Jul 11, 2022 Vas Nair

The Human Side of Leadership

We live with disruption every day! Our everchanging local and international environments, throw us a daily dose of interruptions that impact every one of us – and mind you, in very different ways.

Two people who are leaders walking and the image is blurred.

Your employees could be dealing with a host of unsettling issues ranging from Covid-19 setbacks, not adjusting well to the new way of working, higher cost of living, health, or family issues. Along with this, we’re constantly getting ‘bad news repeats’ through our many sources, which can become quite the distraction. It’s difficult to shut all of this off – unless you’re hiding in a cave! 

So, how can you as a leader help create a culture that is built around caring for others while keeping employees engaged? It’s not about turning off the tap (because you can’t!) but rather figuring out how to better support each other as good teammates.

It’s during these difficult times that your team will want to see the ‘human’ side of you, their leader. Empathy, kindness, strength, and agility all come to mind.

We know that people don’t simply set aside the unrest they’re experiencing when it’s time to tackle work priorities. Whether we like it or not is a moot point. People bring these disruptions to work. And it should matter to you because it could create tension at work, while taking your team’s engagement and productivity levels down.  

Two men arguing at work about the human side of leadership

Although people react to stress in different ways, here are a few signs you might want to look out for:

  • Lack of participation during discussions
  • Disruptive behaviour
  • Poor quality of work
  • Unexpected emotional reactions
  • Absenteeism

So, by keeping in mind that each work scenario is situational, here are some important pointers to help you ‘lead the way’.

Acknowledge – don’t pretend that everything is okay or brush aside the fact that people might be overwhelmed or down in the dumps. Explain that you find things to be challenging as well. This makes you someone they can relate to.

Start the dialogue – they may not want to share all the details with you, however asking about their wellbeing and if they need your help will open channels of communication. Don’t lecture or try to solve the problem for them. They might simply want you to listen. Be empathetic and discuss options on how they could move forward.

Regular contact – this isn’t about sending an email to your employees telling them that you care. Find opportunities to ‘be present’. For instance, stop by their desks daily, set-up weekly team meetings to get updates, make impromptu calls or send texts to check-in.

Sense of purpose – help them to stay focused on their projects, goals, or activities. Remind them why their efforts are important and how it impacts others. This might be what’s required to improve their confidence and keep their mind occupied vs dwelling on other issues. Providing role clarity is especially important for your new hires.

Be realistic – if possible, take a bit of the pressure off. Is there a way to temporarily disperse the workload or extend deadlines? Doing this might be more pragmatic than putting pressure on someone who isn’t able to meet the goals. Also suggesting some time off could benefit them greatly.

A bit of fun – where you can, involve team members to participate in positive activities, such as hosting a cross-functional team building session. It doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. You could make it a monthly Friday Pizza lunch for a quick meet and catch up.

Mean what you say – be genuine when you say that you’d like to help (nothing worse than someone who disappears after offering to help!). Be available to assist where you can and be honest when you don’t have the answers.

Additional support – encourage them to contact HR or access the employee assistance program that your company provides. They need to know that the company takes their ‘whole wellbeing’ seriously.

You can help in a big way by creating a safe and comfortable culture that encourages empathy and employee wellness. It can be difficult to be understanding and patient when you could be in the midst of your own challenges. Therefore, ensure that you have your own ways of dealing with stress, so that you can be strong for your team. There’s no shame in asking for help.

Remember that your team looks to you for guidance and will notice your actions, what you say and how you say it. It matters to them when their leader is someone they can turn to. From your company’s perspective, you can be the glue that helps to bind your employees and foster an inclusive and caring culture.

Giraffe App - Creators Vas Nair and Sobha Nair

Hi there!

We’re Vas and Sobha Nair, two sisters that have lived and breathed all aspects of human resources for over 50 years between us. Giraffe was born from our global experience coaching leaders and business owners navigate the same tricky workplace issues and discussions that you face. We know the best practices and proven processes that help turn workplace conflict on its head – and we want to share all of this and more with you in Giraffe.

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