Leadership and Self Care in Times of Crisis

C. Lauren Fast

Vice President, HR & Organizational Development at Core BTS, Inc.

Learning Objectives

Leadership is hard no matter what, but it's especially hard to be a strong leader in times of crisis such as the one we're in now. If you didn't have the tools to be an effective leader before 2020, you may be feeling very overwhelmed. Even top-notch leaders are feeling overwhelmed between the business and personal effects of our environment. This webinar will provide some key insights leaders can use to connect better with their teams, be vulnerable enough to ask for ideas and feedback, and ultimately use this time of crisis to grow and strengthen their leadership.

Key Takeaways:

  • It's okay to not have the answer, even leaders need to say they don't know sometimes

  • Asking for feedback and allowing your team to give it is vital

  • Self care isn't just for others, leaders need to practice it, too!

"When leaders respect the expertise of their teams and show their team's respect, your team is much more likely to speak new ideas. "

C. Lauren Fast

Vice President, HR & Organizational Development at Core BTS, Inc.


Hello, I’m Lauren Fast. I specialize in Human Resources and Organizational Development. I have a deep passion for leadership development ability to transform teams and organizations. With over 15 years of experience in leadership positions across divisions from operations to human resources, I currently work both as a Leadership Development Consultant with heavy emphasis on helping nonprofit and professional organizations with coaching and training on leadership and as Vice President of HR and Organizational Development at Core BTS Inc., a technology services company.

Today, I want to talk with you about leadership and self care during times of crisis. My webinar is titled Leadership and Self Care in Times of Crisis. Our current environment has brought many challenges. 2020 is an uncertain year for business and for people. Leading through uncertainty is a vital skill, one that is often won through experience. I’ll be sharing some insights to help you in the brief time we’ll have together today. The key takeaways from this webinar are why it’s okay to not have the answer, the importance of getting feedback, and how to practice self care especially during times of crisis when it’s so vital. Of course, as you know, we are on the Quartz Network. And the presentation title, as I said, is Leadership and Self Care in Times of Crisis.

To start right in, the first fundamental is that leadership isn’t easy. If you struggle with what you should do or how to show up for your team, you’re not alone. Those we may admire may make it look effortless. They just lead in always seems to know what to do. That may be true for some, but in most cases, that assurance came with years of experience. Just like all skills, leadership improves with practice and training.

There’s a common statement I hear about leadership being innate, you’re either born a leader or you’re not. People like to say that but I don’t believe it’s true. While some people may find it easier to lead, those we refer to as born leaders, that perceived aptitude is no indication of how strong they can become as leaders.

As leaders, it’s easy to feel we should always have an answer and always be collected, but vulnerability isn’t weakness. It’s okay to say we don’t know especially in times of uncertainty. When the environment is uncertain, everyone already knows it. We’re not giving them any news that they’re not already aware of. Your team isn’t looking for you to know what to do every single moment, but they are looking to us to be truthful and transparent about the uncertainty that we’re all facing, and to commit to work through it with everyone’s best interests at heart.

When leaders respect the expertise of their teams and show their team’s respect, your team is much more likely to speak new ideas. This is one of the ways respect and being open to feedback has a clear return on investment. The competitive age of innovation is undisputed. When people on your team feel safe approaching you with dissenting opinions or new ideas, the whole organization gains. Innovation isn’t possible when your team is afraid to bring up ideas that may not align with their leaders idea. There’s a difference between respectful disagreement and those who always have something contrary to say though, and that’s something that as leaders we do have to watch for. By fostering discourse ensures good ideas don’t get lost in an attempt to manage those resistant to change or progress.

One important difference between strong leaders and those who are just in a leadership position is respect and trust. If you respect and trust your leader, you will go much further to solve problems and follow the direction your leader sets. Anyone can be in charge and expect to be obeyed merely because of their position, but that doesn’t mean they are respected and trusted as leaders. Respect is far more powerful than obedience. In times of crisis, it is especially important to remind your team that their feedback is welcome and wanted. They may have great ideas to help you if they’re asked for their input.

To have a productive feedback session, a few of the things that I like to remind people to do is first explain the common goals. What are we here for? What are we trying to solve? Then, followed by stating the facts of the issue. What are the actual things that are leading to the problem that we’re trying to solve? Finally, give everyone’s ideas of opinions equal weight during the feedback process. You can vet the feedback afterward and determine which things have merit and which don’t. But during that session, when you’re gaining feedback, it’s vitally important that we give everyone equal weight to say their piece.

In times of high stress, it’s also easy to throw ourselves into our work and forget to take time to recharge, whether that’s a day or an hour. Encourage your team to take time to recharge and practice self care. Not only is it a way to show compassion when times are hard, it’s just as important for their mental clarity and productivity. The human brain needs time to unplug. Some of our best ideas come after we’ve stepped away from the problem and given our mind a rest. So whether that’s letting your team take an extra hour at the end of their week to start that weekend early or encouraging them to take a day here and there so they actually can have additional time away from work, that distressing time whether they ride a bike, read a book, or spend some time outside will really benefit the organization and them.

As leaders, we all know we need to show that compassion, especially when times are tough and people are worried about the future. What was the last time you showed yourself the same compassion? Do you make it a habit to ask yourself how you’re doing? Do you give yourself permission to say that you’re not okay? Right now the whole environment that we live in is very chaotic and very uncertain. Even the most stoic leaders are going to find themselves in moments where they just don’t know how they’re going to figure out what to do.

We are all human beings. While some of us are more resilient than others, we all can have days where we just need a break no matter how strong we are. It’s easy to overwork and push ourselves when our organization demands it. When those sprints become the normal because of environmental uncertainty and stress, it’s important to make time to assess how you’re doing. If you burn yourself out, you’ll have nothing left to give your team or your organization.

Take a minute to check in with yourself every day. Find ways to add some buffer and recharge into each week, whether that’s relaxing with a good book, shutting the phone off for an hour and taking a nap, or just not touching electronics in the first hour of your day. Find something that works for you to slow things down and let you recharge. Our minds need it, and your team will thank you for it.

Don’t forget to show gratitude in difficult times. The idea that employees are paid and that thanks enough doesn’t cut it if you want your team to feel valued and respected. It doesn’t need to be grand or public, but taking a moment to thank your team for showing up and letting them know that you appreciate the hard work they’re putting in even though times are uncertain, goes a long way to foster respect and loyalty. Recognize the situation is far from perfect, and their continued dedication to their work and their teammates is noticed and you appreciate it. This could be on a team call every morning when you have a stand up with your team. It could be on a weekly get together. Any way that you express your gratitude is going to be appreciated and going to reap grand rewards.

Finally, the key takeaways from this webinar are first that it’s okay if you don’t have the answer, be honest with your team, show respect for other ideas, and ask for their feedback. It’s amazing what people can come up with when they have a safe environment to discuss ideas.

Encourage self care both for your team and for yourself. You can’t give more than you have. Even the most resilient people need to recharge. It’s so easy as leaders to hold ourselves to a different standard than we hold others. To think that because we’re the leader, we have to always have the answer and we have to always be able to handle the stress of the environment we’re in, but that’s just not true. We are all human beings. We all have the same needs to be able to take that time to let our minds relax, and let ourselves have a moment to recharge to really be able to refocus, especially when times are uncertain and difficult.

Finally, show appreciation for the people that show up every day and help keep things moving during times of stress. Saying thank you goes a long way. Your team will remember it and appreciate it even when things get back to normal.

With that, I’ll say thank you for joining me today for this very brief webinar. I hope you found these insights helpful. Hopefully, you can use them today or tomorrow or next week and ongoing with your team to be able to foster that respect and connection that we all need to have to grow into stronger, better leaders. If you did find this webinar helpful, don’t forget to rate and subscribe so you can see new content as soon as it’s up. Stay safe and healthy.

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