We have all encountered change with the global pandemic. Are you working on the same projects that you started the New Year with? Where has your attention been for most of the hours of the workday? Have any of the priority shifts affected your focus? Professionally? Personally?
When we began to get the news of directives to either voluntarily or by county-mandate "shelter in place," articles and memes began to circulate. I have been witness to some that mention a family unit that will come together over the sheltering. I have also seen those inviting us to take part in TeleTherapy to cover our conscious thoughts and conscious or unconscious feelings surrounding the smaller sphere of life that we will inhabit right now. Then, there have been the funny stories of spouses working out of the same space indefinitely and predictions of their success or failure within that new environment. For most of us, our creature comforts have been reduced or removed. For some of us, we are not working in the same way that we once did. This is going to be a learning experience for most of us. But here are some tips that I've gathered from working with small businesses within the State of Texas.
The first element to successful work in creating, running and maintaining a small business is courage. Most small business owners learn the foundation of business ownership using trial-by-fire. Whether it is your realization that your employees require health benefits to reduce turnaround or that your hiring practices aren't encompassing enough skill-vetting in the interview process, owners must be courageous. Employees are a considerable responsibility to business owners. Most senior small business owners can present stories of late nights up worrying about making payroll or impending lay-offs that must happen that will impact truly decent laborers. It takes courage to sign on for this job and it takes courage to implement your dreams. The good news is that some wonderful new health benefits options can travel with your employees should they either leave to pursue other endeavors or should an unscheduled lay-off period become necessary. It takes a courageous hiring panel to craft questions that require thought during an interview and it takes skill to know what answers mean. Having the courage to hire and "fire" is a wonderful leadership trait. Most employees would be glad to accept truth over long-lasting ambiguity. Have the courage to lead.
One of the best times to evaluate working strategies is during unscheduled pauses such as COVID-19 has forced most of us into. This can be a time to reflect on what's working and what is not. Employees may have more time that used to be used for driving and connecting with their families in order to answer your leading questions. Leveling with people is on the rise right now. Great tragedies like pandemics remind us all about the inefficiency of "beating around the bush." Ask your employees what have been their greatest struggles before and after the COVID-19 pause button was pushed. It never hurts to tell your employees what you would try to do for them if the opportunity or funds present themselves. Times like these exist heavily with time for caring words. It may mean more to your employees to hear what you wish you could do for them than if you mistakenly forget (due to stress) that they are available there - ready, willing and able to answer questions that you've had for a long time about things that are and aren't working well in your business processes. It won't show leadership weakness. It will show genuine leadership intelligence. One of the greatest leadership tools that have been used on me is when my former boss remembered to bring my issues to our next meeting. Even when there has been no change towards solution, it means something to quality employees when the boss remembers what you need.
Generally great leaders and small business owners are proud of their team. More than ever before, right now might be the time to have the courage to sit with professional thesauruses at your disposal and force yourself today, in a time that may be nowhere near your evaluation & review periods, to write down three things that each of your lowest level employees are presenting well. Save it for evaluation time. You may get more out of your staff if you prove that you remembered them from this very stressful time.
Courage prevails today. The courage to believe that you can help others make a difference in the workplace just by being observant. Practice the courage to observe, report and then use everything you learn. Be well.