The last is yet to be seen of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the crisis has been more popular for its human toll and economic implications, it’s also had a huge impact on the mental health of workers across different industries. Many employees have been suddenly thrust into the barely familiar world of remote working. Others have had to continue reporting to work despite the imminent health and safety risks.
According to a survey by Marketwatch, the pandemic is stressing 70% of US workers to the max. For these employees, this could be a huge hit to their mental health and productivity. More than ever, managers and employers need to show empathy and emotional intelligence to help employees overcome their pressure, anxiety, and stress burdens. This is both an ethical obligation and a bottom-line issue. Here are 7 tips to help!
1. Understand that individuals have unique challenges
The first step to being an emotionally intelligent leader is being aware that team members have unique personal and professional challenges. This means that there will hardly be a one-size-fits-all solution for these challenges and that what worked once may not work now.
Leaders should engage team members in conversations on their challenges as well as changes or shifts in operations that might have helped them as well as what they may find helpful or not. This is key to building emotionally intelligent teams, 64% which according to HR Executive, offer:
A higher degree of employee empowerment;
Clear decision rights as well as impressive incentives and risk tolerance.
2. Practice active listening
Our recent piece of ‘engaging remote employees during the coronavirus’ began with an emphasis on communication. That piece also reiterated the need for two-way communication which of course involves listening and response. Emotionally intelligent leaders don’t just wait for their turn to talk. Rather, they practice active listening which of course helps promote empathy and compassion.
3. Connect with your team on personal levels
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, one of the benefits for smaller employers is the opportunity to add a personal touch to employee wellbeing initiatives.
Leaders managing teams can also leverage this opportunity as well to connect with team members on personal levels. This can help leaders get a better understanding of what motivates, stresses, and inspires individual employees or team members. In the age of the coronavirus, this will be important to building or managing a strong, loyal, and more productive teams.
4. Speak and act like a human
Effective leadership will be key to drive business transformation and continuity in the face of crisis. Being an emotionally intelligent leader, however, is about successfully projecting leadership and humanity at a time like this, when employees are already feeling stressed.
Leaders have to bridge the empathy gap in the face of this pandemic.
To show true empathy and compassion, that may mean abandoning conventional strategies or practices that may poetry leadership as uncaring or disconnected from the very people who hold the key to the organization’s crisis outcome.
5. Develop ways to help employees manage stress
Cheryl Serra, writing for SHRM says COVID-19-related employee stress is a matter of when, and not if. But then again, about 69% of employees already say that the coronavirus pandemic has caused them the greatest stress so far throughout their professional career.
Emotionally intelligent leaders have to be aware of this and more importantly, need to take action to help employees manage and reduce their stress burdens. This can include:
Showing genuine support and empathy.
Discouraging multitasking so team members can focus on one thing at a time.
Helping employees resolve internal workplace conflicts and disagreements so these don’t end up causing more stress and disruption, etc.
Encouraging team members to take breaks and focus on off-work activities that can help them relax and recharge.
6. Own your mistakes (and learn from them)
Everyone (leaders and team members) are prone to mistakes. What separates emotionally intelligent leaders from the other not-so-intelligent ones is the ability to own up to their mistakes, take responsibilities, and learn important lessons.
Emotionally intelligent leaders don’t spend the whole time whining about what they could have done better. At a time like these when various decisions need to be made in split seconds, errors in judgment may occur. In cases like these, intelligent leaders would observe the situation and analyze what went wrong; not to whine or trade blames but to avoid a re-occurrence of such in the future.
7. Ask for help when you need it!
Asking for help won’t make you weak, and emotionally intelligent leaders capitalize on this to help strengthen a culture of openness, self-worth, and collaboration among their teams.
Emotionally intelligent leaders know to seek help when they need it. Aside from not being shy of seeking input from team members on key issues, they also surround themselves with other high emotional IQ leaders from whence they can also draw help and inspiration regularly.
Many employers are mostly worried about getting employees safely back to work.
But it’s also important to understand the role of emotional intelligence in leading through a crisis once workers are back at their jobs. New and experienced leaders have to take the time to master and perfect their emotional intelligence skills. While this is not an ‘overnight’ thing, the good news is that with continuous practice, a receptive mind, and a compassionate heart, employers as well as team leaders and managers will be able to build emotionally-intelligent teams, over time.