Managing COVID-19 as a Leader

Written by: Brian Smith & Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors 

When tragedy strikes, we are often bombarded by both inspirational stories and those of disappointment. With COVID-19, we have witnessed this bombardment across every sector of business. We consult business leaders, managers, and employees all day and—nearly—all night about the various aspects of life being interrupted by this amazingly challenging time in history. IA Business Advisors offer this advice for managing the effects of COVID-19 as a leader.

Understanding the Effects

First, its important that leaders realize that different people have different ways of dealing with stress. In addition, people will have different stress and trigger points. For example, not everyone is concerned about finances or where they work from. Some people have family and friends that are being more negatively affected than them, creating a different kind of stress that can be misunderstood or dismissed by people who don’t find themselves influenced by such issues. Others find the entire COVID-19 crisis ridiculous or feel the world is overreacting, supported by phrases like, “What’s the big deal? The flu is worse.”

We had a few team members who thought this might be an overreaction. We read influenza statistics and compared them to the statistics for COVID-19, feeling the data supported this conclusion. However, we were wrong. We owe our families, team, and clients a more thoughtful and deeper review of the risks this crisis is bringing rapidly into our lives and are happy to have changed our position quickly enough to get just a touch in front of the ball. As a business leader, you owe it to yourself and those you influence to remain strong, objective yet stern, and positive in your influence.

Your Positive Influence

Honest and open communication is a vital part of any viable business, becoming critical during times of stress and crisis. Remaining objective yet positive will help you and your team remain in a mindset that can be the difference between your organization maintaining its viability and falling prey to negative emotional shut down. Having an honest discussion with your team about the status of your environment can alleviate stress from the unknown.

Use your influence to provide simple guidance. Don’t assume that everyone on your team is following directives such as social distancing and limited interactions. Challenge your team to remain prudent and observant about their situations, especially when dealing with people. This requires you to remain consistent in your messaging; habits are formed by consistent action and this is a perfect time to establish healthy habits.

There will be times when your positive influence is challenged by someone’s negative influence. Don’t exacerbate these issues with a negative response; now is the time to employ some empathy for the myriad of negative situations people are facing right now. We previously mentioned that people handle stress in different ways; one of those ways is being negative. Empathetically challenge them with facts.

One of our previous social media posts, regarding disaster loan assistance for COVID-19 from the U.S. Small Business Administration, has been challenged by people replying that the SBA is a government entity and do people really want to be indebted to the government. Our reply is simple: It depends on the business. Businesses faced with losing their company versus getting a disaster loan to save it may mean that being indebted to the SBA is the better choice. However, it’s a decision that each leader will need to make after reviewing the current and future status of their company.

Learn more about applying for disaster loan assistance by watching this video.

Situational Awareness

Preparing your team to be situationally aware is another habit you can train by remaining consistent in your communication. We must be prudent and teach our teams to remain aware of their surroundings. Having situational awareness requires us to slow down and pay attention; acting out of emotion or desperation may force us to take action that is poorly thought out and may become counterproductive to the threat we are facing.

Situational awareness is emotionally and physically important as we work from home, visit the grocery store, or visit with others. Maintaining a healthy body and mind is imperative, especially for those of us who will be isolated at home. Keep a regular schedule: wake up at your normal time, schedule breaks in your day, call a friend or family member, and do some yoga or go for a walk. Don’t forget to keep your mind engaged in fun activities. Start an art project, do a puzzle, play a game, read a book, or start on that personal to-do list you’ve been meaning to get to.

When you’re out of the home, keeping people at safe distances (at least six feet) is as much your responsibility as it is theirs. If you find that people around you are violating social distancing, be mindful that you maintain at least six feet of space between you and them. Remind others if they begin to encroach on your space. You can do this kindly, and from what we have seen in public, people will be perceptive and kind.

A side positive note: We have noticed that people are calm and kind in stores; don’t be afraid to be kindly assertive to protect yourself and others.

When and if you are out in public, maintain situational awareness of your surroundings as well. There will be people who will become opportunists and take advantage of the current crisis in a negative way. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to remain aware. This is also true of your home. Keep doors locked, don’t leave valuables where they can be seen from the outside, and remain safe and cautious. It’s better to be safe and take precautions.

Support Your Team

As a leader, sharing prudent and pragmatic information about COVID-19 can help to get your team through this crisis. Empathy will get you even further. Be responsive and mindful of people’s emotions, even if that means monitoring their body language or non-verbal communication. Encourage your team to open up about the challenges they face and maintain an open line of communication that can support them.

Communicating with your team openly, honestly, and frequently about the status of your organization will help them better understand the short- and long-term consequences of this crisis. Support where you can and ask for help when you need it; understand that we will all make sacrifices and try to set a positive example for those you influence. Help your team get through this challenging time and establish a solid foundation for the future. If you have any specific questions, reach out to us: support@iabusinessadvisors.com

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2020

Leading the Next Generation of Leaders

Written by: Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors

All businesses are faced with opportunities to train future business leaders. Part of a leader’s job is to mentor the people around them. Some leaders tend to shy away from training others out of fear that they will be replaced. These fears are unnecessary. Great leaders aren’t replaced; people who think they are great leaders, but aren’t, may be replaced by a great leader.

The natural progression of everything in life is that we move on from chapters in our lives onto new and exciting things. The issue here is that when people move on, they leave a hole behind. Therefore, mentoring future leaders is vital for business today. We must ensure that we create great leaders to continue leading our businesses. Your fear would be ill placed in thinking you will get replaced by mentoring; your fear should be leaving your business behind with nobody to fill your place.

Step One: Finding Great Leaders

The first step to mentoring our future business leaders is to find those individuals that express interest in a leadership position within your industry. Start with looking at your current team members. Do any of them express interest in moving up in the company? Do you see them taking responsibility and small leadership roles within the team?

Finding a mentee means finding someone who is excited, dedicated, and eager to learn/move forward in your industry. Someone who wants to be a future leader will look for more opportunities at work, treat their team with respect, and try to remain objective when issues arise. Although, nobody is perfect. We all have moments where we are not our best self.

Do your best to get to know your team on a personal and professional level to sift through who may be a great future leader. Don’t get bogged down in the details here. Your entire team deserves to be positively mentored. Some may respond better than others, but it’s important to treat everyone the same. Some may want to be a future leader and others may be content not leading, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something great to offer them in terms of growth.

Step Two: Mentoring Great Leaders

When mentoring future leaders, you have to think about what it is you want to teach them. Good leaders have several positive qualities. They are honest, mindful, open, positive, intellectually stimulated, fair, and more. One of the best ways to mentor future leaders is to exemplify the qualities you wish to see in them in your own life. You cannot be a “Do as I say, not as I do,” type of mentor. That kind of training never works.

Step Three: Acceptance

It can be hard to let go of a life you have lived for years, but all things must come to an end. When you do decide to leave your leadership position, you will feel much better in knowing that you have taken the time to mentor the future leaders of your business. When you prepare, you can reduce your anxiety. Accept that you won’t be in your leadership role forever but find peace in that acceptance by knowing you have mentored all you can.

Conclusion

One last note: Don’t expect all your mentees to stay at your business. It’s unrealistic to think that someone in the modern age will work for one business forever, although there are some that will. Don’t feel discouraged if someone you are mentoring leaves; it gives you an opportunity to begin mentoring someone new. Your positive influence will always affect whoever it is you decide to mentor, even if that individual is not on your current team.

We must mentor all future leaders and team members and exemplify the traits we wish to see in them in ourselves. Use your influence positively and don’t fear the unknown future. Find comfort in knowing that you have prepared others the best way you know how.

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2020

10 Mistakes Leaders Make

Written by: Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors

Each and every one of us has the potential to be a leader. Some of you may be the leader of a company, all the way at the top as CEO, some of you may be managers leading team members, and some of you may be leading other groups of individuals like sports teams. The important thing to note here is that we all have potential to lead. The potential stems from one thing we all have in common: influence.

Our power of influence gives us the ability to lead. You may even be considered a leader to those who you may not know, meaning your influence impacts them. Influence can be positive or negative, depending on how you wield it. It’s important to exhibit a powerful positive influence for everyone who follows you, so that you may spread positivity. Outlined in The I in Team Series, there are some mistakes leaders can make that would exhibit a negative influence.

Not holding themselves or others accountable

If you don’t hold yourself or others on your team accountable, you’re setting everyone up for failure. By not holding yourself accountable for negative actions, even if they are accidental, you aren’t giving yourself room to learn and grow from those actions. You let yourself and your team down when you allow issues that you create to persist. Same goes for when you don’t hold your team accountable.

Refusing to evolve and learn

If you refuse to evolve yourself to be a better you, you’re not only hurting yourself. You’re hurting your team, too. If you aren’t your best self, how can you give your best influence? You and your team deserve for all of you to do your best. If you refuse to learn more than you already know right now, you aren’t expanding yourself. You’re limiting your ability to be a better and more well-rounded person. This impacts whether or not your team can evolve and learn from you.

Micromanaging

If you’re a micromanager, it’s for one of two reasons. 1) You don’t trust your team or 2) you don’t have capable people on your team. If you don’t trust your team to do their work properly, that’s an issue. You need to trust your team to complete their tasks. That’s why they are there, that’s why they were hired. They deserve the space to complete their tasks as they wish. As long as the end product is what is expected, and they use the proper amount of resources to complete that task, then don’t micromanage them.

If you don’t have capable people on your team and that’s why you feel you need to be a micromanager, you need to work with your team to develop in them the skills they need to complete their tasks on their own. If you’re constantly micromanaging others, how are you getting your own work done in an appropriate amount a time? Micromanaging is a complete waste of resources for any company.

Improper communication and listening skills

If you have poor communication skills, you likely have poor listening skills. Listening is an often-forgotten part of communication. In order to understand someone, you must listen to them, ask questions for clarification, and provide feedback on where your understanding of that topic is. Poor communication on any team can cause small and large structural problems, depending on where the issue of communication is.

Being intellectually lazy

This goes hand-in-hand with a refusal to learn anything new, but it’s more than that. By being intellectually lazy, you are denying yourself any capacity to grow. It also means that you aren’t applying yourself in the best way possible. Meaning, that you are only giving your tasks and team a percentage of your skills. To be a good leader, you must go above and beyond for yourself and your team. If you are intellectually lazy, you have a refusal to learn as well as a refusal to apply what you already know.

Not mentoring future leaders

Many current leaders have a stigma against mentoring future leaders. Whether that stigma stem from fear of replacement or another reason, we need to mentor our future leaders. The fact is, that we aren’t going to be here forever. We need to take our opportunities where someone wants to learn from us and utilize that to share our influence.

Making assumptions

Making assumptions isn’t the best for anyone, especially when you are the leader. Assumptions can make you put your foot in your mouth and regret words and actions that may have been influenced by your assumptions. As a leader, don’t assume anything. Gather evidence and facts to help guide you in the right direction. Also, have an open communication policy. If you are in the position where you might make an assumption, just ask for clarification from the person or thing you are about to make the assumption about.

Going too fast

If you’re going too fast, then you are most likely setting yourself up to make mistakes. You also set yourself up to not be the best leader you can be. If you’re too busy for yourself and your work, you are probably too busy for your team. As a leader, your team is going to need you. If you’re too busy for them, you aren’t being a good leader. Not to mention if you make a bunch of mistakes on your tasks, it’s going to take either you or your team longer to complete those tasks. Slow down to be present for your team.

Multi-tasking

We are pro mono-tasking here at IA Business Advisors. If you feel the need to multi-task, it’s because you haven’t planned out your time well enough. You should only be focusing on one task at a time in order to give that task your full and utmost attention. This is important to do as a leader because your team looks up to you. They will follow what you do and it’s important that both you and your team focus on your tasks.

Lacking in personal goals

Just because you are the leader of your team, doesn’t mean that you can’t have personal goals. In fact, you should still focus on yourself and your life by having personal goals. If you work on yourself outside of work, you will better center yourself for when you are at work.

Conclusion

Being a great leader means being your best self. There are mistakes that we all make, but if you’re striving to be influential for your team, then you should avoid these ten common mistakes that leaders make. Remember to move forward past mistakes and failures; there is always room to grow and always time for new opportunities. If you’re looking to learn more about yourself and how to be an influential leader, check out our first book Individual Advantages: Find the “I” in Team.

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2020

Make Time Management a Habit

Written by: Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors

Time moves at the same speed for all of us. That means that we all have the same amount of time in the day to complete all our personal and professional tasks. This can be a good thing if you are already proficient in time management. However, if you struggle with managing your time, over/under estimate the amount of time it takes you to complete tasks, or are always pushing tasks to the next day, then this blog is for you.

Starter Tips

When you’re first starting off trying to make time management a habit, there are a few things you need to note. First, it’s important to remember to have patience with yourself. It takes anywhere from fourteen days to more than two months (for some) to solidify a new habit. While there is some controversy over how long it truly takes to make a habit, it is generally accepted that the amount of time depends on the habit and the person.

Second, when starting your journey towards efficient time management, always overestimate how long it will take you to complete tasks. Generally speaking, when you first start to practice time management it will take you twice as long to complete a task than you originally think it will. If you predict it will take you thirty minutes to complete a task (one that you haven’t done before) it will take you about an hour to complete that task.

Once you are a few weeks into your time management process, you will be able to accurately predict how long it will take you to complete your tasks. Also, managing your time will get easier for you—making it second nature—as time goes on. You can start to practice a new habit any time you wish; it’s best to start when you think about it—now—as that is when you have the most motivation to see your vision through to the end.

Plan Out Your Day

The best way to practice time management is to schedule out your day with tasks in advance. Be realistic about how much time it will take you to complete each task. This will help you have a clear and concise vision for how your day is going to look, as well as helping you to keep your daily objectives high of mind. Also, be sure to read the rest of your schedule each time you complete a task.

Don’t forget about scheduling your social breaks! For every task, or for every hour you work, make sure to schedule some down time for yourself. This could mean checking your social media, text messages, taking a lap around the office or outside, doing some yoga, or whatever you enjoy doing in your down time. The key to these breaks is to refuse to engage in break-like activities during your scheduled task time. That’s why it’s important to schedule break time.

Practice

Make sure to practice your time management. Like all habits and activities, you can’t become good at something without putting effort in. Just like you would practice for a sport, you need to practice time management. This is something that you can teach yourself. With time, you will become better at it each day. Do your best to commit to planning out your schedule and sticking to it everyday as your daily practice. There will always be exceptions that you don’t plan for, but that is to be expected. As long as you stick to it more than 80 percent of the time, you will be able to make it a habit.

Slow Down

This may seem counterintuitive to practicing time management but slowing down and being deliberate in your tasks will actually make you more efficient with your time. By slowing down and focusing on your present moment, you allow your brain to be more receptive to ideas and information while you complete your tasks. We are pro mono-tasking.

If you slow down, practice, and put energy into making time management a habit, we are certain that you will gain several positive results. For one, if you are prone to anxiety or negative emotions when you are out of time to complete tasks, time management dissolves those anxieties. You will have more time for you, your family, friends, or whatever it is you care to do with your spare time. You will feel empowered at work. Take back the one thing we all share equally: time.

© Individual Advantages, LLC 2019

Scheduling Breaks in a Busy Day

Written by: Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors

Breaks throughout the work day are vital to all individual and team success. All individuals should aim to schedule one brain break every hour, or one brain break between every task, so that they can revamp and apply their best self to their next task.

Benefits of Breaks

PRODUCTIVITY INCREASE

It may seem counterproductive to take breaks throughout the day, but scheduling breaks actually increases your productivity. When you force your brain to focus without breaks for eight plus hours a day, your brain will eventually tire. Breaks allow your brain a little bit of time to revamp itself and prepare for the next task ahead. This makes you more productive because if you let your brain exhaust without breaks, it will take you longer to complete tasks closer to the end of your day. Also, breaks allow you to complete tasks more accurately, leaving less room for errors.

REDUCES STRESS

Stress can stem from many situations when you are at work; giving yourself some brain breaks can help ward off that stress. You can only take in so much information before your brain feels “overloaded” which can trigger cortisol (the stress hormone). Stress can lead to a number of issues such as fatigue, hopelessness, irritability, and other negative behaviors. You owe it to yourself and your team to keep your brain as stress-free as possible, so you can continue with your best influence.

GOOD FOR THE BODY

Taking breaks helps your mind and body perform at their optimal self. If you work in front of a computer all day, it’s important for your eyes to take a break from staring at your screens. Staring at screens for prolonged periods of time can lead to headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision, difficulty focusing, and all-around eye discomfort. Getting up and moving a bit during your breaks can help your circulation and muscles stretch out.

Productive Break Ideas

Here are some break ideas that you start applying to your work day, now:

WALK, STRETCH, OR EXERCISE

Physical breaks are important for your bodily and mental health. These types of breaks for individuals who find themselves sitting at a desk for eight hours a day will help ward off the risks of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. You can just get up from your chair, do a little walk to the water cooler or outside if it’s a nice day, stretch/yoga, or any other short physical activity you can perform in the comfort of your office. Even just a five-minute break every hour can significantly improve your health and well-being.

CHANGE OF ENVIRONMENT

You may decide that a good break for you entails moving your work to another location. Sometimes getting a change of scenery is enough for your brain to take a break and switch gears. You can go anywhere that has free Wi-Fi: libraries, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, malls, and more.

TAKE YOUR LUNCH/SNACK BREAK

It’s important to keep your body well fed with wholesome, good foods throughout your entire day. This ensures your body gets the nutrients it needs to feed your brain, and you get a break. This way, you can feed two birds with one scone! (Pun intended.)

MEDITATE

You can either meditate, try alternate nostril breathing, or take a few deep breaths on your break to center yourself and your mind. Check out the link above to learn about the benefits of alternate nostril breathing and how to do it.

When Not to Break

Given our information above, sometimes it’s not the best time to take a break, even if you have scheduled it already. You may find yourself working and in a good groove; if you notice this, it may not be the best idea to interrupt your groove and lose your train of thought. Instead, you should finish the task you have at hand and take a break immediately after. You can always rearrange your schedule a bit and improvise.

Breaks are a win-win situation for every team (employers and employees). It boosts employee morale, productivity, and all-around company culture. It’s important to not push yourself or your employees past their limits to where they can no longer perform at their optimal self. Everyone deserves to recharge their brain so that they can bring their best influence to their team and tasks. Make sure you are scheduling brain breaks throughout your day and remain flexible.

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2019

How to empower employees to reach personal goals

Written by: Brian Smith
Original by: Electrical Business

Your position as a leader requires more than just keeping your team on track for your company’s goals. You should also strive to empower your employees to stay on track for their personal goals.

For guidance in this area, you should review and understand psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see image), which suggests people first need to fill their physiological needs (including food, shelter and safety) before they can meet their psychological needs (including their relationships, sense of belonging and self-esteem) and finally attain self-actualization (including their potential, ego and accomplishments).

Vital to success

Cultivating meaningful relationships with your employees is vital for your company’s success. Through these relationships, they should feel comfortable enough to share their personal goals with you and, hopefully, the rest of the team. Empowerment activates trust, which enables more open communication and understanding. When employees feel empowered, they contribute to a more positive company culture.

Personal goals should be set throughout the year. We can always strive to become better versions of ourselves, after all. When you help your employees set personal goals, you are encouraging them to be their best selves, such that they contribute a better influence on the team.

Therefore, it is in your best interest to empower your staff to dedicate themselves to goals outside the business.

Laying a solid foundation

If you do not already practice a method of empowering your staff to set personal goals and follow through on them, you should start. There are a few ways you can integrate this approach into your company culture.

Understanding the importance Maslow’s hierarchy lays a solid foundation. From there, you can begin to empower your employees individually. If you meet with them one-on-one and discuss their goals within the business, you should be able to discuss their personal goals, as well.

You can also empower your employees as a team. So, if you have team meetings where you all discuss company goals, set time aside to have all them contribute to a discussion about personal goals.

The key to helping them set and stick to their personal goals, whether one-on-one or in a group, is accountability. You can track progress together, offer words of encouragement and support one another through the difficult aspects of change.

It is a good idea to ask each person what will help them to be held accountable. For some, it will be a daily verbal reminder; for others, a sticky note left at their desk.

Once you start applying this method in your workplace, you will notice several changes in how your team performs.

Increased positivity

When people feel good about themselves, they exude confidence onto others, which contributes to a positive working environment. One of the keys, however, is to hold them accountable for their goals in a positive way.

Accountability should not be a punishment, but rather a positive reminder of goals and what reaching them will mean. As a leader, it is your job to give your team the tools they will need to accomplish both work-related and personal goals.

Science has shown how setting and completing goals is one of the foundations to living a happy life. Helping your team become content will be reflected in their positivity and their work performance. They will feel doubly empowered knowing (a) they can complete goals they set for themselves and (b) they can rely on you as their leader to help them.

Improved performance

People who feel good about themselves can establish trust in the people and organizations that influence them. They are able to be their best selves and perform better.

Feelings of sadness, low self-worth, anxiety and other negative emotions can affect employees’ performance and carry over to the other people they influence. When you empower them to follow through with their personal goals, on the other hand, and they feel good about themselves for achieving those goals, they will in turn have a positive influence on their peers. Those who feel valued and know they can contribute to their work environment in a positive manner are able to complete tasks more quickly and efficiently.

A domino effect

If you can understand the foundation of human needs, as defined by Maslow, and apply it to your leadership tactics through communication and empowerment, then you will provide a positive influence on your team. The domino effect will create a working environment with strong individuals performing at their optimal status—a passionate team ready to tackle both individual and shared goals.