How to Lead When Your Team Is Exhausted

    February 11, 2021

    Let’s face it: 2020 was exhausting. The stress of having to adapt to social distancing and working from home during the spring was followed by weeks of sadness as we saw the toll the pandemic began to take on our country. Then there were the months of suspense as we waited for a vaccine to be developed.

    And now in 2021, even with multiple vaccines being rolled out, we’re still waiting for life to return to some form of normalcy. We still need to wear masks, we still have to social distance—and many of us are still working from home.

    So, it’s not surprising if after almost a year of stress and other wearing emotions, your team is exhausted. In fact, you’re probably drained—but you still need to find a way to lead your people through the remainder of this time, no matter how long it takes.

    Tips for leading an exhausted team

    Leading your team through what is nothing short of an unprecedented, world-changing event isn’t a walk in the park, and there are no hard and fast rules. However, the following tips can help you be more aligned with your employees, which will also make it easier to lead them:

    • Be compassionate. People may be experiencing a variety of emotions right now, from fear and sadness to loneliness, frustration, and depression. Parents are likely stressed as they try to help their kids grow accustomed to hybrid or remote learning. Colleagues may be worried about their elderly parents whom they haven’t seen in person since the spring. By making time for your people to express their concerns and listening to them without judgement, you can make them feel more valued.
    • Be aware of your team’s mental wellbeing. A survey by Mercer of 270 insurance companies showed that the majority now classify mental health as being as much of a risk as smoking. If you notice that any of your employees are showing signs of being depressed, overly anxious, or burnt out, set aside some time to check in with them about their health. If they clearly aren’t doing well, advise them to seek help, and reassure them that you support them.
    • Energize your team. Determine what—other than the pandemic—is draining your team’s energy and change what you can. For example, if the daily standup meetings are taking too long and everyone dreads them, set a cap on how long they can take or consider doing them every other day. If your collaboration software is too complex and time consuming, look for a more efficient alternative. Break down longer projects into smaller sprints and celebrate milestones. Acknowledge individual team members’ accomplishments in front of the group. Overcome setbacks by analyzing them, seeing what lessons you can take away from the experience, and moving on to the next objective.

    Be strong now to be prepared later

    As Harvard Business Review points out, there’s likely to be a feeding frenzy once the vaccine is fully rolled out and businesses can start reopening fully. Companies will be competing to reclaim lost customers and win back lost business—and for many organizations, dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic will be just as intense as dealing with the crisis itself. So, use these tips to prepare yourself and your team for taking advantage of all of the opportunities that are likely to come along.



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