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The past 24 months have been challenging. Activity Professionals across the globe have been tasked with keeping spirits high while keeping everyone socially distant. If you are exhausted, you aren’t alone. However, you must keep leading your team and residents throughout the chaos. Here’s how to do it.
Symptoms of Leadership Stress
Being a leader is difficult on a normal day. However, leading in senior care during a global coronavirus crisis is even more so! Over the past 12 months you might have noticed some physical or emotional symptoms that often accompany leadership stress:
- Feeling exhausted after a work day
- Managing a variety of emotions during each day
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Heart palpitations
- Angry outbursts
- Working more than usual
- Unable to “turn off” work worries while at home
10 Challenges of Leading During a Pandemic
It’s no wonder why you are feeling the stress of leadership. The Covid-19 pandmic has put every leader through the wringer. No matter if you are a leader of a large team or not, here are some challenges you may have encountered this year:
- Managing an activity calendar in a community that does not allow group activities
- Finding ways to support your team through workplace stress
- Managing relationships with the family members of residents who might need a lot of extra attention
- Explaining to residents the rationale behind your community’s ever-changing policies
- Trying to figure out how to communicate with nonverbal signals when you are wearing a mask and other PPE
- Finding new ways to have traditional events or activities in the midst of social distancing
- Covering for other leaders or team members who are quarantining or ill
- Managing a schedule when your team members might be ill or quarantining
- Balancing your budget while needing to purchase new supplies
- Finding new and innovative ways to connect with your residents
11 Leadership Tips in a Time of Crisis
Leading during a crisis is difficult, but it is not impossible. Leadership, in fact, is even more important right now as people look to leaders in times of crisis. Here are tips and habits that you can begin using today to help make you a more effective leader now and in the future:
- Only give facts and truth. Leaders don’t give misinformation or information that has not been validated. This is especially true when working in the healthcare field. If you don’t know if something is true, it’s best to not talk about it until you do.
- Take one day at a time. It’s difficult for Activity Professionals to not plan ahead, but crisis leadership requires us to take one day at a time. While you can certainly have a plan for the upcoming weeks and months, it is important to remember that your plans must be flexible.
- Check in with your team regularly. A simple, “how are you?” can go a long way in times of stress and uncertainty. However, don’t ask unless you have the time to genuinely listen.
- Offer resources or know where to find them if a team member needs them. It’s probably wise to have resources available for stress relief, financial burden (like where the food pantry is), as well as mental health. Offer them to your team confidentially and have them available for anyone to take if/when they need them.
- Honor day-off requests. It’s difficult to cover when you are already short staffed, but if you can honor those time off requests, do it. Time away is important.
- Take time off yourself. Now is not the time to work seven days per week if you can help it. Instead, commit to taking time away from your leadership duties in order to recharge.
- Say no to gossip. Leaders never spread or participate in gossip, especially in crisis situations. Dismiss it when you hear it and never spread it.
- Pitch in. You’re already doing your own work tasks, but leaders always jump in to help out when they are needed. Be sure you are out of your office, pitching in with tasks that keep your residents and team safe, healthy, and happy.
- Stay calm and steady. Leaders who are anxious will have a team who feels anxious. Instead, commit to remaining calm in the midst of the storm you are facing. People thrive under leaders who are steady.
- Say when you’re struggling and what you need. You can be calm and still be struggling. You can be honest with your team and let them know when you are having a particularly challenging week or making a difficult decision. Tell them tangible things they can do to help you out.
- Crowdsource. You don’t have to be a leader who has all the answers. In fact, no one has all the answers about coronavirus. If you need to make a decision or are not coming up with a solution to a problem, enlist the help of your team. Ask them for their opinions and creativity; you will be impressed with the additional solutions you hear and your team will have the opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process.
Getting Help When You Need It
You cannot be an effective leader when you are burnt out. Ensure you have a list of ways you can take care of yourself when you are feeling exhausted, frustrated, or angry at work. You can also use these best practices:
- Make an appointment with a counselor or therapist.
- Establish a relationship with a leadership mentor who has been leading others for longer than you.
- Keep open communication between yourself and your supervisor; you need to be honest when you are struggling.
- Take a day off work and focus on doing something you enjoy or you need (like taking a hike or a nap).
I applaud you for leading during these uncertain times. It’s hard work showing up to serve your team and residents every day. How are you coping?