How to lead your team through stress

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Elevated fear, irrationality and anxiety in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic are normal human reactions to dealing with the unknown.

But heightened emotions can create conditions that are ripe for low performance, high mental health stress and a breakdown in team culture.

It’s more important than ever for leaders find ways to support their people, to ensure well-being but also to safeguard the business’s activities.

So how can leaders best pilot their people through these times?

An online coaching program hosted by The Jonah Group’s Mental Health business leader, Anna Feringa, offers four ways for business leaders to manage stress and anxiety in their people.

  1. Slow down

First, Feringa advises leaders to simply slow down and gently reduce their expectations of people.

“It’s really important that we be human, particularly now in crisis,” she says.

“You need to bring more of yourself to your leadership style right now because that’s what’s going to help you run a team at its optimum.

“You as a leader are stressed, your teams are stressed.

“People are going to still pretend to be okay when they’re not so it’s really important that you create avenues and space.

“That’s what’s going to release stress.

“That’s what’s going to give you information.”

  1. Connect one on one

Next, step up your one-on-one meetings.

Feringa says team meetings are not the answer to helping people manage stress as we all wear what she calls a ‘strength mask’ in public, hiding our true feelings from those around us.

“One on ones – that’s where you’re going to get the truth. You can’t fix things you don’t know. People are physically and emotionally isolated.”

  1. Practise genuine care

One of the ironies of 2020 is that the world is awash with businesses expressing care and concern for their people, risking what Feringa calls ‘care fatigue’ where people become cynical about a business leader’s intentions.

“People are finely tuned to when you’re not being genuine,” she says.

“You need to be mindful of that because as soon as soon as someone senses you’re not being genuine, you’re going to see a drop in trust and you’re going to see a drop in engagement.”

  1. Offer mental health coaching

Finally, leaders need to offer their people mental health coaching.

“But guess what? This doesn’t have to be you!” says Feringa.

“You have got to know your boundaries. How much is too much? How much caring are you doing? Are you burning out?”

Instead, Feringa urges business leaders to reach out to mental health support services and lean on them.

“Your job is to manage your team in a safe and calm manner but also achieve business outcomes. Don’t burn yourself up by trying to fix the unfixable.”

The outbreak of COVID-19 is stressful. Fear and anxiety about the disease, impact on financial security and our families, managing a team from home and self-isolation can be overwhelming. Everyone reacts differently.

Workplace leaders, health, safety and wellbeing professionals are encouraged to register for the live, online Mental Health Awareness training led by Anna Feringa

 This webinar program covers:

  • Your role as leader and how to support them to be mentally healthy
  • Learn what a mentally healthy workplace looks like and how to build one
  • Avoid the traps many fall into when dealing with mental health problems
  • Discover new sources of internal and external support