Katie Rasoul loves working with leaders. She believes awesome leaders build awesome teams. And that making leaders a little more effective will have a positive impact on people and businesses. After several years in HR and talent development leadership roles in the Milwaukee area, Rasoul decided to strike out on her own and launch her own company, Team Awesome Coaching. Her goal: to focus her energy on what she’s most passionate about – helping leaders grow and hone their ability to apply a lense of humanity and belonging to the decisions they make. For Rasoul, it’s not so much about the goals employers pursue, but rather how they do it. In her view, leaders always need to keep in mind the people who work for them.
I caught up with Rasoul to discuss what makes employers particularly awesome in a time of crisis.
Teams Need Leadership in a Crisis
This is a unique time. No one has been through a pandemic as a leader, so it makes sense that no one knows quite what to do. People are searching for safety, support and a sense of belonging from their employer in good times. In a time of crisis, this is even more of a priority. Employers need to ask, “What do our people need from us now to feel safe, to feel whole, to feel like part of a team?” And they need to take a different lens to see how people receive the actions taken. The decisions we make now will be remembered by our teams for a long time.
Make decisions through a lens of humanity, safety and well-being
Awesome employers today are those companies and leaders who make decisions quickly, put a plan in place and then communicate it through the lens of humanity, with people’s safety and well-being in mind. These leaders are head and shoulders above the rest. Those companies that waited to tell people what to do and were still holding meetings (when we all knew that shouldn’t be happening) made people feel their safety was worth the risk, leaving their people feeling confused and unvalued. That will be remembered.
Early decision-making, putting a plan in place and communicating it creates safety and builds trust. It takes a burden off of the shoulders of each individual and creates clarity. Leaders who fail to act in this way push the decisions down to their team and often end up creating confusion and losing trust.
Be aware of each team member’s unique situation
Being an awesome employer also means being aware of each person’s unique situation. For example, many people are now working at home with children in the background. While employers want work to continue and would like their team members to be connected, many are struggling with diverse and often competing demands. Having back-to-back video calls isn’t always possible for parents. It takes an enormous amount of energy to remain focused and multitask with kids at home.
So leaders need to be tuned in to what is essential and what is not. We need to realize this is a trying time for everyone. Awesome employers look at decisions through a lens of humanity first, considering each person’s unique situation, and then make a judgment about what is really necessary. They also work with their teams to find win-win solutions.
Today, active listening is crucial. We’re in a frenzy trying to keep our people engaged and figure out what to do to save our companies. Industries are either exploding or imploding. I’ve talked with some leaders who have let members of their team go and suddenly have the work of five people on their shoulders, but they are now alone. They’re working 12 hours a day with kids at home. And they’re struggling to find balance. Others have more time to work creatively.
We need to step out of fear and listen to our people. It’s not business as usual and we shouldn’t treat it that way.
Help employees create boundaries between work and personal life
Everyone wants to do a good job at work, perhaps now more than ever with so much uncertainty and change. Leaders need to make sure their people take care of themselves, exercise, take time for themselves, find a balance with kids at home.
Awesome employers help their people create boundaries between work and personal life. They also work with each person to create realistic expectations. It’s possible you have young children at home and your best work is done early in the morning or late at night.
And this is an opportunity to rethink productivity and start a conversation about the future. We can do this remotely and we can work at different times of the day, not just the typical 9-5. We have figured out that we can work remotely pretty quickly.
Find creative ways to build team cohesion
There are important components of belonging and cohesion. Once we know what they are we can create that sense of belonging, even when teams are not together. Trust is another important part of building cohesion. People need to know their leader has their back and trusts them.
And there is an important part of belonging that is a shared experience. For example, health care workers have some cohesion because they are going through a shared experience right now. Leaders can help create a shared experience and this can be very helpful, especially right now in a time of crisis.
This experience is changing who we are
Working remotely has pushed the paradigms about leadership and has forced employers to think about what is possible and quickly find new solutions. Do we want to save what we had previously or should we ask, “What do we want to do differently?” So many people have been on autopilot. Things worked because we were in a routine, not necessarily because it was optimal.
We’re now experiencing something that will change who we are. Awesome employers understand this and are using the opportunity to think innovatively and create a foundation for doing things differently in the future. They understand people will come back changed and expect work will be on board. For example, we know we can work remotely and at different hours of the day. In a recent article I read in Politico, the author noted that instead of asking, “Does this have to be remote?”, we’ll be asking, “Does this have to be in person?” People will also be more focused on the essentials. We’ve had to strip away the non-essentials. Why would we bring the non-essentials back?
Leaders have an opportunity to define how to build this experience with humanity. My hope is that we will use the opportunity to create organizations that enhance our lives.
Awesome employers make decisions quickly, put a plan in place and then communicate it through the lens of humanity, with people’s safety and well-being in mind.