No one knows what the workplace is going to look like in three months. COVID-19 continues to spread. School reopening and attendance plans remain tenuous. Further action from Congress is uncertain. Official rules from the Department of Labor might even be struck down in court, further adding to the confusion about what employers are supposed to be doing.
Leading an organization right now can feel like driving to a destination you’re not sure exists on a road that’s changing right before you.
In this situation, we need to accept that the typical ways of leading a team may not prove successful. The simple question of what success looks like right now isn’t easy to answer with either clarity or consistency. For instance, conventional wisdom around goal setting says that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals). But the pandemic has made it much more difficult to pin any of these down. Think of the movie studio executives attempting to calculate the risks of releasing a feature film on a streaming service instead of in movie theaters. Or grocery store employees trying to mandate mask wearing and social distancing when some vocal customers don’t want to cooperate. What success looks like in these situations is not at all clear.
While it’s unlikely that leaders can bring true clarity and certainty to the present moment, there are leadership practices that can help promote the well-being of the organization and its people. We recommend the following: