In the beginning, most business owners start a company because they are good at something: building websites, cutting hair or preparing tax returns, for example.
Being good at the service you provide, coupled with a fair dose of grit, are the only skills you need to initially get your business off the ground.
Soon enough you find yourself working 18-hour days, fatigue kicks in and your passion starts to waiver.
Typically, at this point, the entrepreneur gets really ambitious (and desperate for some work-life balance) and hires someone to help with the workload.
So now, by default, you’re in a leadership position.
This is where business ownership can get really tricky, and truth be told, damn hard to navigate. Because now, not only are you ‘cutting hair’, but you’re also providing dispute resolution, career counselling and performance management, plus overseeing the service delivery process for the entire business.
Need some more balls to juggle? I have another one for you: throw in a global pandemic.
Now you could find yourself completely unstuck. Because you have to do all of your usual business activities, plus manage infection control, the emotional wellbeing of your team members, and for some business owners, homeschooling too!
What on earth can prepare you for this?
Where is the being-an-awesome-leader-during-a-pandemic manual? I can’t seem to locate that one anywhere.
Leadership is often perceived as an afterthought, secondary to the main function of a business. Many business owners just don’t rate it on their [very long list] of priorities.
I’ve seen this at many organisations throughout my own career. But in my humble opinion, it’s actually the most critical responsibility of a business owner’s duties.
As the old adage goes, ‘if you look after your staff, they’ll look after your clients’.
Team members need to be seen and valued, and you’ll find in most cases, that they’ll return the kindness to you tenfold.
Empathy is your greatest leadership trait.
Now, I certainly don’t have a degree in psychology and I am not qualified to offer mental health advice, but I do have a great sense of responsibility as a leader coupled with my intuition.
During Melbourne’s lockdown, I can’t physically be there to navigate challenges or emotionally support my team, so we have put in place a two-pronged wellbeing program.
The first prong involves maintaining our staff’s mental health through external professional recourses, and the second, replicating our vivacious office life all through the power of a good ol’ webcam.
For a very small investment, here are five tangible ways you too can support your team during this seriously unprecedented time.
1. Counselling and career progression
Make a set number of confidential counselling sessions available for your staff, with extensions and bonuses for those that need it.
This way they can unload onto someone that actually knows what they’re doing when it comes to mental health advice.
We use Employment Hero, through which we can offer six counselling sessions to each staff member.
It’s also important to pair counselling with a forward-thinking mindset. Just because we’re all working from home, doesn’t mean career progression has to go on hiatus.
Through Employment Hero, we have set up career development plans for all our employees.
2. Group fitness sessions
Nothing says ‘team bonding’ more than the mutual death stares seen in Zoom when our top-tier PT kindly mentions a 17-minute conditioning block, repeated three times, fitted with Bulgarian split squats and enough burpees to truly make the ground shake.
The laughs, the barking dogs and the screaming kids in the background add a whole other level of joy, while our legs slowly transition into jelly after the best round of torture/pleasure (questionable depending on the day).
For $800, our whole team sweats it out twice a week, and feel their absolute best, all while working from home.
Who doesn’t love that?
3. Professional trivia night
Why DIY when you can hire a professional to run a trivia night?
We like to leave things up to the experts.
That way you too can join in on the friendly competition! Plus, we’re still pretty rusty since playing Trivial Pursuit.
Divvy your colleagues into teams by department, by letter of their first name, or however you feel!
Or, each can fend for themselves.
4. Practice mindfulness techniques
I don’t mean to get all spiritual on you, but our recent introduction of weekly mindfulness sessions via Zoom have changed the game for our team.
It is helping our team learn where to draw boundaries with clients, remaining calm in a tense situation (because let’s be real, we’ve all had one of those days, people or clients before) and properly practice gratitude. It has been groundbreaking.
For $2,000, a councillor will facilitate the meditation class and go through how everyone’s feeling, how to properly breathe, and how to meditate their own way.
These are skills that your team will take through the pandemic and beyond.
5. Get your chef on via Zoom
Since we can’t all head out to our favourite restaurants here in the Melbourne lockdown, it’s safe to say we’re all missing anything but a home-cooked meal.
Why not get creative in the kitchen with a cooking class via Zoom?
It’ll mean you can participate in team bonding, learn a new skill (or improve — we have a growth mindset) and then pig out in a delicious meal!
A virtual cooking class will cost $2000, but wow, your taste buds — and your team — will be thanking you later.
There you have it, five tangible ways you can make a difference to your staff’s wellbeing during this lockdown.
Don’t forget that being a good leader means being real with the people you’re working with.
As for that being-an-awesome-leader-during-a-pandemic manual, let me know if you find it.