We’re introducing a five-part series called ‘Qualities of Adaptive Leadership in a Time of Uncertainty’. We want to begin by sharing the leadership qualities and strategies that we’ve been focusing on since transitioning to rapid remote work. Future posts will elaborate on each of these qualities in more detail. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know about a new article. 


In the absence of an existing roadmap for Leadership Teams during a pandemic, we’ve been developing our own on the fly—continuously adapting and responding based on feedback from Overlappers. Although it is a natural reaction to want to throw the duvet over our heads and peak out when we’re through to the other side, we believe that there is no time like the present to lean into the uncertainty and transform for the better.

This article was written collaboratively by Rachel Hofstetter, Overlap’s Vice-President and General Manager, and Nicole Francoeur, a Designer on Overlap’s Programs team. 

Presence and Availability

  • True presence is meeting people where they are at. As we deal with change, we are oscillating between reacting, adapting, and growing. It’s important to be aware of where each employee is in this process and respond with empathy
  • Be more available than ever for updates, questions, or as a listening ear if staff need to share concerns

Strategies

  • Meet up with your team using a video call to start the week and have daily check-ins too if possible
  • Keep asking the team for feedback, either verbally or in written form. How can we better support you?
  • Book virtual 1:1 coffee chats with each member of your team
  • Hold virtual ‘office hours’ for staff to touch base informally
  • Create an ‘ask me anything’ channel if you use Slack or Microsoft Teams

Clarity and Transparency

  • Two phrases we’ve borrowed and often quote are: “Clarity is kind” and “When people are left to guess, they often guess wrong”
  • Confidence in Leadership grows with clear, effective, and transparent communication. This helps to reduce fear and stress, which is particularly important at a time like this 

Strategies

  • 3 Rs: Review, Repeat, Reinforce; consider building out your message using our 5 steps to intentional impact worksheet 
  • Repeat information using different formats, including townhall meetings, daily team meetings, Slack

Bias Toward Action

  • Be proactive and do something, even if it’s not the right thing. We don’t need to be perfect right now, we just need to be good enough. Paralysis can actually be riskier than making mistakes
  • Action and risk-taking are an endorsement of hope and can allow for true development

Strategies

Rooted in the Vision

  • Although some days it feels hard to imagine, remind the team that things will start to normalize. Initiate conversations about what we are learning and what we might like to incorporate into our future state
  • This time offers an opportunity to pause and think differently
  • If needed, re-set the organizational vision or amplify the current vision

Strategies

  • Continue with strategic planning
  • Connect all conversations back to the vision
  • Be solutions-focused

Our people are our greatest asset. Maintaining healthy teams in this time of uncertainty starts with empathy. It requires Leadership Teams to consider the qualities of presence, availability, clarity and transparency. Most of all, leaders need to be there for their teams and have a bias toward action while staying rooted in the bigger vision they are trying to achieve.

What strategies is leadership at your organization taking during this time? 

Let us know by emailing hello@overlapassociates.com.