Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today’s post is by Becky Robinson.
As the pandemic drags on, I’ve noticed a weariness in my team and others as we wait, impatiently, for work and life to return to normal. This pandemic life requires huge amounts of endurance and patience, but even more, it requires kindness and grace.
Nearly a year in, this crisis continues to challenge and refine us. Kindness is the fuel we all need to keep going amidst the uncertainty.
The often-quoted phrase “Be kind, for everyone you meet is facing a battle you know nothing about,” is still true. The battles we are collectively facing and fighting compound people’s quiet battles and struggles. As leaders, we must cultivate an attitude of understanding and kindness because of the pandemic. This is added onto the baseline of kindness needed because we know others are facing battles we can’t see.
As the owner of a small company, I see a slice of this played out daily. For every struggle I hear about from a team member, I assume there are several more that people didn’t share. For every person who chooses to be open and vulnerable about the effects of the pandemic on their focus or productivity, I can infer that others are sharing similar experiences.
If I am experiencing something, others are likely also feeling it. So much more in a larger organization: More people means more complications, struggles and heartaches, and more that you as a leader may never hear about or see.
The continued crisis is a call for continued and generous kindness and compassion in our workplaces.
Assume that you don’t know the whole story
In any interaction with a team member, customer, or collaborator, realize this wisdom from Jenn T. Grace, from her memoir, “House on Fire”:
“You never know what challenges someone faces in their head, their home, at their office, or within their family. I wish that before people cast judgment on what they think they know about someone standing in front of them, that they take a moment to look for who that person is authentically. Try to see the not-so-obvious layers of identity; understand that people struggle with private issues (mental, physical, emotional, financial, familial, etc.) without sharing that in the world.”
Because many people choose to keep their private lives separate from their work lives, it’s always good to remind yourself that you don’t know the whole story.
Err on the side of kindness
I’ve heard people say that it costs nothing to be kind. I think that it does cost something — it requires intentionality and focus. Err on the side of kindness not only with your words and actions, but also with your thoughts. Hold space for your team members with kind thoughts and attitudes, as those will inevitably bleed through to your words and actions.
Err on the side of flexibility
Now more than ever, people need flexibility in their work schedules. Parents need flexibility to deal with changing school modalities and needs. Caregivers need flexibility to deal with family members’ illnesses. People need freedom to take a break when the pace is too much. We each keep ourselves going in different ways, and flexibility enables us to find our own ways to bring our best to work.
Extend the grace you want
Your kindness and flexibility will be more believable when you extend them to yourself as well as your team. If you want your team to feel free to adjust their schedules to deal with pandemic realities, be open and public about how you are adjusting yours.
While we can’t predict when this pandemic will end, the need for kindness is one that will extend even when life returns to normal. Leaders who cultivate kindness now, toward themselves and others, will create stronger relationships, fueling endurance now and for the future.