In the past month, life for most of us has changed. Plans have been disrupted and work looks very different. We may be working from home—or we may not be working at all, furloughed or laid-off from our organizations. There is uncertainty and uncertainty fuels anxiety.
In organizations around the world, leaders and managers are responsible for helping to minimize this anxiety with their workforce. It’s a global issue and certainly an issue of global proportions. After all, how do I as a leader in an organization help provide clarity, when I am living in these unparalleled and uncertain times as well?
The complexity of our times may prompt some to look for a complex answer to these challenges. However, the answer, in part, is fairly simple . . . just be real. In our Flawless Consulting workshops, we call it being authentic. Authenticity isn’t new, but how we leverage it in today’s challenging times may be the best new idea in what is a new time, in how we lead and manage in organizations.
In Peter Block’s book, The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work, he outlines the four basic approaches we can take to be authentic in our interactions with others.
1. Say no when we mean no. Instead of hedging our position for fear of being disapproved of, we make it a point to let others know where we stand. Too many expectations are violated when we are reluctant to take a stand early on. If it’s something you can’t do, won’t do, or shouldn’t do, have the courage to say no and explain why.
2. Share as much information as possible. Let people know the organization’s plans, ideas, and changes as soon as possible. If there is something you can’t share, say so and explain why. In the absence of information, people will fill the void—and what they fill it with is often worse than the truth.
3. Use language that describes reality. Use language that describes the reality of what is happening, rather than hiding it behind corporate speak. Share it in a way that the message gets through. Tell people in unmistakable terms where you or the organization stand, and why you need to take the action you are taking.
4. Avoid repositioning for the sake of acceptance. No public relations in the rah-rah sense, no repositioning just for the sake of selling our story. People need to hear both sides of the story—our certainty and our doubt.
In times of uncertainty and change, people are likely to psychologically and even physically check out. For leaders and managers of organizations, there may be little room for critical players to check out, even for a little while. While the world works to get our global house in order, being authentic may be the most practical thing leaders and managers can do right now.
Beverly Crowell is an experienced facilitator, speaker, thought leader, and author specializing in the areas of business operations, organization, employee and human resources development.