Whether you are a Startup founder or a leader in a large organisation: Covid-19 may force you to reevaluate your leadership competencies and accelerate many initiatives already under way (e.g. focus on the core business, process automation and digitization). If you look at this systemically, the crisis does not break this, instead it highlights already existing weaknesses.

So, what to do about this? The first step as in any change initiative is to start letting go of old paradigms, behaviours and projects. Some of these might be attached to your identity, which means it will inevitably come with a sense of loss. However, without this clear decision you will forever struggle with conflicting priorities. The 2nd step is to accept that you maybe be in no man’s land for a while and this is ok. This does not mean you are complacent and cannot take clear steps to manage the immediate crisis. It just means the long-term vision of yours might be on hold for a while to be replaced by immediate existential needs of your business. One upside is, that if you manage this well, it will create purpose in your team. The 3rd and final step is then (after having dealt with the immediate difficulties) to start a journey of reinvention and looking at the horizon for a longer-term vision.

So, we are going through an ocean of uncertainties. This requires competencies leading a team through emotional turmoil. This may not be entirely new. There is, however, a new challenge on the horizon: we may not be able to respond with our team face to face anymore but rather must manage the crisis remotely. To manage teams, conflicts and crisis is already complex in a face to face setting but will become a lot harder when your team is not present.

So, how do you manage your own emotions and your teams’ frustrations when the world around us seems to be falling apart? In this article we will take a closer look at these challenges and how to solve them.

1 The loss of team connection

We know from neuroscientific research that the most fundamental need of the human brain is the sense of belonging. This goes back to our ancestors where the loss of the tribe was equivalent to death. Tribes provided shelter and food as well as emotional support in challenging times.

Whilst Zoom and other virtual tools may give us the platform to communicate with each other, they may still lack the capacity to establish deep connections which are a lot more important in times of crisis. Furthermore, the true informal nature of bumping into someone and spontaneously sharing your experience is very different to “organising” an informal call virtually. In the book People Analytics, the authors describe how invaluable accidental meetings in the coffee kitchen or near the water cooler are crucial for the exchange of creative ideas and emotional support.

What you can do about the loss of team connections?

2 The nature of uncertainty and the impact on teams

Our planet seems to go through a deep crisis challenging many of our existing assumptions and values. Depending on whether you are a founder, leader or employee, the situation will raise different existential questions such as:

It is important for you as a founder or leader to bring these questions to the table so you can address them, and people feel heard and validated in their emotions. Likely, the situation is here to stay for a while. So, adapting to the new normal and establishing new routines both as an individual as well as a team may be a good idea.

What can you do about uncertainty in your team?

3 Increased workload and lack of focus

There are some companies who report increased workload as a result of working from home. It seems (at least for some) that the reduced travel time, less lunches and coffee breaks with colleagues lead to a situation where employees use the spare time to work more, email and meet more. This in turn leads to others responding to this increased communication burden and equally working more and not less. Like a never-ending spiral this seems to lead to higher stress levels, increased occurrence of burn outs and a significant decrease in productivity.

So, what can you do about this?

It is important to recognise that technological change, pandemic crisis and political instabilities may be with us into the foreseeable future. The faster we accept this and learn to adjust to a new environment, the better we will be prepared as teams and leaders.