Seven Ways To Lead Out Of The Pandemic

As we ease out of the pandemic and people head back to the office, there’s a high likelihood of a potential new dynamic that needs to be navigated: a changing manager-employee relationship.

The protracted period of lockdowns and working from home introduced a never-experienced-before business environment and a wave of uncertainty that I believe will continue until everything settles down. Before Covid-19, it was often reported that 75% of American workers said their relationship with their boss was the most stressful element of their job. Since the pandemic roiled the business world, the need for managers to establish good employee relationships has only intensified.

Research by Gallup has shown that one in 10 people “possess the talent to manage.” Fortunately, I’ve found leadership is a skill that can be acquired. My experiences during this past year have led me to some simple yet key attributes that make for a great manager. Here are seven of them.

1. Show genuine empathy.

Make sure your employees know they’re appreciated as unique individuals and not just numbers on a productivity chart. Be genuinely inquisitive about their lives and their well-being. That means when you ask, “How are you?” you really want to know the answer and are willing to act on their concerns. In my experience, employees become more loyal when they feel compassion from their bosses.

2. Be vulnerable.

Good managers aren’t afraid to reveal their sensitive side and discuss aspects of the job where they might be challenged. You can’t be expected to know everything and be some kind of invincible warrior. Employees respond positively when they can see that you’re human, too. In doing so, you’ll build a stronger relationship that’s particularly important in times of crisis.

3. Communicate honestly.

Employees need to know where they stand. Don’t sugarcoat the bad news or shade the truth. Your workers have a way to eventually discover reality, and it won’t do you or your company any long-term good. Set up frequent and consistent lines of communication. A podcast, for instance, could be an excellent way to announce news and provide motivation when employees can hear the emotion in a voice.

4. Be a good listener.

Asking for feedback is always important, and never more so than in a time of transition. As workers return to an in-office environment, they will likely feel all manner of uncertainties. Listen to what they have to say, and be prepared to provide answers or emphasize that you will get answers. Don’t leave any issues unresolved, as that will only ferment further concerns.

5. Celebrate success.

Everyone loves a pat on the back for a job well done, but all too often, workers’ accomplishments are taken for granted. Make a point of congratulating individuals (and teams) for accomplishments large and small — and be sure to do so in a public forum where it is most meaningful.

6. Provide ongoing training.

What we know today and how we work today rapidly becomes outdated in our ever-changing business climate. Delivering training on an ongoing basis can help give your employees the confidence along with the skills to be more effective. I’ve found many workers — as well as corporate leaders — relish an ability to keep up to speed.

7. Become a “servant leader.”

This is a tough one. Servant leadership is the concept of leading by empowering and uplifting others instead of a focus on personal gain and success. Many bosses espouse such an approach but find it difficult to implement when authoritative leadership has been the norm. Research shows that servant leadership boosts team satisfaction and performance.

Is it worth paying attention to these recommendations? As leadership coach and New York Times bestselling author Marshall Goldsmith has said, “At the top of major organizations, even a small positive change in behavior can have a big impact.” His bottom-line message for senior executives, “To help others develop — start with yourself.” I believe when employees are happy at work and have a good relationship with their manager, profit margins and shareholder value can increase proportionately.