Leadership: Taking on all new meanings for me…
This leadership skills blog series is aimed at helping educators in a time of uncertainty and challenge.
Great leaders are made during time of adversity. Leadership is challenging during times of predictably and exponentially harder in times of uncertainty.
I love my team at CT3. They are a group of some of the most resilient leaders in the country, but like most teams, they are looking to their leader for leadership with both the heart and the head. They are looking to me to be and model what it is to be a No-Nonsense Nurturer leader.
As leaders, there are many things we can do to support our people. I’ll share a few ideas that I hope inspire you, or reinforce the moves you are likely already making as a leader.
- Prioritize connection. While you’re already doing this, remember to show care for your team and partners regularly and throughout this crisis. Connect with folks. Ask everyone on your team how they and their family and friends are doing on a personal level, beyond work. Humanize the current situation with them. Acknowledge feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Check in with your team more than usual. Take time to try to inspire them and help them to feel grounded and comforted. Someone said to me the other day, “We have to make sure we take care of Maslow needs before we engage with Bloom’s.” This is true for the adults and youth we serve.
- Collect data. During times of uncertainty, collect as much of the data as you can. How is your team doing? Who are they connecting with? How are your clients/community doing? What are client/community needs? How are they responding to the pandemic? What are the latest data from the medical field? How will schools be supported? What ideas for support does the team have? Where are we executing? Where is direction or support needed? This data will allow for your real-time communications to be accurate and feasible. The data you collect can also help you to anticipate problems and concerns so you can start planning solutions and stronger outcomes. As you identify areas that need attention, set clear direction, delegate planning, and check in regularly to ensure work plans are moving in the right direction and aligned with other initiatives. You have to delegate deliverables and action steps so you can lead planning and direction.
- Communicate regularly with clarity and honesty. The best way to support your team personally and professionally is to ground them in the organization’s current reality. There is no such thing as “over communicating” during a crisis. Do your best to define your team’s current realities: Decisions made; How those decisions were made; Information needed for the next set of decision; Timelines as best you know, etc. Your last communication is what your team will most likely remember.
While written communication is good, connecting with your team face to face via video conference is much more effective and allows for relationships to build. Your tone of concern and humanity will come across in a video conference in a way it likely will not in an email or a letter to the organization. Give team members opportunities to ask questions. Do your best to answer each question and when you don’t have the answer, let them know what data you need and what the likely timeline is for you to be able to answer their question(s). Let team members know their inquiries are important – especially during times of crisis and uncertainty.
- Create workplans. Folks want to be productive in times of uncertainty. It grounds us as human beings and fulfills us. While working virtually is easy for some of us, it is an acquired skill. Create workplans and schedules with each of your direct reports. In these work plans note goals, deliverables, and supports needed to execute. During virtual check-ins, note what is going well and what the person is struggling with and build your coaching from their strengths. Allow folks to struggle a bit and provide supports and suggestions.
- Find the silver linings and create a “silver linings playbook”. The COVID-19 pandemic is a tragedy. Being sequestered in our homes is very difficult for us as we are social beings… but there are opportunities in this time. Support your team in identifying personal and professional silver linings. For instance, my husband and I recently moved so this time at home allows us to get organized and unpack those final boxes. From a professional perspective, as educators, this time at home gives us an unforeseen gift of time – to plan, do virtual professional development, and connect with students and teammates on items we’ve always wanted to but hadn’t found the time to tackle. This gift of time also allows us to plan for students to return to school with new and different social emotional needs, and to plan with new teachers who haven’t been able to finish their practicum experiences but will still need to support our students next year.
- Reset the vision. Your organization will be different after this pandemic. Use the data you are collecting and the time you have to reflect, plan, and recalibrate your vision. Each of your organizations has the ability to demonstrate resiliency during this time, to emerge stronger and more connected – to one another and the communities you serve. Make your new vision inspiring and more importantly one that provides hope.
I share these ideas to inspire your current leadership, and I am sure you have additional ideas. Please be generous and add tips and ideas in the comments section below to support your fellow leaders.
We’ll be sending along more tips to help us all through these challenging times.
Yours in this (unexpected) work,
By Kristyn Klei Borrero, CT3’s CEO and Co-Founder