The Covid-19 pandemic, followed by George Floyd’s death, lit fires everywhere.
This time I’m not talking about the actual fires across cities in the United States, but the unnoticeable fires of fear and pain in people’s hearts. Not until long ago, those flames were small, and people ignored them, but no more. The last events provided not only burning material but in some cases, added the gun powder to the flame – that’s why everything exploded.
As leaders, we have no choice but to pay attention to how reality affects our employees. No one stays indifferent. No one is immune. We are all humans. The thing is that people do their best to ignore their painful feelings. They try so hard only because it’s too agonizing to look at the things around us and to notice the pain – both others’ and ours.
But being indifferent is a mere illusion.
As leaders, you have a vital role- it’s time you listen to your employees, whether black, white, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, straight, or gay. Everyone has feelings about what’s going on. Everyone’s scared. But some are more scared than others, and it is time to pay attention to them.
So how do you lead people well in this time of crisis when the ground is burning? Here are three ways to start a conversation and be a resource to your people:
1. Let them know you’re there for them
As a leader, you should let your employees, especially those affected by the events, know that you’re there for them.
You can say things like: “I want you to know that I’m standing with you and your family. My heart is broken, and I can’t imagine how you must be feeling these days. I’m here for you.”
Be authentic. If you don’t feel it, you can’t fake it, but caring is key. If you, the leader, is part of the affected group, be sure to let your team know you know how they feel. Also, find other people in the organization that can support you.
2. Acknowledge the pain
Trying to ignore the pain will affect your employees’ productivity. The fact that you push the pain down doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist anymore. It only means it’s taking space and energy by being avoided.
Therefore you need to create a safe space where people can express the pain.
Listening can happen in small groups where people are encouraged to feel while being reassured that whatever they say will not affect their job. Be prepared to listen to anger, sadness, disappointment, and fear.
It’s not about solving anything, but rather letting the steam out.
3. Do all that by Listening
Listening is the #1 tool in your arsenal. It doesn’t only allow people to vent, but it also makes them feel seen and heard. As a leader, you should sharpen your listening abilities regularly, not to mention during times like these. Your job is to lend your ear, not to suggest solutions or solve problems.
Listening can happen 1:1 or in groups, and if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, you can always ask for the help of an Emotional Business IQ consultant.
Leadership is about being human while showing the way and leading by example. You have what it takes.