“Right now, you as leaders have only one option: Lead your way out of this challenge.” That’s what Mike Caracalas, leadership coach, executive consultant, and author of Ten Strategies to Get Better Results with People advises.
But leading in the best of times is difficult, and while many of the best leadership qualities and practices must apply these days more than ever, leaders must quickly adapt to an ongoing, very complex way of getting work done. This includes leading through a crisis and keeping your business moving forward.
We caught up with Mike for some key strategies on how to lead through the current COVID-19 crisis, feel liberated in the process, and empower your teams to bring their best selves to work…even if it’s from their living rooms.
TeamSupport: Thinking back to pre-pandemic, how would you coach individuals about leading support people effectively while meeting the demands of the organization?
Mike Caracalas: My philosophy is: “Lead People. Manage Things.” I start there, with the human element. When coaching individual leaders, whether it be for a support team or any team, my approach focuses on two primary practices: Raising Awareness and Taking Responsibility. To build self-awareness, together we take a look at what you are doing well when leading people and where there could be some improvement. I help you look inward towards your own motivations to determine the impact you’re making—positive and negative—and include input from others.
Then we explore, “How do you take responsibility for your effectiveness?” We work through new approaches for you to try and take account of the positive change that results.
TS: Is it different when coaching a C-suite executive as, say, a department manager or team leader?
MC: Yes and no. Yes, in that we still approach the process from Raising Awareness and Taking Responsibility. With senior leaders it is a one-on-one process, for six months, and begins with a 360 assessment. At the manager or team leader level we work more in a group setting. That allows the benefits of learning from me as their coach as well as from their peers.
I also coach teams, a small group of people who have a common set of goals and objectives, and where each team member is dependent on others to achieve those goals. In this case, the team leader is still a member of the team and we raise awareness and take responsibility for the team as a collective whole.
TS: As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, everything is different about how we live, work, and interact with others. Notably, “shelter in place” with everyone working from home. What things about how to lead effectively are the same as in person at a workplace? Where should leaders make adjustments, and how?
MC: There is a whole lot that is the same in our current environment. Remember, we are still humans leading humans. We are empowering individuals, developing our teams, and holding people accountable. And we need to grow as professionals. In a crisis like we’re in now, it’s more important than ever to increase self-awareness and take responsibility for our own results.
What is different now? You might need to adjust your expectations. I’m not talking about compromising quality of work deliverables or attention to customers. One example might be to adjust your expectations for timing. When you are working with others, there are human interactions all day, collaborating on projects, passing each other in a break room, and it’s more seamless. When people are working from home, there are not only other distractions—children, spouses or roommates also working from home—but the need for “sanity” breaks. Be mindful. Be understanding. We hear it all the time, “We’re all in this together.” Co-workers, managers, and our customers will not only understand, but will likely appreciate having a little pressure lifted themselves!
We continue our chat with Mike Caracalas about liberating your inner leader—even from your living room—in Part 2 of this series, where we talk about how to keep things fresh as the weeks go on and how to reacclimate to working “together” in the literal sense when our workplace doors open back up.