These days, we have a new enemy to deal with. It’s COVID-19, known to us all as the coronavirus – a silent enemy invading quickly, threatening our security and way of life in ways we never imagined.
These are challenging times that are testing not only our capability to do our mission but our capability to lead people in times of crisis.
“You don’t manage people, you manage things,” said the late Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, a Navy information systems pioneer who stayed on active duty until age 79. “You lead people.”
With that in mind, as leaders it’s important to keep some fundament principles in mind.
Connecting with others helps prevent people from feeling isolated and alone. Have regular phone or virtual meetings to provide structure and stability while strengthening your team’s sense of community and shared purpose.
Consider keeping a constant dialog with group texts or video chat. Check in regularly with all team members but don’t forget to check in with your own leaders.
Regularly sharing information establishes communication and trust with your team and is a key part of keeping everyone connected.
Whether in meetings or not, stay updated on the latest developments in your command and be prepared to communicate where your team fits into the picture.
As often as possible, keep your team updated. Encourage questions and when you don’t know something, promise and deliver answers as quickly as possible
Always remember that regular communication creates trust with your team. A communication vacuum does the opposite.
Recognize Limits and Normalize Stress
We are operating in uncharted waters these days and that can be stressful on individuals and groups. Too much stress can diminish your team’s ability to process complex information and perform.
Remember there are individual differences in how people cope with stress, so don’t be afraid to talk about it and encourage your teams to talk about their stress, if necessary.
Don’t be afraid to step back and take a breath and encourage your teams to do the same.
Build Physical and Mental Resilience
When working from home it is easy to forgo normal routines since we are no longer kept to a regular schedule and don’t have the mental transition period that usually comes with the daily commute.
Keeping a regular routine for eating, sleeping and exercising can help people feel a little closer to normal. When people take care of themselves physically and mentally, they can handle stress better.
Control the Controllable
Reduce stress and save energy by focusing efforts on what can be controlled and accepting what cannot. Simply put, know when to fight and when to let go.
Encourage your team members to identify what they can control and, in any situation, encourage things like deep breathing and mindfulness when things start to feel out of control.
Seize the Moment
Responding in times of crisis and helping determine the outcome is what teams live for. Leaders can reframe this moment in time as an opportunity for the entire team to contribute to the shared mission of finding solutions for tough problems.
Remind your team of the importance of the mission at hand. Vocally acknowledge that everyone has an essential role to play, no matter their rank.
Take the Long View
Though no one wants bad things to happen, being part of the response when the chips are down is why many join the military or choose public service. Capitalize on that fact.
Pace yourself and your team for a marathon, as no one knows how long this battle will take. Using the long view will help to manage the expectations of yourself and your team.
You can visit the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research at https://www.wrair.army.mil/.
A link to their handy “Leadership Checklist” is can be found at
The latest DoD coronavirus policies can be found at: https://www.defense.gov/explore/spotlight/coronavirus.
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