Many of us are still working from home, and we’re not sure when that will end. Many of us are living lives of seemingly endless Zoom meetings (I literally had someone ask if we could change our Zoom catchup to a phone call, as they were just “Zoomed out”) and virtual happy hours. Many of us feel like we’re drowning in emails, instant messages, and texts, as we’re all somehow supposed to be always available to each other.

Or at least that’s what some of us think.

We’re trying to make sure we don’t drop anything vital, while many of us are also homeschooling (without having volunteered to homeschool) our children or caring for our other family members (or friends or neighbors) from afar. We’re attempting to handle today’s issues and crises while planning for the future to hopefully avoid issues and crises then. And we don’t know at all what the future will bring, or when it may bring it.

In other words, it’s a lot.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and if you google “what you need to do now to manage (and lead) through COVID,” you’re likely to feel overwhelmed by the results. And you’re likely to feel as if you’re doing it all wrong and missing all the important things. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

So, we thought we’d share our top ten list of leadership behaviors – behaviors that matter no matter the moment and that matter even more now:

  1. Take care of yourself – As we’ve written many, many times, there’s a reason they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first on airplanes. If you can’t breathe, you can’t help anyone else. I don’t know what self-care looks like to you, but to the best of your ability – even while caring for others, leading your teams, and homeschooling your kids – do what you need to do for you. Sleep. Eat well. Take breaks. Stretch. Laugh. Exercise. Do things you enjoy with people you like (even virtually). Connect with people you love.
  2. Make sure others are taking care of themselves – After you’ve made certain you have enough oxygen, check in with the others around you. Your family. Your friends. Your colleagues. Your team. You’ve been modeling self-care, now (strongly) suggest it to the people around you. Notice we didn’t write “take care of others.” Obviously, if you’re responsible for young children or someone who is sick, you need to take care of them. But other than that, encourage others to do what works for them, and don’t feel like you have to do it for them.
  3. Breathe – I’m not joking. This deserves a bullet point of its own. A client recently told me that he realized recently that stopping to breathe was probably the most important thing he could do at pretty much any moment. Pausing to breathe deeply provides us space, so that we’re less likely to be triggered and to react in ways we may regret, and breathing deeply provides us with much-needed oxygen, that will, again, ease our triggers and give us space to respond instead of knee-jerk reacting.
  4. Be realistic – There are numerous blog posts written about managing our expectations – of ourselves and others – right now. Some days we’re productive. Some days it feels like we’re slogging through and getting nothing done. That’s just kinda the way it is. I recently spoke with a potential coaching client. She told me how she was being asked to evaluate and reorg a new team. Now. I pointed out to her that evaluating might be necessary, but it would also be extremely difficult to do in a short period of time with everyone working from home and, potentially, triggered. Manage your expectations of yourself and others and be realistic about what really needs to happen and what is possible.
  5. Take a break – Yes, we are dropping in specific self-care recommendations even though we’ve already included them above, because yes, they’re important. And easy to overlook. Get up from your computer and endless Zooms. Walk around the block if you can or at least around the room. Call a friend. Read a page in a book you enjoy. Give your brain and your heart a break from work and worry.
  6. Figure out what really needs to happen today and what is fluff – This goes along with realistic expectations. There are must-dos and there are nice-to-haves. There are real crises and made-up crises. Focus on what’s essential, then take a break and see what you have time to conquer next.
  7. Acknowledge our emotions – Taking time to acknowledge our humanity when we start a (Zoom) meeting can help us bring more focus to our (Zoom) meeting. A simple red, yellow, green check-in works. Each team member can rate their mood as green (I’m good), yellow (I’m okay but I have a few things I’m concerned about), or red (I’m stressed). They hold up an item of that color and don’t need to explain why – unless it’s work-related and it would be helpful to do so – but just acknowledging the mood we’re bringing to the meeting can help us be more comfortable with the mood we’re bringing to the meeting and more productive in the meeting.
  8. Make time to plan – It is so easy to get caught up in all our to-do’s and pressure and immediate concerns, and we find we have no time to plan. We need to make time to plan. Set aside time in your week to think about the long-term projects, the Important But Not Urgent tasks, the ways work may unfold in the future and how you and your team will need to potentially prepare. If you don’t set aside specific time, you most likely won’t have time, and that will force you into reacting instead of responding again.
  9. Make sure others are taking care of themselves – Yes, this is repetitive. It’s that important. One of a leader’s main roles right now is to encourage those around them to still do their jobs, but to also do what they need to do to be okay. If your team members aren’t taking care of themselves, they’re more likely to burnout, make mistakes, blow up at others, etc.
  10. Take care of yourself – We figured if we started and ended with this very strong suggestion, you’d get the idea of how important it is.

It’s a long list, but it’s an important list. As we keep reminding clients (and friends and family), now is a hard time. But if we’re Thoughtful, we can lead and live through it as best as possible.

What are some of your top-ten leadership behaviors now? How are you showing up at your best?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

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