The tempo in our return to office plans should be much slower than it was when the pandemic started and everyone went home to work. When the pandemic started, the pace of getting employees to work from home was like running. It was a crisis. Now, a year and a half later, the crisis is still showing uncertainty. As employees begin to move back to the office, great leaders know that the way back isn’t to run. Leaders need to set a tempo that’s more like walking.
In this episode, Rob LoCascio, CEO of Live Person, shares with us that the greatest leaders today must be the type that set a walking pace, provide certainty and clarity, and remain authentic – even in the most challenging times.
This is the time for leaders to acknowledge that no one knows what the future holds. The best way forward is for leaders to share the truth about what they do know, rather than pretending they have everything figured out. Instead, leaders must listen to their employees to find out what their employees need in order to Team Anywhere.
Leaders Should Give Themselves a Break
Leaders can be very hard on themselves. They have had to navigate immense amounts of uncertainty without having much control over it. As humans, we tend to get angry when we feel we are losing control. The pandemic has caused leaders to feel frustrated, angry, and helpless as they try to navigate the return to office plans moving forward. The lack of ability to control the situation can be aggravating and defeating. We all get it, and we all feel it.
But at the end of the day, leaders have to give themselves a break and realize that they are doing their best. Every company is dealing with the same issues and no one has the right answer right now. Give yourself a break and focus on accepting that there are things occurring right now that you can’t control.
Walk – Don’t Run
Our natural tendency is to run, when right now, we need to walk. It is extremely important that leaders slow down and listen to what their employees are thinking, saying, or not saying. This advice is similar to the concept from the book, The First 90 Days. Inside this book, the author, Michael Watkins, recommends that new leaders spend the first 90 days at a new company just listening and not making any changes. By taking the time now to slow down and really listen to your employees–without rushing to make changes or decisions–you can get a lot of valuable information that is going to be needed when it is time to solidify a plan.
Be Authentically Empathetic
One of the biggest themes the Team Anywhere Podcast has explored through the pandemic is leading with empathy. Leaders have to listen empathetically, and with authenticity.
Great leaders listen to deeply understand their employees. Listening with empathy allows leaders to know what their employees’ concerns are, what they are afraid of, and how their living situation affects where and how they want to work. Every person is very different, each having a wide range of concerns and values that they want their leaders to understand.
Leaders are getting mixed answers as they listen to their employees in their return to office plans. Younger employees tend to want to get in the office because it’s a part of their social life. Employees with families and longer commute times would rather gather more occasionally. Right now, the best leaders are taking the time to empathize with everyone’s unique needs without rushing to make decisions.
Make a Safe Environment For Employees
Right now, leaders need to make a safe environment for their employees. This safe environment can go two ways: physically, in the office, and metaphorically, on the team. COVID will likely spike in the fall, raising employees’ concerns of spending time in the office. These concerns are ranging from the necessity of needing a booster shot, understanding the new COVID variants, and the possibility of getting infected. Regardless of the location your team is right now, ensuring a safe work environment is one of the best things a leader can do as they navigate the current situation.
Leaders are navigating hybrid teams and scheduling meetings, and this is turning into an extremely complex problem. Because of the complexity, leaders need to schedule diligently. As the leader, it’s your job to gather people, so ensure that your gatherings are appropriately timed to ensure that they will run smoothly. Don’t take scheduling meetings lightly.
Be Extremely Clear
Part of your role as the leader is to cut through the information overload so that your team has clarity. It’s hard to be clear when major events like COVID occur. It’s important to be honest about what you know and what is certain. Leaders can share with their teams what they care about and what they value. Doing this gives teams a sense of security.
Apologizing Gives You The Power to Move Forward
In a crisis, leaders can make mistakes, or do things that they don’t want to do – but have to do. In these situations, leaders have the power to apologize. Giving a sincere apology can give leaders the power to move forward and be granted the possibility of being forgiven. One of the hardest things for leaders to say is “I’m sorry,” but the words carry a lot of respect and weight when used at the right time.
About Robert LoCaccio, Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Rob LoCascio is the founder of LivePerson, Inc. and has been its chief executive officer since its inception in 1995, making him one of the longest-standing founding CEOs of a tech company today. As the inventor of online chat for brands, Rob disrupted the way people communicate with companies around the world, removing the need for 1-800 numbers, long wait times, and endlessly scanning websites for information.
In 2016, Rob again led the company to the forefront of conversational commerce by making it easy for consumers to connect with brands on messaging via platforms including SMS, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, and even brand apps and websites. In 2018, Rob delivered on his vision for AI-powered conversations, opening the doors for brands to message at massive scale while still providing outstanding customer experiences. Now in 2020, Rob is a leading voice on reforming the future of work, helping cultivate innovative new systems that support the needs of LivePerson’s global staff, and challenging the reliance on physical office spaces.
As someone who has been on the entrepreneurial journey for over two decades, Rob’s mission is to inspire and help others who are on that same path. LivePerson has come a long way since its early years, having survived the dot-com crash and grown to become the leader in Conversational AI and automation solutions, currently serving over 18,000 clients, with 1,200 employees worldwide.
Beyond his decades of work at LivePerson, Rob’s interests extend past his business and reflect his close ties to New York City and his journey as an entrepreneur and humanitarian. He is a founding member of EqualAI, which works with companies, policy makers, and experts to reduce bias in AI, and the NYC Entrepreneurs Council of the Partnership for New York City. In 2001, he started the Dream Big Foundation with its first program, FeedingNYC, which gives families in need a Thanksgiving dinner. To date, FeedingNYC has donated more than 85,000 meals. Its second program, the Dream Big Entrepreneurship Initiative, launched in 2014 to fund, mentor, coach, and empower local entrepreneurs in underserved communities.
To hear the full episode to learn more crisis leadership strategies, download the episode today.
Online Courses for Leaders Leading a Team From Anywhere:
Check out these online courses for remote leaders from the Team Anywhere Team.