- The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of working individuals throughout the world as they adapt to the new normal.
- Generation Z is the most vulnerable generation to adjusting in trying times, as they may not remember events like 9/11 and the Great Recession.
- Leaders must be able to elevate their leadership style to support team members and empower them to find opportunities amid the current challenges in the workplace.
In 2019, it was reported that 36% of the American workforce will be made up of Gen Z workers by 2020. In case you find yourself confusing Gen Z with millennials, remember that Gen Z was born between 1997 through 2012. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it's important to consider that many individuals working remotely may not have a frame of reference for what it means to live in uncertain times in the United States. Gen Z, at their oldest, would have been four years old on September 11, 2001. They would have barely started middle school during the Great Recession. The memories of these historic, challenging moments are likely to become fuzzier in their respective memory banks than they are for millennials, Gen X and baby boomers.
The trying times have inspired the mantra "We are all in this together." Gen Z may struggle with finding comfort in the midst of chaos, particularly as many navigate their first real jobs in the workforce, but they are not alone. Everyone, regardless of age or background, is trying to figure out how to respond to the crisis and support their teams.
As leaders work to elevate their leadership style to support one another and encourage engagement, here's what they can do now to help team members uncomfortable with change.
1. Talk about America 2.0 and opportunities for innovation with all team members.
I cannot take credit for coming up with this idea. This was a suggestion made by Mark Cuban during an April 8, 2020, webinar with Salesforce. The webinar was a conversation with Cuban on stories of resilience. A listener wrote in a question about how leaders may best be able to lead teams that don't do well with big changes.
Cuban responded that as hard as this time may be, it's also a time for creating opportunities. He suggested asking team members what they think America 2.0 looks like in a post-pandemic world.
Why would you want to ask your team members this question? It's not meant to be a question that comes with a doom-and-gloom answer. Rather, it allows your employees to critically think about the future of innovation. What has been missing? Where is there room for improvement? How can messaging and amplifying the voice of the business allow the business to become an agent of change?
Anyone on your team could be potentially sitting on the next breakthrough moment. They just don't know how they can speak up and talk about it. Give them a chance to speak. Listen to their ideas. Then, strategize on how this collective input – and any common themes expressed by team members – may be leveraged for the greater good of the business and industry.
2. Reconnect with your mission statement.
While team members process what is going on by talking it out with leadership, the same members of leadership may find themselves revisiting the company mission statement.
A successful mission statement allows you to understand what the mission of your business is in the short and long run. It does more than define your purpose in business. A mission statement provides guidance for moving forward. You should be able to reread this statement and find inclusive language that inspires all shareholders and how, thus far, the business has been able to make good on its promises.
For businesses that have reevaluated their mission statement and find it still has a succinct purpose, and unites one and all together, keep spreading that mission around.
If you think your mission statement feels like it has strayed from its specific purpose, use this time to get back on track. Focus on how you may make it easy for all stakeholders, from employees to customers, to adopt and understand the mission and values of your brand.
These are the four key elements to focus on when rewriting your mission statement:
These elements will allow you to clearly define your purpose and vision. You will also be able to better articulate how your business plans to help others and establish a call to action that encourages everyone to get involved and work together. Once you have rewritten your mission statement, you may be able to share this brand narrative with one and all. The stability of knowing that this aspect of your business will not change can be a comfort and a motivator, inspiring team members to give it their all each and every day.
3. Practice positivity and kindness.
In times of crisis, members of the team look to their leadership for the next steps. Grappling with change on this level is made a bit easier when you have calm leadership that sees the glass as half full.
Yes, life is a bit chaotic right now, but that does not mean it's time to abandon etiquette or stop practicing simple acts of kindness. Leaders who choose to use this time to communicate with their teams and solve problems will be able to establish order from chaos. Their actions, particularly if they are proactive and thoughtful, will inspire a domino effect with team members. A team member is much more likely to stay focused and on the task at hand if their leadership is transparent and genuinely concerned about their well-being.
Use this downtime to reconnect with your fellow humans. If you work in sales, reach out to loyal customers by calling them to see how they are doing and have a conversation together. Taking the time to talk is part of taking care of your customer base. Whether they are customers or members of your team, it's important to show others that you can lean on one another for support and know that they will have your back in return.
4. Motivate everyone to keep (physically) moving.
The ability to go for a walk or run, shoot some hoops in your driveway with a basketball, go rollerblading and work out to a yoga instruction class on YouTube has not been canceled. We may be practicing social distancing and staying at home, but that does not mean we cannot move our bodies.
Team members struggling with the crisis may find it difficult to get physically moving. They may feel much more compelled to end their workday by lying on the couch and scrolling through Twitter until it's time for bed.
Exercise helps you to boost your endorphins and keep your mind in a naturally good mood. Leaders may remind those team members feeling down that when they were at the physical office together, they would use their break time to go for a walk.
Encourage employees to maintain the same kind of behavior while they work from home. Use your breaks to go for walks around the neighborhood; make a delicious, healthy lunch for yourself; and exercise post-work on your own or with loved ones under the same roof. Movement is, quite literally, mood-alteringperson. The more you're able to squeeze in more exercise, the more you'll be able to stay alert and focused on what's to come now, and nimble enough to easily adjust to the arrival of the new normal.