Leading Through Covid: Effective Persistence


To provide immediately actionable guidance for leading in the next 30-60-90 days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Challenges of This Phase

The adrenaline of the first 30 days has been replaced by exhaustion, heightened irritation, and less bandwidth to rise above any of it.

At work and at home, it is both getting old and far from over.

It remains critical to handle where we are locally ‘on the curve’ AND how we want to ‘return’ to a new normal.

Reminders of the Unprecedented Nature of  This Moment

  • While many of us have led through challenging times, this crisis is unique in several ways:
    • The virus is new. Experts are still learning. Standards, equipment, and supply chain for testing, treatment, and workplace safety have not been fully secured or uniformly embraced.
    • Human health impact ranges from mild symptoms to death.
    • Global and local economies have been shut down.
    • Households, communities, and even countries are socially isolated.
    • Planning beyond the day or week has been nearly impossible as events, information, and recommendations are still in high flux.
    • Not only has this experience been immediately upending, it may redefine how we live and work.

Recommended Adjustments for this Phase

Key Idea: The immediate ‘response’ phase is likely over. We are moving into the hard ‘middle’ of this long road. Here’s how you might begin this new chapter.

For You as an individual leader

  • Assess where you are now, physically, mentally, emotionally. Here’s how:
    • Rate your current levels of: Energy, Mental Freshness, and Emotional Reserve. Use a 1-5 scale, where 1 is Tapped Out and 5 is Revitalized. Be honest. Write down your three scores.
    • Ask someone close to you at work, and someone else close to you personally, to also rate you on the three dimensions. Write those scores down.
    • How do the three sets of ratings compare? What might any differences mean?
    • Any score below 4.0 signals an opportunity for revitalization. How open are you to taking new actions that might help strengthen you for this upcoming stretch of leadership?
  • Actions with high ROI

Physically: Catch up on sleep. Return to, or restart, an exercise routine.

Mentally: Start taking a full day off from work per week. Partial days off provide less benefit.

Emotionally: Reach out, or develop, a ‘safe place’ to vent any build-up of concerns or irritations. If not ‘released’ they will leak out and limit effectiveness.

For You as a leader of a team

  • Revisit the routines set up at the beginning of the pandemic. Do you still need twice daily, hour-long calls? Can the crisis-related status meetings be improved via new preparation, flow, or membership?
  • Establish a ‘right balance’ (at least for now) of ‘crisis attention,’ ‘strategies for returning,’ and ‘business as usual’ thinking, problem solving, and planning. Review monthly if time is being wisely distributed across immediate, short-term, and longer-term concerns.
  • Get direct input to finetune your people leadership effectiveness. Ask key people: “What is one thing I’m doing that brings great value or support? What is one thing I could differently to be more effective going forward?” Increase what’s working and change what’s not.
  • Continue atypically frequent acknowledgment routines down the ranks. Vary your approach (phone calls, emails, handwritten notes). Ensure that you include mention of: jobs well done; the character attributes revealed (e.g., perseverance, resilience, innovative thinking, positive attitude); and the larger meaning/purpose of their efforts (feeding our community, providing financial assistance, supplying health care workers, etc.).
  • As appropriate, reinsert ‘fun’ or more lighthearted messaging in the course of ‘regular’ operations (e.g., adding pets to Zoom calls; sharing individual learnings from home quarantining).
  • Initiate a full-throated apology to those you may have unloaded on, even if you (still) think it was ‘for good reason.’ The reason may have been valid. The communication method, not so much. We ALL have done this and we ALL have had it done to us. Clearing the air and cleaning the slate is key to our leadership effectiveness.

For You as a member of a family

  • Connecting is the superpower at home, especially when the hours away have increased. Focus first on learning about ‘them.’ Ask, “How was your day? What’s on your mind?” Empathize. THEN, share where you are emotionally as you re-enter the home environment. Avoid empty or over-used phrases about work such as: “It’s been crazy” or, “It’s nonstop.”
  • Regardless of where you are working, it can be hard to transition from work-mode to home-mode. Before you get home or take a break from work for dinner, walk around the block. Let your head clear. Then re-enter ‘home mode.’
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