Help Yourself, Others Thrive During Crisis

From the Great Depression to World War II, 9/11, natural disasters and even prior pandemics, extensive research by the Gallup organization points to universal needs people have of their leaders when facing a crisis. By striving to meet these needs, effective leaders can help others navigate with resilience rather than fall victim to fear and helplessness. Learn how to help team members (and yourself) rally to the cause, contribute effectively and emerge resilient.
Across eight decades and crises that have ranged from World Wars to the U.S. riots of the sixties and the 2008 global financial crisis, Gallup has studied the worries, fears and confidence of people around the world in the face of challenge. Their extensive meta-analysis has uncovered four universal needs people have of their leaders during trying times: 
  • Trust
  • Compassion
  • Stability
  • Hope  

People don’t simply want cheerleaders in charge, but rather leaders who can confidently show a way forward and engage them in purposeful in action. That includes robust crisis management plans that show team members how they can actively contribute to shared goals.

Help me be part of the solution
“If you think of challenging times you’ve experienced on a more personal scale, doing nothing is one of the most stressful situations you can encounter,” explains Jerry Magar, change management expert and an academic program director with Southern Methodist University Executive Education.
“By providing a clear vision and a basic roadmap for where the organization is going, how your team fits into that plan and then how team members can engage in meaningful action around those goals, you help people navigate significant change and move from victimization to empowerment,” Magar says.
When leaders offer a realistic approach to dealing with and overcoming challenges that mitigates downsides and takes advantage of opportunities for even short-term successes, it helps people move from fear and paralysis to resilience. Researchers call that the “rally effect.”
Lead the rally
Gallup has recently applied its crisis research specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic and even provides a brief online test to quickly gauge whether employee needs around trust, stability, compassion and hope are being met. Their diagnostic includes questions also worth exploring on your own.
In addition to facing the pandemic, leaders must also explore how to meet these same leadership needs in the face of national racial unrest and protests as well.

  1. My leadership has a clear plan of action.
Only 39% of US employees strongly agree that their employer has communicated a clear plan for dealing with COVID-19. Without a plan, employees can quickly give in to feelings of helplessness, fear and even boredom. Being part of the solution reduces stress.
  1. I feel well prepared to do my job.
Only 54% of employees agree that they are well prepared to do their job in the face of COVID-19. Gallup urges leaders to return to basics just as you might when onboarding a new team member. Clarify expectations, review equipment needs, adjust roles as needed and help people leverage their strengths in new ways.
Don’t assume folks know what is expected of them during an unprecedented challenge neither they nor the organization has ever faced. It’s time to talk about how to do your job now, in this environment, knowing that much of it may be in flux and need to be re-imagined. This conversation should also include a lot of listening about the type of support employees need right now.
  1. My supervisor keeps me informed.
Direct supervisors are one of the most important factors in moving employees from helpless to empowered. You are the key conduit to help staff understand the organization’s COVID-19 strategy and, perhaps even more importantly, how it translates into their daily routine. Even when you don’t know more than you did yesterday, share that information.
  1. My organization cares about my wellbeing.
With our health on the line, people working remotely and school, daycare and homelife turned upside down, the already weakening boundary between home and work has become even more porous. The personal decisions we make can literally affect the safety of others and employees face unique personal challenges that cannot be confined to the home front.
Gallup’s research shows that a key predictor of lower levels of worry and higher levels of confidence among employees is how well cared for they feel by their employer.
By addressing the four universal needs Gallup has identified through 80 years of researching many forms of crisis, you can provide team members with what they need most. A clear plan of action offers stability and hope that, with effective action steps, the challenge can be met. Actively engaging team members in the process, keeping them well informed and seeking their input demonstrates trust and shows you as a transparent and honest leader. Finally, tangible concern for the physical, economic and mental wellbeing of team members and understanding of the unique challenges they face at work and at home demonstrates true compassion.
Addressing each of these areas will help you become a more effective crisis leader and enable team members to rise to the moment personally and professionally.

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