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I Need You to Step Up

I Need You to Step Up

I Need You to Step Up

In the current crisis, ‘I need you to step up’  is a phrase many leaders are uttering to their senior teams, who in turn are using this phrase with their own direct reports.  BAU is now often being side-lined, colleagues are off sick, or have been made redundant, with some in enforced self-isolation due to underlying health issues; maintaining business continuity and crisis management have become the order of the day.  Across the public sector in particular, but also in many diverse organizations, team members are being asked to volunteer for completely different roles, employees with no management experience or training are suddenly being promoted to run teams, or asked to deputise for a colleague, who may be seconded to a project, been redeployed, or is sick. 

But what does it actually mean to ‘Step Up’? 

Managers are often asked to start to demonstrate that they are leading their teams, as opposed to managing them, steering staff through difficult decisions towards the new ‘normal’.  In a crisis many individuals and teams want to be  led; team members need to be clearer than ever on their roles, responsibilities, accountabilities and the amount of decision-making authority they have.  They need to feel empowered, but also have clear direction and SMART objectives. 

If the organization has a leadership and management competency framework with associated behaviours it is easier for the manager to identify, learn and adopt the behaviours in order to step up and be assessed against those competencies.  However, in the absence of a set of competencies, KPIs and a list of priorities, a manager, who has been asked to take on more responsibility, can easily lose focus and may become stressed,  overwhelmed or disheartened at not fulfilling his/her bosses’ expectations. 

During a crisis it is key for leaders to play to the strengths of their team members.  Personality type can play a large part in those who are successful in ‘stepping up’.  Type ‘A’ personalities, or those who are highly task focused, can make a significant contribution to leading and managing in a crisis, however, those who are more analytical or empathic can utilize their skills in different roles. 

It’s also important that leaders acknowledge that some managers and team members may not be either willing or capable of stepping up significantly.  Again, these individuals will have their specific strengths, which may be deployed effectively elsewhere in the organization.  Having dealt with the aftermath of a number of major disasters, I have seen many managers step up, work exceptionally long hours, deliver way above their usual capacity and then, a few weeks later, suffer from PTSD and either need time off or actually choose to leave their roles.  Providing Resilience and Wellbeing Coaching Support is crucial for those who may not be used to dealing with major crises.    

So, how can Managers Step Up?

In order to be able to demonstrate that he/she is stepping up, a manager can consciously work on developing all aspects of their management style including the following:

When leaders are looking to promote managers during ‘normal’ times, they often ask them to become more strategically aware and less operationally focused on fire fighting and the BAU.  Even during a crisis, leaders are looking for individuals, who can not only deliver in the short-term, but also look ahead to when the pandemic is over to assist in business recovery and agility.

Here are 10 tips used in our Executive Business Coaching and Mentoring, which can assist managers in becoming more strategic whilst stepping up:

1. Make sure you understand and can communicate and implement the new strategic vision, business plan and key objectives.  If not, seek clarity.

2. To ensure that all work projects and tasks are aligned with the revised company strategy and business plan, keep asking yourself the SMART questions, such as:  Why is it important that I achieve this particular objective?  How will I know that the desired change has occurred?  What other resource is required? By when does the goal need to be accomplished?

3. Make sure you manage upwards, i.e. you manage your own direct line manager by clarifying exactly what you need to do, by when, and what level of decision-making authority you have.  Consult regularly with him/her regarding strategic or organizational issues, asking for their support when required, whilst keeping them updated on any problems or critical information.

4. Overcome Imposter Syndrome in order to have the confidence to take ownership of key challenges, to address any controversial issues and offer solutions to long-standing problems.

5. Hold regular virtual 1:1s with team members to update them on the revised vision and strategy; ask them to create their own aligned objectives and support leaders by holding regular online ‘Town Halls’ to improve employee engagement.

6. Identify all new key stakeholders and regularly communicate the new vision and strategy to them, balancing customer demands for quality, speed and efficiency with team member needs.

7. Identify what is blocking any progress on achieving strategic priorities, which could be resource/financial/time constraints and develop plans to overcome these.  Also identify the rising stars and top talent, who can assist in accelerating progress on strategic projects and tasks and provide development opportunities for them.  Don’t panic and get rid of key individuals, as the war for talent will only intensify post-crisis.   

8. Foster a culture of innovation by asking for input on key issues and long term goals and allowing mistakes to be made and acknowledged.

9. Keep checking that you and your team are not working in silos but are regularly updating and meeting virtually with your peers and other teams to deliver the strategic objectives.

10. Review the Plan v Actual and take time to celebrate and reward team success when there are any quick wins and key strategic objectives and milestones have been reached.  Also remember to take time out to acknowledge and celebrate your own accomplishments when achieving strategic objectives.

When the current crisis ends, and it will end, those who were able to step up and demonstrate key qualities of conscientiousness, patience, self-discipline, initiative, adaptability and resilience will be recognised for their efforts.  Increasingly, soft skills and values will be more in demand with those, who show they are trustworthy, focused, loyal, a team player and committed, will no doubt have an opportunity to further develop as a manager post COVID-19.  For leaders, now is the time more than ever to demonstrate authenticity and become real role models.

If you need any more tools and tips to assist your managers to step up, please contact me:

Stay safe.

About Jill Maidment

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