It is not unreasonable to expect team members facing the uncertainties associated with a global pandemic to be anxious, and increasingly so as one countermeasure after another is put into place by their organizations and by their government to fight the novel coronavirus.  Leaders, themselves, are anxious and this is how human beings normally react in times of crisis.

During numerous executive coaching calls with my clients this past week, the consistent theme has been “what can we do as leaders to manage our own anxiety, and the anxieties of our team”?

Here are the key takeaways from my coaching conversations this week:

  1. As leaders, we need to manage our own vitality.  Taking regular exercise, drinking enough water to stay hydrated throughout the day, allowing ourselves some alone time each day to just “be” are all critical choices we can make to enhance our own state of wellness, and to help stimulate our own immune system.
  2. It is important to be truthful about what we know and what we don’t know.  Transparency is all about honesty and also vulnerability.  Our team members actually lose trust in us when we appear to be “in total control”, or when we sugarcoat reality.  If we don’t know the answer to a question, we can admit it and commit to getting an answer.  If we have information that we’ve been asked not to share yet, we can say just that.  We can let our team members know that once we receive the “green light” to share plans that are not yet finalized, we will do so.  We can instill even greater confidence in our team by “telling it like it is”.
  3. We can provide a safe environment for our team to come together and share what’s on their minds so that anxieties can surface and then be addressed by others on the team and/or by the leader.  Here are three powerful, open-ended questions I recommend:
    •  How are you managing through this?
    •  What is hardest, or most challenging, for you about our current situation?
    •  What are some examples of how you are choosing to manage through this difficult situation?

One question at a time, in this order, will show our team members that we care what’s going on in their lives, and that it is alright to share their experiences and feelings.  Often, when people hear that others are experiencing similar anxieties, they realize that they aren’t the only ones feeling the way they do, and that all of us are in this together.

Be kind to yourself, maintain perspective and take the time to engage in open conversation with the members of your team, both one-on-one and in group meetings.  This investment of time will go far in managing the anxieties of everyone in the face of today’s unprecedented challenges.