The Pandemic: the ultimate rule breaker
As a result of the pandemic, we have, in our personal lives as well as our professional lives, broken so many of the rules that we usually live with and abide by. How about the 3 second food on the floor rule; the business etiquette rule of shaking hands when you meet someone or the requirement to wear something (other than pajamas) when attending a meeting? Complete anarchy.
How do we, as leaders, get control and lead by example (remotely and in person at some point in the future) while at the same time setting the stage for the new norm. It is the job of a leader to establish and enforce the rules that will be necessary to support the new workplace.
In order to make everyone feel comfortable and to get buy in from all, you need to begin by acknowledging the uncertainties that have resulted from the pandemic. This could start with a discussion of then and now to help understand what was deemed necessary before and to set a baseline. For the most part, people were accepting of the workplace rules and following them. From there you can work on transitioning to the future. Getting them to understand and accept the new norm and building from a place of acceptance will make the adjustment to the next level of rules more likely. That process takes time but doing it right will get everyone to embrace the changes for the long term.
You will also have to pivot around certain immediate health and safety rules and required mandates. This can be difficult as it is faster than a gradual change where people have a chance to process and get comfortable with the subtleties of change. Acting or reacting fast can be unsettling (especially now) so communicate often and be as clear as possible in the message. Communication is crucial during this time and even more difficult if done remotely. It is also ok to admit upfront that this directive is for now and may change (again). Ask for everyone to shift to and abide by the request quickly and until further notice. Even if it is mandate from outside of your company, the executive team needs to embrace the directive while figuring out how best apply it to your company’s situation.
As leaders we must give permission to allow people to ask questions. Do not assume anyone knows what is the “right” thing to do. Be humble and admit there will be missteps on the path to getting it correct. Control what you can for consistency and peace of mind. Something everyone needs now. Set a path and provide guidance by creating new and revising existing policies and procedures. To get support you should convene team meetings of employees from all levels. Listen to the concerns and ideas while guiding them to the new rules and norms. Then create and revise policies and procedures based on your meetings and share drafts with your management group. This allows you to hear the next level of thoughts and concerns while creating best practices. Sometimes as the one who writes the message, you think you are conveying a certain message; however, it is less than clear to the person reading it.
For the considerable future there will be several reasons why some of your team may need to continue to work remotely. This makes consistency of delivery and implementation of new rules more difficult. It is very important to level the playing field for all. It is also imperative to have empathy to each person’s situation, now more than ever. Find ways to be flexible yet consistent across the entire organization in both communicating and enforcing the new norm.
No matter what, a pandemic or the next disrupter, there are some basic rules that need to always stay in place. Be kind, thoughtful and help to others.