't know."
Gimbel cited online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter as a cautionary tale. Last month, the company laid off hundreds of employees just days after its CEO reportedly said the business was safe during a virtual all-hands meeting. "I've been very direct with my team in saying that our goal is to not do layoffs," Gimbel said. "Whether we'll have to or not? I don't know. This is my first time leading a company through a global pandemic."
That honesty, he added, is appreciated by his team: "I probably get a dozen texts, emails, or Teams messages a day from different [employees] saying thank you. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for being realistic."