At the beginning of the summer, we anticipated a Roaring 20’s-style revival of fun and seeing the devastation of COVID-19 in the rear-view mirror. Fourth of July parades happened, we got to gather with family and friends, and a lot of us enjoyed vacations again before the kids went back to school. It was awesome! And it will be that way again. But not yet.
Increasingly, we are seeing COVID outbreaks among business teams, causing staffing shortages. There are questions and differing views about masks and vaccines, causing team culture rifts like we were seeing at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s making it feel like we’re starting all over again. And as Business Leaders, we need to be prepared to act, communicate effectively, and get the team aligned again. Here are some ways to get the team functioning on all levels in this new time of crisis:
THE LEADER SETS THE TONE
We’ve said it before, and be assured we’ll say it again: the leader is the one that sets the cultural tone for the entire organization. In other words, if you panic, they panic. If you’re calm, they’re calm. If you’re smiling, they’re smiling. British Psychologist Richard Wiseman studied this phenomenon in 2012 with tens of thousands of participants. “The study found even in the most stressful situations, forcing a smile helped alleviate the symptoms of stress and, as a result, increased happiness.” You can watch a quick video from Dr. Wiseman here.
Strong leaders work on themselves first: it’s the basis of the Truth Triangle concept in our upcoming book, The Honest Truth about Leadership. Taking simple actions such as saying affirmations, practicing gratitude, getting a little exercise, and meditation can make your mindset difference. We know it’s tough to have gratitude as the world is burning around you but make a point to be thankful for something today. You, and in turn your team, will thank us.
A lot of companies, large companies, are requiring their employees to be vaccinated. Our own Ohio State University, a monster of an organization with 66,000 students and over 50,000 employees, is mandating vaccines for all students and staff by October 15. Businesses large and small have vaccines and mask mandates at the forefront of their minds, and the tensions are bubbling. What is the right decision? The simple answer is the one with the emotion removed. You can’t turn on the news, open Social Media, or listen to the radio without someone talking about the politically charged and emotionally charged decisions of whether to mandate masks and vaccines. In the most emotionally charged situations, the answer is always to remove the emotion. And you don’t want to alienate or shun a really great employee because of their stance on vaccines. Make your decision as the business owner fact-based, not emotion-based.
Does your company work as a contractor for healthcare facilities? Or for OSU? Or are you going to lose your largest piece of business if the entire team is not vaccinated? Then those facts say that the business would irreparably suffer without vaccines. Companies like Delta Airlines have added a $200/months surcharge to employees’ healthcare premiums because the data says that non-vaccinated employees cost significantly more in healthcare costs. Businesses have charged these premiums for years, particularly for smoking, or have offered discounts for healthy behaviors.
As far as mask mandates, the CDC has said that unvaccinated people must wear masks in indoor settings. Many companies have mask mandates, and when the number of cases dwindled, so did the enforcement of mask mandates. But with the new, particularly dangerous variants, mask mandates need to be enforced. If your company implements a mask mandate, whether for all or just unvaccinated, it needs to be enforced for everyone equally – the CEO has to wear a mask just like the lowest-wage hourly employee. Communicate to the team that the mask mandates will be enforced, communicate why, and communicate again. The theme here is constant communication and accountability.
HAVE FUN, SAFELY
In such a doom-and-gloom time, teams need to have a little fun. Having fun safely is possible – look at kids. Julie’s daughter is 5 and in kindergarten. A third of her life has been spent in a pandemic. Yet, anyone who meets her knows that she’s having a ball, even properly wearing a mask. Her smile and energy shine through.
Since the weather is nice for another two months or so (at least here in Ohio), utilize outdoor spaces for team meetings. Utilize Zoom. Anything you can do to encourage the team to find common ground when life feels divisive. This is where the attitude of the Business Owner comes back in. If they make it fun, then work is fun.
No matter what happens, the mindset of the Leader is at the forefront. With fact-based decisions, a strong communication strategy, and a little fun, your business can continue to thrive. So let’s look forward to our Roaring 20’s-style summer next year.
Need help with your team culture? Is the COVID vaccine causing a rift in your employee relationships? We can help. Schedule your free, no-obligation session with our award-winning team culture experts today.