Regina Athié
Co-Founder & CEO
Cuéntame
/
Startup Contributor

Three Takeaways for Leaders From the Crisis

By Regina Athié | Fri, 10/09/2020 - 14:34

The new reality brings with it changes that had been happening before, but that are now accelerated in terms of business models, client relationships and employees. Two key terms that have been used quite frequently are “resilience” and “adapt to change.” These are said to be essential to the new reality, but how can organizations “adapt” and become “resilient”? What does it mean in terms of leadership in the workplace?

The key objective of this article is to leave you with three main ideas that you can deploy in the next week and that can help you as a leader to have a closer relationship with your employees and, therefore, help your enterprise thrive: 

  • Learn to be vulnerable
  • Active listening
  • Your mental health matters

LEARN TO BE VULNERABLE 

To be vulnerable, different from what we usually hear, does not mean you are a weak leader, or that you should be sharing every idea/feeling with your team. Vulnerability, as defined by the renowned Brené Brown, is “having the courage to show up, fully engage, and be seen when you can't control the outcome.” Vulnerability does not mean that you need to share everything with your team, nor does it mean you have to become someone you are not. It means that you are open to listening, changing and doing things that make you uncomfortable, to keep track of your objective. For example, at Cuéntame’s All Hands Meeting every Monday, which is a virtual meeting where all of our team members are present and actively participate for two minutes each, we speak openly about the great outcomes and goals that we have achieved, but we also use the space to talk about the issues we are facing with projects; if someone needs help or feedback from another team member, that is the place where we can talk about it. At these meetings, I have taken the opportunity to talk about how sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the new reality challenges, such as being home all the time and having a difficult time to disconnect from work at the weekends. Our team has talked about how grateful they are for these spaces and the importance of our team leaders talking about our mental health and struggles. They have shared with us that now they feel more open to talk about personal and job concerns they are facing. As a result, they feel more comfortable and productive. 

ACTIVE LISTENING 

“Communication is key” is a common sentence we hear, but what does it really mean? In times of uncertainty, it means being open to difficult conversations; such as employees talking about struggles with their mental health or personal issues caused by working from home or having to be more active with their children's education at times of work or employees living alone and feeling lonely, with the need to connect with others. Your employees do not expect you to be their psychologist (you can refer them to one if you feel the person might benefit from talking to an expert), but what they are expecting of you is just to listen, not to have an answer to their problems. Empathy is very important in active listening; start talking about mental health. 

YOUR MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

Forty-one percent of C-level employees report decreased mental health during the pandemic, according to a study by SAP and Qualtrics. This number makes sense; as leaders, we need to take hard and fast decisions in a recurrent way, generating anxiety, exhaustion, fear, sleep problems and even depression. Before mental health was seen as a luxury, now it is a “must” and as leaders, we need to start the conversation and take action toward the resources that can make us and our team become our best version. For some, it can be participating in mental health groups; for others, it can be taking psychotherapy; for some others, it is doing exercise and talking to their loved ones. Taking action toward our emotional well-being and that of our teams has a strong impact in our organization. 

Overall, uncertain times are an opportunity to connect with ourselves and our team in a deeper way. If we are willing, as leaders, to be vulnerable, listen actively and take action toward mental health, our employees will benefit from a workplace where adapting to change and being resilient are not only words, but an active part of the organization's culture. And thus, having strong tools to cope with these uncertain times. 

I want to close by talking about an important date to keep in mind: Oct. 10 is Mental Health Day. This year's theme is “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment - Greater Access.” Remember, everyone has mental health and it can be promoted in different ways. Search for a mental health service that works best for your company, it is an asset for your culture. Let's start!

Photo by:   Regina Athié

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