In a crisis, you must take care of people first. At work, that means focusing on emotional intelligence training.
When you are involved in a car accident, you never take care of the car or the traffic first. Instead, you secure the perimeter so no one else gets harmed, call for help, and take care of the wellbeing of the people. Once all this is done, you begin to take care of the car and traffic. Shouldn’t that be the same when an organization is hit by a crisis like COVID-19?
In a crisis, many companies treat people like machines.
Recently a manager told me that emotional intelligence and wellbeing is not on the training schedule of their organization. Instead, it is full of sales training.
The pandemic has thrown people’s lives into disarray. They had to leave their offices, leave their colleagues, and turn their kitchen table into a desk. They are afraid that a loved one might catch a potentially deadly virus. They have their kids running around the house while they try to work. For some, their home is not a physiologically or psychologically safe place. People are struggling, and the organization has nothing better to do than putting on sales training?
I am angry. And rightfully so.
Companies that operate in the midst of a pandemic as if it is business as usual show how much organizations see humans as resources – as replaceable and interchangeable as an automobile in a car accident. Everyone is dealing with uncertainty right now, not just your team. And trading out one person on your team for a new employee will not eliminate that uncertainty. But you can equip your team with the tools they need to manage that uncertainty better.
How can we do it differently?
William Bridges, Ph.D. says in his book Managing Transitions that “transition isn’t an optional ‘if-you-get-around-to-it’ add-on to change; it’s not the icing on the cake that can be forgotten until things ease up and you’ve finished the important stuff. Getting people through the transition is essential if the change is actually to work as planned.”
The pandemic and the resulting lockdown were not planned. They were more like a truck that hit us unexpectedly from the side and pushed us off the road. But the rules of change and transition still apply.
When you arrive at the scene of a car accident, your first priority is the people. In fact, the scenario advances through three basic steps:
Step 1 – Secure the perimeter.
Step 2 – Call for help and give aid to the people involved in the accident.
Step 3 – Evaluate and repair damage to the car so it can be operated safely.
During the pandemic, governments all over the world ordered a lockdown, thus securing the perimeter. But many organizations focused on the operational needs of the company and neglected the well-being of their staff.
In a car accident, we would never take care of the cargo, the car, or the traffic before the people received the aid they needed. We need to have that same priority in our organizations. To shift our mindset, we must realize that humans are not replaceable resources or interchangeable assets; they are people who serve you.
If we want our teams to thrive as they navigate this pandemic, we must equip them with the tools they need to take care of their mental wellbeing first. If someone is mentally and emotionally struggling all our restructuring and operational training is a waste of time. The longer people’s wellbeing is overlooked the worse the impact will be on the bottom line.
In January 2020 – before lockdowns – an analysis by Deloitte reported “poor mental health costs the UK employers up to £45 ($57) billion each year.” And the pandemic did not just hit a few people, but all of us. Few of us were equipped to deal with a situation like this constructively. And that is why people need practical emotional intelligence training and possibly mental health support so they can restructure their lives and find emotional security within themselves again.
Restructuring your business operations will be easy once your staff feels safe within themselves and their new environment. They won’t need much motivation. They will fight for your organization and invest their hearts, not just their minds. They will soak up all training necessary to continue their involvement in your organization because your organization took care of them.
Prioritizing your team over your organization can result in an unprecedented buy-in of the workforce because you took care of them and equipped them with the tools they needed to navigate these unprecedented times.
Just as you would never seek to manage a car accident without calling for help, I encourage you to call for help if you’re not sure of the best way to support your team.