3 steps for leaders to take in emergencies
I’ll keep this intro short, because I know your energy and attention are precious resources during this season.
Based on my conversations with leaders, here are 3 things your team needs you to do these days:
- Prioritize one-way communication over anything that requires others to participate
- Do lightweight check-ins to see what the folks on your team need each week
- Figure out what YOU need each week (energy, progress, community, etc.) More on how to do each of these things below.
Stay safe out there, —Lara
Prioritize one-way communication
I’m watching as leaders put a ton of new energy into supporting their teams by creating more meetings, requiring one-on-one checkins, generating brainstorming sessions, etc.
Please: if you don’t need your teammates to participate, don’t require it. Instead, prioritize communicating out clarity + strategy with some routine cadence, and then head to step 2.
If you’re creating more opportunities to check in, commiserate, catch up: I get it! You desperately want to support the people who rely on you. (Or maybe you want to make sure that they’re doing their work, now that they’re working from home.) Either way, you might be creating more stress and disruption for folks.
Continue having team-wide or company-wide meetings at your normal cadence. Base these meetings around one-way communication (leader shares updates with team; CEO shares updates with company). As much as is humanly possible, be understanding if people can’t attend. In the calendar invites/agendas, list out what will be communicated during these meetings (like what topics you’ll cover, what updates you’ll share, whether you’ll have Q&A, etc.).
Tell your team which medium they should use to reach out to you, and which medium they should expect to hear work-related updates from you. For example: “I’ll send project updates via email every Monday,” and “I’m always here in one-on-ones and on Slack to chat (and answer any questions that come up for you!).”
If you want to offer a new kind of support to folks that involves two-way dialog, feel free to announce it, but make it clear it’s optional. Like: “If anybody wants to hang out at 5pm today to just catch up and hang out, here’s a link to join the call. Kids + pets are welcome. Zero pressure/totally optional.”
Some folks will want that social connection. But some won’t. Everyone needs different things, so let’s find out what that is in step 2.
Do lightweight check-ins to see what the folks on your team need each week.
As we discussed in the last newsletter, everyone needs something different right now. I love using the BICEPS core needs framework as a way to put my finger on exactly what’s the driving force behind my, and my teammates’, current state of mind.
That said, a lot of folks do NOT want to have in-depth discussion about how they’re feeling and what they need. They might not have the time, energy, or brain space. Don’t assume, and don’t force it on them. Instead, here are two tools you can employ:
Lots of teams use this one to open team meetings; we use it when we facilitate group coaching sessions. You can totally use this tool in a one-on-one. Everyone who’s there states whether they’re red, yellow, or green:
- Red means they’re technically on the call/there in person, but their brain really isn’t participating. Maybe this person is currently feeling frustrated, or sad, or angry, or there’s just something else that’s completely distracting them.
- Yellow means they’re distracted a bit. Maybe they have an email they need to write, or they just came from a difficult conversation. They’re not fully present, but they’re not as distant or intense as red might feel.
- Green is free and clear. They’re fully present, they’re ready to go.
I don’t like asking people to explain why they’re a certain color. When I introduce this concept, I explain that there’s no judgment here. This is just a tool for us to understand where someone’s at right now, so that we don’t inadvertently misunderstand them, assume they’re mad at us, or read into why they’re behaving a certain way. And so that there’s no pressure to divulge or get into it. (They, of course, can share if they want.)
Give two or three options when checking in.
Instead of asking (or assuming) what someone needs, offer the person you’re talking to 2-3 options. For example:
“Just wanted to check in. Would it be more helpful to keep our one-on-one today, reduce it to 15 minutes, or skip it? I’m happy no matter what—just want to make sure you have what you need.”
“Hey, so it looks like this ticket still hasn’t been finished yet. We still need it done by Friday, but obviously things are bananas right now for everyone, so I’m eager to hear your thoughts: would it be more helpful if a) we paired on it together, b) you took an extra 24 hours on it, or c) something else?”
“So normally we’d be talking about career planning this month. But this is obviously a strange time! Would you prefer we have a career conversation this week, or would you prefer we push it back by a month? Either way works for me.”
Always have the “What do you need?” question in your back pocket, but save it until after you’ve done the lightweight checkin and are sure it’ll be helpful to ask.
Figure out what YOU need each week.
What you need is going to keep changing. And that’s okay.
I’ve listed out some resources for you below, based on whether you need:
- To listen to someone give you advice on what to do right now
- To invest in your professional development (it’s a nice distraction that can feel like progress and control!)
- To connect with other people who are going through something similar
Listen to someone give you advice right now
Watch this free panel on “Leading teams through times of uncertainty and upheaval” on April 7 (just register your spot!)
Watch this free panel on “Strategies for rapidly pivoting to remote work” on April 7 (just register your spot!)
(You can more like these in the full Lead Dev Live schedule here!)
Connect with other people who are going through something similar
- Weekly coaching sessions led by Sara Wachter-Boettcher: Get expert help tackling tough leadership and work challenges—without a major time or money commitment. Upcoming topics are: burnout and compassion fatigue, and values at work
In case it’s helpful, here are all my posts about how to lead through crises.