A recent Gallup workplace poll of over 10,000 employees identified four basic needs that people look for in their leaders: trust, compassion, stability and hope. During these unprecedented times of uncertainty, providing hope is your most valuable leadership asset. But in the midst of staff reductions and deep budget cuts, how do we support our employees and offer messages of hope about a brighter organizational future?
Now more than ever, your employees, board members, clients and customers will be looking to leaders to set the tone for your organization. Gallup’s study goes even further, reporting that employees who responded they “strongly agree that their leaders make them feel optimistic about the future” are 69 times more likely to be engaged in their work. Given this, how do leaders provide hope when faced with such uncertainty?
First, begin by communicating with clarity, be transparent about what you do know and honest about the unknown. Even without having all of the answers, the more we communicate with our team members, colleagues and co-workers, the greater sense of connection and purpose they will feel.
Second, help people prioritize their work and be clear about what they should be focusing on and what needs to be accomplished. Define small, manageable tasks to ensure short-term wins. People need to feel a sense of achievement, of checking-off items on their endless to-do lists, and an understanding of how their individual work connects to organizational goals and mission.
Third, engage people in thinking about new solutions, creative ways of addressing obstacles and generating new ideas and different approaches. Seek their input on decision points as you explore plans for phased re-entry back to the workplace. Surface both their concerns and their suggestions. Including your employees in these conversations will keep them focused, engaged and less anxious about what lies ahead.
Finally, involve your employees in charting a course forward and inspiring people with your vision of a brighter future. Optimism and hope are not devoid of fear and uncertainty. Reminding people that we have faced adversity in the past (albeit perhaps not to this degree) and acknowledging small wins and accomplishments during the COVID pandemic, will enable employees to look ahead together with a shared sense of hope and, ultimately, will fortify your organization.