Leadership Soapbox – COVID: The Impact on Leadership, part 2

Leadership during COVID


Hi, my name is Neil Poynter and welcome back to The Leadership Soapbox.

This time what I want to talk about is what we’re all going through at the moment, COVID. I want to talk about the impact, I want to talk about what we’re seeing and I want to talk about what we as leaders need to perhaps be doing right now.

So let’s just step back from this for a moment and think about what we are all going through. I am seeing and hearing lots of people now starting to suffer from some form of fatigue from this. There’s a lot of people who are feeling the pressure of the environment, of the loneliness, of the change in the way in which we are working and living. And this is I think now starting to really impact on people.

So there’s two aspects to this that I want to particularly pick up on and I want to touch on a bit of theory here because I think we can bring some stuff into this that we can learn from.

So the first one I’m looking at and I’m seeing is an impact on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Now, if you understand Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or if you don’t rather, there’s five levels of need.

First one is physiological that’s food, water and air. Second is safety and protection, we need to feel secure. Third one is social need, we are a social animal. Fourth need is self esteem. We need to feel good about ourselves, about what we do about where we are, what we provide and fifth level is self fulfillment that we grow, we develop.

Now the very simple idea in Maslow’s model is that if a lower level is removed or is threatened then the requirement for the higher levels dissipates or disappears. So what we are seeing at the moment is that level three, our social need is actually being taken away from us at the moment. Now I’m not going into the politics of whether that’s right or not but it is.

I’m noticing and hearing a lot of people now struggling to be motivated, to push forward, to achieve which is probably around self-esteem because of that pressure at level three. So there is something here for us about creating some social networking. Let’s park that one out to one side.

The second piece of theory that I’m noticing is the Kubler-Ross change curve or grieving curve. And if you’re familiar with that, is as we dip down into the curve and as we come down into it, we’re going through anger, denial and then despair and into acceptance. And then hopefully what happens is that we start to come up, acceptance, realization, looking forward, anticipation and coming out in the other side and starting to the mood pick up.

Now, if you think about what’s been going on, we’ve been stuck in and around the bottom, there hasn’t been any real idea of when we can start to pull out of this. Now, I can see both hope and challenge in what’s going on, which I’ll come to in terms of our actions. So the Kubler-Ross curve we’ve been stuck down here.

Now, normally when we’re managing change, what we’re doing is we give people hope by giving them some way on a timescale, we haven’t been able to do that. So people have been stuck down here in the bottom of the curve, wondering what’s going on. So we’ve got two impacts, we’ve got two things really, really coming into play here.

Now the third one is threat, there is a threat. There is a virus out there. It impacts people, we’re seeing people dying, we’re seeing people suffering long-term health issues. There’s perhaps that element of threat there for people.

We’ve also got the winter coming. If you’re watching this in the Northern hemisphere, we’re into winter, long, cold, dark evenings, nights. We don’t have the summer anymore that we had for the lockdown one, lockdown two seems to have really got to people.

So what do we need to be doing? Okay, couple of things that are springing to my mind, we need to be creating those social networks. We need to be creating opportunities for people to engage with one another in a relaxed and social manner. How can we do that? Is this around having quiz nights, some form of entertainment, relaxed scheduled coffee mornings? I know a scheduled coffee morning, a relaxed schedule coffee morning may not sound relaxed but getting people together, but without work, without any other purpose apart from to connect, how can we do that? Let’s explore that.

The other thing I think we need to be careful of is that we’re starting to get some hope in terms of a vaccine. Okay, but there’s still probably going to be some months before that is completely rolled out. This is not going away fast. And there is the prospect that we’re going to come back from Christmas, whatever form Christmas takes or the festive season to what we don’t yet know. But there may be some months yet before this situation changes.

Now, that means we as leaders have got to be prepared for that. So what can we do?

Okay, I’d like to point you back to my three videos about what we need to do. If we want people to work for us, the morale videos and I’ll put a link back to number one at the end of this one. We need to be actively leading and not only the team but individuals. I think it is very important right now that we respect that individuals are going to have their very specific needs.

How do we behave? Okay, I’ve stayed out of the American politics but I want to just compare and contrast that the mode of behavior and the way people are talking, Joe Biden, calm, considered, we are fighting the virus, not one another, okay. Whether or not we agree with the politics, the manner and the way in which he is now starting to communicate is that that we would normally expect of a leader. And I think that’s very important.

What we need is calm voices but portraying hope and moving forward when we can but not lying about the reality. And that’s important, people will know when you are not being authentic and genuine. This is a time to be authentic and genuine with the news you have on what you are telling people.

So let’s just wind that up. First of all, COVID, not going away for a while.

Two, Maslow, social needs. What can we do? Let’s do something that gets people together on a social networking basis.

Three, we’ve got this pressure on the Kubler-Ross curve on the grieving curve, people are stuck down in this very depressive, quite depressive place at the bottom of the curve. We need to be aware of that, that we’ve got to handle that. Therefore, how do we deal with that?

Okay, this is the leadership, this is the morale piece, giving people some hope that the business is okay. Refer back to those morale videos that I spoke about and the final piece being authentic and real and caring about our individuals. This is so important right now.

Okay, that’s it. There is so much for us to do. I think I’m going to break this one down into a number of bite-sized chunks and I’ll speak to you all soon. Thanks very much, bye.