No doubt you entered your leadership role with big plans and ideas about what you wanted to achieve, both personally and organizationally. But what do you do when your leadership plans suffer a blow like the COVID-19 pandemic?
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – a commonly used psychology model – provides a helpful way to think about what motivates us and our ability to stretch and achieve our visions. At the bottom of the hierarchy are basic needs like food, water, warmth and rest. Though many of us are typically operating at higher levels – working to satisfy psychological and self-fulfillment needs – when something shakes our core or impacts our ability to meet those more basic needs, we shift our energy to ensure they are met. When they are not met, we have a hard time dreaming or envisioning anything beyond day-to-day survival.
Take a moment to refresh your knowledge of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Think about why you may be performing at a certain level. And think about the people with whom you work most closely. Have you seen a different perspective or attitude from them? If so, consider what they may be experiencing in terms of the hierarchy of needs.
It’s no surprise your vision – and your motivation to achieve it – may be faltering. That’s to be expected in these strange times. Just remember, the situation we’re in is temporary.
You may need to scale back, recalibrate, then redefine your vision and plans in the new normal. However you decide to adjust, don’t forget to bring others along. Once you can clearly see your adjusted vision, communicate it. Share your rationale and intent. Others may be grateful for a change of course, especially if they are feeling pressure or stress given all the other changes happening around us. Ask yourself how effectively you are communicating and inspiring change. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.
Ask yourself if it is OK to let your foot off the gas for just a bit. Develop short-term goals that will enable you to feel good about what you can accomplish. Define goals you can achieve on your own in addition to team goals. Break your vision into achievable goals: those that can be accomplished when there are so many constraints around us and those that should be longer-term goals that support your vision when some of the current constraints are removed. If you keep the lines of communication open, you’ll also know when it’s time to stretch those goals again.
Teams look to leaders to inform, inspire, initiate and instill a shared course of action. ISG helps companies and their leaders to embrace change and communicate organizational plans, so they can inspire employees to adopt and support transformation. Look for my next article about leading with action in part three of Leadership in a Pandemic Reality. Read the first in the series here.
About the author
ISG director Tammie Pinkston has more than 25 years of experience serving clients in virtually every industry around the globe. Prior to her work with ISG, she spent 15 years with Accenture, obtaining the level of senior executive. Her areas of expertise include organizational transformation, organizational design, post-merger integration, executive engagement, communications, culture change, talent management, and training and leadership development. She obtained her Ph.D. in strategic management and served as an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma. She also has taught as adjunct faculty for the University of Georgia, Georgia State University and Emory University. She has published numerous articles and presented at industry conferences across the United States and Europe.