If you are anything like me, you are probably feeling a bit beat down right now. Save for the Tokyo Olympics (or maybe your favourite reality television show), there has not been a whole lot to celebrate so far this year. We always write professionally here at Worklogic but I think you will forgive me, even just a little, if I sum it all up by simply saying Australia (as in other parts of the world) is having a shit time of it at the moment.
In April last year I wrote a blog about leading through tough times and how it was necessary to pivot, adapt, and attempt to overcome the difficulties COVID had delivered to us. I stand by those observations because they are still very relevant now; however, I want to take this opportunity to shift the focus a little onto you as a leader.
Before I do, I want to acknowledge that every employee has been working hard within their individual organisations to do what they can to keep the organisation alive. At Worklogic, I am constantly humbled by the awesomeness of the people I work with and the hard work and good humour they all bring to our offices in Sydney and Melbourne. Without them, our business would not operate and it is for that reason we invest as much time and effort we can to making them feel safe and valued.
But…You are entitled, like everyone, to feel a bit battle weary too and I want to share some of my own experiences so that you know you are not alone.
Newsflash! You Are Human Too, So Accept It.
I took over leadership of Worklogic in September 2019 with my colleague Jodie Fox and we and the team have navigated and continue to navigate COVID every day like everyone else. Had you told me in September last year that I would need to learn how to be an owner of a business while dealing with a pandemic, I might have had second thoughts. Now, as I write this blog, I do not have any regrets but I will be honest and say that my glass has been half empty on a couple of occasions.
I can tell when I am exhausted: I tend to avoid communicating, I delay easy tasks and I do a lot of ‘hmmpffing’. This is usually a catalyst for my wife to ask me what is wrong and for me to respond with ‘nothing’. I know that is not true, and none of the above is productive and is not something your team (or your partner) needs to be subjected to.
Being able to recognise the signs is a good thing. Don’t be too harsh on yourself, you are human and entitled to have your off days. But ultimately, you need to recognise and address the signs, firstly for your own physical and psychological wellbeing but also so you can get focused again.
Don’t Be Over Positive
There is being positive and then there is being over positive; with the latter being something you need to avoid.
Your team is tuned into you and usually have sufficient visibility and understanding, at their level, of the state of the business or the things going on inside it. They can sense when something is not quite right and if you are projecting over positiveness, your team may start to think you are being avoidant. In worst case scenarios, your team may start to think you are hiding something or begin to perceive you are not taking charge of a situation. This creates uneasiness within the team and can be more detrimental than the issue you are being overly positive about.
I have always wanted to project ‘positive’ to give comfort to the team and a sense of normal. Early on in my leadership career, in a different organisation, I learned employees have an NQR (not quite right) meter and do not appreciate you putting ‘lipstick on the pig’. I wanted to protect them, and deal with the negative issues myself, projecting a ‘there is nothing to worry about’ disposition. My team saw right through me and told me, in no uncertain terms, to have faith that they could handle whatever the situation might be and to stop protecting them. In essence, a problem shared is a problem solved.
So, yes keep your team safe, but realise your team is strong and want to be part of the solution. Being appropriately positive and negative when required will prevent the stress and anxiety caused by hiding something in the hope you can manage it out of the way.
Finally, Get Help
Being a leader can be so rewarding but it can also be tough at times, especially now with all that we have had and continue to experience since last year. This can take a toll on you, both physically and psychologically.
I consider myself to be resilient and unflappable but I have my limits also like anyone. While I may not always like to admit I have my limits, I am not ashamed to say I have accessed EAP and taken mental health days when I feel it necessary to rest, reset and regroup. And when you are on a mental health day – don’t sneak a peek at your work email and put your out of office on.
You are no good to anyone if I you are not functioning at 100 per cent. If you are feeling off, recognise it and take some time to manage it. It is good for your health and for your team. There is no shame in it and your team will be comforted by the fact that you are human too.
Stay safe out there and keep smiling.