Lockdown Leadership – How to check in with your team and their mental health

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During a lockdown or a Covid outbreak, the one thing as a leader you can’t provide to your team is certainty. Certainty about how long it will go on for, what impact this may have on the wider organisation or whether they (or you) will still have a job. The unknown on the back of uncertainty is a perfect storm for mental health turmoil.

Perhaps you have seen an essential worker who doesn’t want to potentially be exposed to the virus, but feels pressured to go to work. Or maybe someone you know works in retail and is facing panic buying and aggressive customers. Or possibly a friend who runs a small local business which is paralysed by the pandemic. We are all in it together, but our experiences are all very different. So how can we provide effective leadership in a lockdown?

First and foremost, let go of the notion you can control the situation. When we use a coping mechanism to try and control a low-control situation it is a perfect storm to burn yourself out. Acceptance is where you want to roll. This is not surrendering to the situation, but instead understanding you can choose where to focus your energy.

Secondly, be vulnerable with your team. By letting your armour come down and being honest with how you are feeling will in turn give your team permission to be open with you. It is hard to tell someone you are struggling, or you need help, particularly if your manager has little to no EQ and always seems to have it together. Let me be clear – this is not oversharing! Being open and vulnerable that the situation has also made you stressed, worried, uncertain (insert whatever is relevant) will be reassuring to them.

Thirdly, provide emotional support by listening but don’t try to fix their situation. Ultimately people aren’t looking for you to fix it, but by giving your time, empathy and validation for their unique circumstances will go a long way to building trust and showing you genuinely care about them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions- it will show the person you are interested and want to know more. I always encourage people to ask, ‘what do you think would help?’ and ‘How can I help?’. Of course, if you can assist with practical help do it, and if you think their situation could use assistance from a professional then refer them on.

You don’t have to have all the answers for your team. You will go a long way in checking in with them, listening and validating their unique circumstances. Encourage them to focus on what they can control – practice proactive self-care, detach from work (especially if they are working from home), manage stress, practice gratitude and make the best of the situation we are faced with.