Running a marathon not a sprint. 

Week 3 of the lockdown and the shock of the change is receding, but the bad news keeps coming. A prime minister in hospital and the Queen speaking to the nation underscores the seriousness and justifies the fears that people have. We all have our own good and bad days, but we know that this situation is not short-term – this is truly a marathon not a sprint, so how do we cope as leaders.

1 Don’t forget to communicate one-on-one

  • Zoom, Skype, or Teams meetings are tending to focus on team communication – remember the one-to-one interactions with individual team members
  • Not all communication should be planned, replace the water-cooler moments with unplanned communication with your colleagues – don’t wait for the team session
  • Remember the phone and the text – old fashioned but still useful. Avoid the additional stress and complexities of the new technologies – simply focus on connecting
  • Use these more personal communications to find out how your team members are coping – they are less likely to talk about stressors publicly, so give them time to unload if they need to

2 Sustain the team

  • Get out of the ‘emergency room’ as soon as possible and find a new normal for your team
  • Now’s the time for reassuring routines and predictable team operation
  • Set up a regular set of team interactions that focus on delivery in the new situation – address task and teamwork but probably at different communication ‘events’
  • Avoid injecting panic into the process, get back to a calmer and more sustainable pattern of teamwork

3 Reprioritise – take the pressure off

  • A new normal is different by definition – so it needs new priorities
  • Don’t necessarily use the priorities from the last two weeks – running a marathon requires a different set from the sprint in the emergency room
  • Realise that stopping things can be a big loss when it includes a treasured project of a team member
  • Focus on taking the pressure off team members collectively and individually recognising that the business need has changed (probably for ever) and individuals may have less energy and resource – some will have been sick, and some may be sick in the weeks to come

4 Meet your own needs

  • This is a time where a little selfishness will help you – so how can you design your job to meet your particular personal demands and pressures
  • Define your personal version of responsible self-care, e.g. time when you are available to your team and times you are not
  • Share how you are working to set the expectations of others and to encourage them to do likewise.