Teams in the US today – and likely for awhile longer – are going to be struggling. There’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of frustration, some celebration, and every feeling in between.
As a leader, your job today is figuring out what your team needs in order to keep their heads in the game and keep them from spiraling out into fear and anxiety. Today I’m taking some cues from political organizers, who are no strangers to working hard and not being able to see the results they were fighting for.
Validate what they’re experiencing.
Just about every concession speech will show supporters that they’re seen: I know you’re disappointed/frustrated/anxious right now.
Your team, especially those from minoritized backgrounds, might be feeling extremely legitimate fear, anxiety, frustration, and more. Those are hard feelings and sometimes the only way out of the intensity of them is through it. Acknowledge (sincerely) that those feelings make sense. If you can identify some clear ways that you’re committed to helping mitigate or solve the root cause of that fear, now’s a good time to share those.
Show them their impact.
There’s a reason why political campaigns tell you how many voters you contacted, how many people volunteered, how many signatures they got. It shows people that all the work they’ve done isn’t for nothing.
People are more likely to spin out when they don’t see a point to what they’re doing. Leaders, you’re in the best position to show them what their impact really is. If you can point to numbers and past performance, great; if you can’t, re-orient them toward your vision and remind them of your mission.
Create space for togetherness.
Election night gatherings, whether virtual or otherwise, are there because people need a sense of belonging and community when faced with uncertainty (and because celebrations are better together).
In a remote world, this is possible, if just different:
- Keep an optional video call open throughout the day. This is not a meeting! No agenda, no action items, just the presence of other humans working toward a common goal with you. Don’t force people to join or turn on their cameras, but use it as an open “working together” space for those who want some company or accountability.
- Open extra (and optional) 1:1 time slots in your calendar. Invite your team to book even just a 15-minute check-in with you to make sure you’re understanding where they’re at.
- If you don’t already have a standing all-hands meeting at least monthly, get one on the calendar. Let everybody remember that they’re in this together, even if right now it feels like each person is trudging along in isolation.
Put your own oxygen mask on first.
You can’t do any of the above if you’re spinning out yourself. Let yourself feel your feelings before you face your team. Then, look at your mission statement. Literally put the words on a screen or write them on paper in front of you. Remember that you’re in this because it matters to you, to your patrons and constituents and customers and staff. Even if your mission isn’t one that feels like it should be anyone’s top priority right now, find what’s persistent in it: maybe that’s community, equity, understanding, learning, amplifying impact… I could go on. Focus on that and know that even in these times of wild uncertainty, those things still matter.
It’s hard. I know. We’ve got this. Vamanos.