For C-suite leaders, setting the tone is paramount when it comes to morale. When Covid-19 disrupted businesses, leaders were tasked with adopting a new workflow as well as managing the widespread anxiety felt across their organizations.
While fear evokes a strong response, the result from anxiety-based motivation is not only unsustainable, but also detrimental to the workforce. The solution? C-suite leaders need be comfortable with chaos and find a more positive way to lead.
To keep teams motivated amid industry and global changes, leaders must keep three best practices top of mind.
1. Be versatile.
As an employee's work environment dramatically changes, the ability to look to an effective leader remains a constant that pays dividends when it comes to productivity.
"The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is grappling with constant change; by the time your team masters a new process or workflow, in an instant, the processes that you worked hard to build are suddenly disrupted," says Steve Fredette, president and co-founder of restaurant management platform Toast.
One way leaders are navigating these uncharted waters is by leveraging collaborative tools more frequently than they would if they were able to meet in person.
"It's important to over-communicate in times of change and chaos what the company is doing to respond in addition to helping your team get a broad outside perspective, especially the perspective of your customers," says Fredette.
2. Find opportunity in uncertainty.
While Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on individuals, families, and businesses, it has also forced executives to look inward when it comes to their leadership styles, and spurred innovation across sectors.
"Covid-19 has served as a catalyst for a lot of organizations to reassess how they operate and how they motivate their teams to try new things and meet new challenges, which will ultimately mean positive, long-term changes," says David Henshall, CEO of remote work company Citrix. "My hope is that in the future, we don't need a deadly pandemic to force companies to be forward-looking about what is possible and embrace the chaos that comes with breakthrough innovation."
This is felt by companies operating across industries. Anant Agarwal, CEO of online learning platform edX, has had to grapple with a surge in demand for online learning spurred by the spread of Covid-19, while also adapting his own workforce to remote environments. "In times of upheaval and chaos," he says, "it can be hard to move past the fear and anxiety chaos can induce. I found that motivating the team with the fact that our work truly mattered for learners during this period resonated the most."
3. Where applicable, make it personal.
Traditionally, a C-suite's role in an organization has meant distance from day-to-day operations and the broad workforce. The role often required travel, so many leaders didn't have direct access to their employees, even if that's what they wanted.
While that access has changed along the format of work, a global study of over 2,700 workers by Qualtrics and SAP during March and April 2020 found that nearly 40 percent said their company had not even asked them how they are since the pandemic began. More important, over than 40 percent of people said they want their manager to broach the subject.
"During Covid we took an idea from Simon Sinek, where, as a team, we huddled every Monday. The whole company participated, and we asked non-business questions such as, 'Who was your favorite band when you were 17?' This type of conversation brings the team closer together and helps us bond," says Jared Kessler, CEO and co-founder of real estate technology company EasyKnock.
Taking the time to check in with employees and ask how the pandemic is affecting them personally will not only allow leaders greater access to their workforce, but will also open doors for future collaboration.