When we were first ordered to stay at home, leaders worked tirelessly to handle the myriad of problems created by COVID-19. It was a time to rise to the occasion, to be brave, and to serve. Leaders were tired but running on adrenaline, cortisol, and caffeine. They had very little time to get faculty set up to teach online and employees to work from home. It was a state of emergency. They didn’t think about how that made them feel because they were focused on getting things done.
But it’s been two months. Two long months filled with crises, countless zoom meetings, challenges, frustration, and complete uncertainty about the short-term future. Leaders are tired, but it’s a different kind of tired. There is an emotional weight we are all feeling. Whether we allow ourselves to think about what we miss and how we wish things were different or we don’t, reality is heavy. Some of you may feel discouragement or even grief for all the simple things we have lost.
1. Let yourself be human
If you are at a low point, please don’t judge yourself for it. You are a human being and it’s perfectly normal to experience a range of emotions. Don’t make yourself wrong when you are sad about your situation. Even if you are among the most fortunate people and you aren’t struggling for survival, your feelings are still valid. Don’t dismiss your experience because it’s less tragic than what others are going through.
When you need to take a break and rest, do it. If you have been suppressing a need to cry, let it out. Being courageous doesn’t mean not having feelings. It means being brave enough to acknowledge your feelings. If you have been neglecting self-care, now is the time to bring back balance. Even with all of the current restrictions, you can find something to do that you enjoy. Try music, books, meditation, exercise, or a simple bubble bath.
2. Seek connection and unity
A few weeks ago, you could see people on social media asking who needed help getting groceries. Healthy people wanted to help the most vulnerable ones and there was a sense of solidarity. But now, people are sick and tired of the situation, and many turn their frustration into a need to blame or attack others. The country is divided between people who want to re-open quickly and others who think it’s unsafe. Both sides have difficulty showing respect and compassion for those who disagree with them.
As leader in higher ed., your role is to avoid blaming or dividing people. Please look for ways you can help your team members feel connected and part of something meaningful. Focus on what you have in common rather than controversial topics. Make time to express appreciation for your team members. Now is the time to use your ability to motivate, inspire, and uplift your employees
3. Communicate an inspiring vision for the future
When my clients go through a tough time, I remind them that it’s temporary and help them find things to look forward to, to shift their attention and their emotions. Many of your employees are worried about budget cuts and the possibility of losing their jobs. Chances are, they are not thinking about exciting projects or meaningful contributions they will get to make in 2020/2021. Most of you reading this post are not able to make any promises to anyone because you don’t yet know what cuts will be made. But you can reflect on how you want to lead and where you want to take your department.
Create and communicate an inspiring vision for the future. You can also tell your team members how excited you are about seeing them back on campus. It’s ok if you don’t know any details or timelines. The idea here is to help them think about regaining a sense of normalcy. Take a moment and ask yourself what you personally look forward to, and what you think will bring comfort to your employees.
Now more than ever, you need to be in contshuttrol of your thoughts and focus, reassure your staff (to the extent that you can and without being misleading), be creative about resource allocation, and work on employee morale. It won’t be easy, but it can be tremendously rewarding. Click here to schedule a complimentary call with me, and we’ll discuss how we can work together to make 2020/2021 the best year that it can be. Talk to you soon.
About the author:Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. For more information, visit ThrivingInAdmin.com