12 Things for Middle Managers to Think About in Relation to the Pandemic

By Oliver W. Cummings

1 May 2020

Fundamentally, the act of being a leader involves followers and knowing what to do is not sufficient to inspire followers’ trust; knowing how to go about what you do is what makes for real leadership. And, the “how” is very much tied up in facilitative relationship building. This is true in the best of times, but if everything is going along pretty much as usual, our attention to the relationship building can become routine, or even a little lax.

But, when a crisis hits, those relationships are brought to the forefront and when the crisis is a big, for-real deal, – rather than a normal crisis, like the disruptive entrance of a threatening new business model, as Amazon has been to many retail business establishments – I mean a for-real big deal like the Covid19 producing pandemic, then the metal of every unit leader is tested.

For those faced with job losses, including their own, it is a big deal – how to handle the situation that you may never have faced before, like going from a bread-winner to standing in a bread line for hours just to feed your family.

For those faced with continuing to do business as usual, the challenges are real and a big deal – a firefighter is still expected to respond to a fire alarm, rescue people, infected or not, if need be, and put out the fire.

And, for those whose unit demands continue but under very different constraints and challenges can be horrendous. Think about the doctors and nurses taking care of Covid19 patients at their own personal risk, unable to go home to their own family after work for fear of infecting them, unable to provide for a family visit – or even to show a reassuring smile behind their PPE – to a patient in distress, and dealing with a disease for which there is no known cure.

In each of these three circumstances the beyond-normal manager competencies of facilitative behaviors become hyper-important:

  1. Believe in what can be done by a committed group of people and that, even when they are not able to achieve what they set out to do, they are positively motivated.
  2. Understand and feel, empathically, what others are going through so that you do not tread on their feelings unknowingly.
  3. Genuinely care about others; and, when what you have to do is detrimental to them in some way, be sure that you do it respectfully and compassionately.
  4. Build on the trust you’ve managed to earn and keep true to your trustworthiness.
  5. Above all, maintain your integrity through the whole process.

Trust and integrity go hand-in-hand. Interpersonal trust is a two-way process and is tied to common experiences. In a time of crisis people look to their respected managers for a steady hand.

Done with honesty and commitment to doing what is right based on a solid understanding of right from wrong (aka, done with integrity), these things will help bolster your trust relationships with your employees:

  1. Be predictable. A key to cultivating trust is consistency of behavior.
  2. Handle the pressure. Be where you need to be, doing what is most important for you to do – and be sure your folks know where you are and why – in this way stay “visible.”
  3. Tell the truth and keep your promises. Getting caught in a lie or breaking a promise will do immediate and usually long-lasting damage to your trustworthiness.
  4. Show concern for employee’s and other units’ rights and issues. Such concern provides a sense of security that you will not take unfair advantage.
  5. Be accurate and forthright in communications. To the extent you ethically can, you should provide adequate explanations of decisions and actions.
  6. Share some control, but make decisions decisively, timely, and with the information available. Smart delegation and participation at a decision-making level with employees is effective.
  7. Demonstrate your competence and resolve to deal with the complexities of the circumstance. For others to trust you they must first believe you are competent (to do the job, to make the decision, to exercise sound judgment), and that you intend to win.

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