Effective Leadership in the “New Normal”

The new normal. It’s a term we keep hearing over and over again, for a multitude of different reasons. As much as we want to fight it, it sounds like it may be here to stay — at least for now. Rather than rejecting it, it’s time for leaders in the workplace to embrace it, so that you can be a strong voice in your organization and a champion for positive change. It’s no secret that the coronavirus outbreak has changed our workplaces and our world as a whole. We’ve written about some of the important messages you can communicate with your employees in this unforeseen time, but it’s not enough to simply have email communications in your arsenal.

So much has changed about how we conduct business since March. From the way we show up to work, if at all, to remote working and learning, and therefore the way we can lead our teams, everything seems to have been flipped upside-down. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to maintain an open-door policy (whether physically or remotely) in your workplace that allows employees to express any concerns they may have. We’ll cover some tangible tips for leading in this age of the new normal, so you can take it back to your teams and feel confident rolling with the changes that will undoubtedly keep coming.

Keeping Remote Teams Engaged

A major setback that’s changed the way we conduct business and embody leadership in “the new normal” shifts to a mostly remote workforce. Of course, plenty of businesses have worked with remote team members, whether primarily or a dedicated select few that regularly conduct business outside of the office. However, many companies had to adapt to this change practically overnight when restrictions caused businesses to close their doors and adjust to Zoom meetings, internal social media communications, and scheduled telephone calls and emails to discuss what used to take place in passing in the office.

It can be more difficult to keep your remote workforce engaged, but it’s certainly not impossible. Social media — as long as it’s used appropriately and effectively — and communications applications make it much easier to stay in touch, even if you cannot have face-to-face discussions. You can set meeting times to see everyone’s faces, whether on a daily or weekly basis, depending on your organization’s needs. It may even be worthwhile to have some discussions that don’t have anything to do with work. Keep in mind; if your employees were accustomed to having lunch breaks or conversations around the water cooler, they have suddenly had to adjust to a work-from-home and possibly, work alone, situation. They may be lacking interaction, and this is something you can discuss with team members individually. 

You can take the temperature of your workplace as a whole with employee engagement surveys, tailored specifically to the current state of the world. Additionally, you could reach out to individuals on a one-on-one basis. You may find that this allows your employees to voice concerns they may not have been comfortable sharing in another environment.

Connecting With Employees and Being Empathetic

One of the most important tips for leadership in the new normal (and at all times) is empathy and being a servant leader, which applies across the board. Servant leadership requires connecting with employees on a deeper level and treating them as unique individuals who have their own set of challenges. This is especially true in today’s climate. Many organizations find that it’s a higher-stress environment with fewer face-time opportunities — employees can feel like they aren’t being seen or heard.

It’s a great time to partner with your Human Resources team to brainstorm how to best serve your employees and connect with your leaders. There is no better time to revisit your leadership training policies and procedures and determine whether your leaders could use a refresher when it comes to connecting and supporting the rest of your team members. Whether that means the way they handle conflict resolution, offer much-needed praise or recognition, or simply a reminder on the best tips for maintaining workplace engagement, there are so many options when it comes to leadership training solutions for your organization. Consider your options, and, after gathering the results of any employee engagement surveys you have conducted, prioritize where your 

Open and Honest Communication 

Naturally, open communication with your team members is a critical component of effective leadership, pandemic, or otherwise. The difference as we all learn to navigate leadership in the new normal is not only that communication styles may have changed, but that the conversations taking place need to be even more honest and open. Again, open dialogue is essential in any workplace, but it’s time to start having the vulnerable, difficult conversations that may have been easily avoided in the past. 

The truth is that no one knows what will change in the coming weeks and months, and it’s okay to address this and be vulnerable with your employees. They see the news, talk to friends and family, and hear about things that are happening within other companies. Here’s a great resource for ways that you and your leaders can be discussing the novel Coronavirus while in the workplace. Of course, leaders need to adapt to the rules and state mandates that are continually changing, sometimes even daily. There’s no need to pretend to have it all figured out — share the information as you receive it, openly and honestly.

Looking Forward to Normal

As previously stated, perhaps it’s time we embrace this “new normal” when it comes to the way we lead our teams and conduct business as a whole. Too often, we hear employees, friends, and family members say, “I wish we could just go back to normal.” Of course, this is understandable, but perhaps this is an opportunity to change the way leaders and managers communicate with their teams. It is a chance to look forward to a workplace where open and vulnerable discussions take place, and leadership serves employees in a way that best fits their needs.

A Better Leader has had decades of experience helping organizations address their unique sets of challenges. Leadership training programs may not have been effective in the past, but there are many solutions to handle whatever difficulties your workplace may be facing. We’d be happy to help you empower your teams to become more productive with the skills, tools, and knowledge they need!

About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

In over 25 years of helping companies connect with their employees, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of continuous improvement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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