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  • Writer's pictureJill Hauwiller


An online quip recently caught my attention: “You are not working at home; you are living at work.” Variations of this quote and the sentiment behind it have been part of many leaders’ realities for the past year or more. While this article is being written as we surpass the one-year anniversary of Covid-19 in the United States, leading with emotional intelligence boosts leader effectiveness and empathy in any crisis a leader, team or organization may experience.

Today, organizations have been promoting and supplementing their well-being and resilience programs with the intention of supporting employees through the ongoing strains and stresses of now. As a leader, tapping into your own resilience is a core competency during times of crisis. It is part of emotional intelligence and contributes to the relationship your team is seeking from you.

You may be wondering where you find resilience, especially after a year of significant change both at home and at work. After all, you are experiencing similar stressors to everyone else, and you are also leading a team or organization. It is important to acknowledge the energy burden of additional stress and assess how it affects you. In my coaching practice, I have seen the necessities of the pandemic show up in leaders’ workstyles in multiple ways.

One example is the leader who is “overworking.” A client of mine, who we'll call Simon, is a vice president of sales in the manufacturing industry. He feels burned out. There is no definition to his workday; he is always working. He has abandoned any self-care practices to the point of sustained sleep deprivation. Simon’s team is suffering due to the lack of boundaries around work modeled by their leader, and some team members have started to take on similar work schedules.

Another example is the leader who is “underworking” due to the demands of their home and personal life. Morgan is the director of operations in the technology industry. He is stretched thin and distracted from his work responsibilities. He may be just as burned out as the “overworking” leader because he is pulled in multiple directions, and self-care has gone out the window. The team has started to notice that their leader is less available, and they don’t feel supported in their own challenges. The team isn't as focused on its priorities and is not meeting organizational objectives.

While these leaders and the challenges their teams are facing may seem very different, the capabilities they need overlap more than you might expect. Here's how they — and anyone in a similar situation — can lead with emotional resilience:

Rebuild team confidence.

Discuss the changes and challenges of the crisis environment. Ask your team about their perceptions of their current experience and be prepared to share your own. Acknowledge your role as a leader and what they can expect from you going forward. Look for ways to be flexible. Connect your team to organizational resources. Reach out to your leader and peers for support and connection, and share this with your team. Cultivate optimism about lasting changes, and create opportunities for ongoing team input.

Spend time listening.

Prioritize time with your team individually and as a group. Bring an empathetic mindset to these conversations. Listen to their concerns and obstacles they are facing. Ask about what is going well for them. Invite them to express their feelings. Make time for collaboration and connection moments, especially if the team continues to work remotely.

Define boundaries.

Revisit expectations for yourself and your team in terms of work hours and expectations for availability. Ask yourself:

• If there is work to be done after hours, is there another time that can be more flexible? How can I incorporate more flexibility into my expectations and my expectations for time?

• What technology can I use (like email scheduling when working after hours) to create space for my team?

• What support can I enlist from my leader and peers to address workload and team support? How can I build these relationships so that we are more effectively supporting each other through stressful times?

Invest in self-care.

Pause for the little things. Find mindful moments in your day to be fully present. Try engaging all of your senses as you brew that first cup of coffee for the day: listening to the sound of the coffee brewing, smelling the aroma of the ground coffee, feeling the warmth as you raise your mug, noticing the color and movement of the coffee as you take that first sip, and tasting the rich brew. Give yourself permission to have a device-free meal. Create small rituals at the beginning and end of your workday to reinforce boundaries. Move your body throughout the day — stretch your limbs, turn your head, focus your eyes on something farther away than your screen and take deep breaths.

As a leader, if you take the time to think through your version of these four skills, you will build your emotional intelligence by having a better sense of your own energy and perceptions. Your team’s trust in your leadership and advocacy for their needs will grow, which is likely to lead to greater team engagement and resilience. All of this is important whether you are working from home, working at home, leading through crisis or leading in calmer times.

*This article first appeared on Forbes.


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