How to manage COVID-19 fear and panic

Last week I was facilitating strategic planning workshops and coaching executives to manage what now looks like comparatively mundane problems.

As businesses and organisations scramble to respond to the rapidly emerging, unprecedented global realities of Coronavirus (COVID-19), many leaders are feeling overwhelmed and under pressure.

But, here's the thing...

It will take more than simply enacting hastily developed business continuity plans, event cancellations and work-from-home arrangements to see everyone safely through to the other side.

Confronting Our Reality

Let's start with what we DO know:

  • People are scared and worried - the pace and impact of the Coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and no-one was prepared.
  • People fear most what they don't know - uncertainty is one of the biggest drivers of fear.  How long will this last?  Will I or my loved ones contract it? What will this mean for my job and finances?
  • The timeframe is uncertain and things are changing daily - what was planned yesterday may not apply tomorrow.
  • Priorities have changed overnight - that all important project everyone was working so hard on last week, is no longer critical.
  • The way you led your people last week simply won't work now - simply being 'consultative and nice' isn't enough.

Regardless of whether you lead a family, small team or a global organisation, now is the time to press pause, pivot and focus on what is going to make the biggest, most positive difference.

Here's how...

Enter... REAL Leadership

REAL Leadership is a specific yet simple leadership approach to help you lead yourself and your people safely through these testing times.

R - Respond and Reassure

Operating from a place of fear yourself will increase the anxiety of everyone around you. As you raced around the supermarket to stock up on toilet paper and other essentials, did you notice the intense and serious faces adopting the 'bunker down' mentality? Reacting is not the best way out of this!

Dismissing your people's very real fear to lessen the emotional impact on yourself is like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand.

Likewise, the insensitive (although well-intentioned), use of humour to 'lighten the mood', can easily backfire when others around you are experiencing heightened anxiety.

Conversely, responding and reassuring in an emotionally intelligent way will be appreciated. This simply involves noticing, empathising, respecting and acknowledging how people are feeling.

Listening compassionately and responding calmly will help your people feel heard and know that you care about them.

But it's not just your words that matter. Notice the impact your tone and non-verbal communication has on those around you.

Responding calls on us to weigh up the facts, consider all the options and make the best decisions for everyone. Heeding official advise and enabling compliance is your best starting point.

Helpful responses include flexibility, strong positivity and optimism, mixed with pragmatic and innovative solutions.

It will be OK and this too will pass. #leadership #coronavirus #reassurance

Click to Tweet

E - Engage Often, in a Meaningful Way

Whether they are working in the office or from home, conducting regular 'How are you doing?' wellbeing checks is vital. Schedule Beginning and End of Day check-ins in your diary. Even those who are doing just fine will welcome the opportunity to talk.

Social distancing and physical isolation doesn't mean being emotionally disconnected. Someone who was fine yesterday, may suddenly feel panicked and overwhelmed. Keeping a close eye on your team will help you quickly respond to how people are feeling.

Sharing frequent factual updates and creating the opportunity for your team to share their thoughts and feelings will strengthen connection and build unity.

Unless your team members are used to working alone from home, the novelty will soon wear off. Encourage team members to stay connected with and support each other.

While there will be natural alliances and support networks within your team, keep an eye on those who are less social and often the most vulnerable to loneliness.

A - Accept What Is

Much about the Coronavirus pandemic is outside our control. Continuing to resist and rail against the impacts and realities will cost you much-needed energy and won't actually change anything.

Acceptance helps us recognise exactly what is outside our control; acknowledging its impact and moving to a place of tolerance and patience. It opens up space to focus on what is within your control - those things you can influence and impact in a positive way.

This is where your mental attitude will have a direct impact on your own and your team's wellbeing. Projecting your anxiety will help no one and drain your resilience.

Drop the Drama!

While many people thrive on a crisis, being dramatic is not going to help anyone. Using dramatic language (aka, 'OMG, this is DIABOLICAL!' ) with an intense, exasperated tone, fuels fear, panic and alarm.

Take time to regularly calm yourself - deep breathing, meditation, taking a walk, talking to a calm loved one and re-framing the meaning you're putting on the situation will all help. Rather than being a 'disaster', make this an opportunity.

L - Leverage Your Relationships

This is not a time to take on the burden of being all things to all people. Nor is it a time for Hero Leadership where you ride in on your white horse, brandishing your Coronavirus sword to 'save the day'. Spread the load.

Your team and colleagues all have different strengths and skills. Recognising where you might not be as strong or don't have capacity creates the opportunity for others to step up and make their difference.

People love to help out and feel needed and useful during times of high pressure and stress. During the recent bushfire crisis and drought, people banded together in extraordinary ways.

As a leader, you can be most effective by enabling everyone to help each other. Actively tap into your network and create connections that help people support each other and do good work.

* Bonus Tip

There's never been a better time for daily Random Acts of Kindness - helping others in small and simple ways is WIN WIN!

Key Take Aways

  1. We're all in this together and together we'll get through this.
  2. Consciously practice REAL Leadership every day.
  3. You've got this! Now is the time to show up as the best leader you can possibly be.

Your people will remember what you said and did and how you made them feel long after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

Need Help to to Navigate Your Way Through?

Online or Phone Coaching will help you quickly and effectively adapt your leadership to resolve YOUR immediate challenges in real time.

At Possibility to Reality we coach via Skype for Business, Zoom, Phone and Email so whatever works best for you is fine.

I'm here if you need support! 🙂

Caroline Cameron Online Coaching
About Caroline

Caroline Cameron is an award winning, master certified executive, career and business team coach, workshop facilitator and speaker. Caroline is on a mission to help mid-career professionals and evolving organisations harness the power of change to achieve success in business, work and life.

Read More About Caroline

So... how can I help you?

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