Leadership during Uncertain Times

By Roxana Lissa

Whether you are a PR or advertising executive, influencer or content creator, you are no stranger to transformation.  You had to witness firsthand the changes that you, your company or enterprise had to make to keep up and deliver more value than ever before

We have been operating under tremendous pressure, and if you are a leader in your organization, or supervisor responsible for managing and mentoring teams, you have been working under high amounts of stress for a while now – and now add COVID-19 to the list.

Companies and clients are trying to keep themselves relevant in a world driven by technology, facing constant external forces that require great amounts of flexibility and adaptability.  Today consumers face more choices than ever thought possible, and brands rely on us to help them tell their story – and drive ROI at the same time.  Not an easy task.

I spoke with Susana Reyes, Vice President of The MRKT and head of the agency’s consumer practice, which includes clients like McDonald’s, about her views on successful leadership and how she views managing clients and teams during this crisis.    

“Building honest and authentic relationships with your staff and clients has never been more important,” explains Reyes.  “This pandemic has forced us to be more open, and communicate more now than ever before.  As a manager, it is important that my team knows that I am there for them to teach them and problem solve, in the same way that I am there for our clients.  It’s my responsibility for my team to feel safe, engaged and valued.”

Today, team leaders have to pay attention not only to the results the teams are producing for a particular client, but also to their mental health and emotional wellbeing.  “These are stressful times where many employees may be feeling job insecurity, worrying about their families and loved ones and feeling overall anxiety,” adds Reyes.  “We have to be conscious about their stress levels while also worrying about our clients, who are also undergoing a remarkable amount of stress as they are looking for creative solutions to help their own organizations stay afloat,” she adds.

Simon Sinek, visionary thinker and world-renowned speaker often talks about our responsibility as leaders to look out for our people and build relationships that transforms our co-workers into a trusted family.  I personally couldn’t agree more.

Being a leader is ultimately a choice and leaders have a unique opportunity to cultivate the relationships with their teams so they can feel inspired and fulfilled when they come to work for us every day.  By doing so, clients also will benefit from a collective group of committed individuals that are working together towards a common goal, with positive energy and an insatiable desire to contribute.

Here are a few tips to consider when leading and managing teams:

  • Stay True to Your Mission: Susana explains that this is a good time to go back to your company mission, examine it, change it if you have to, or double down on it.  Employees and teams need to follow leaders who live and breathe their mission as it provides a strong sense of direction for everyone to stay on course during these times of uncertainty.
  • Patience & Trust: As leaders, we have to remain flexible and trust our teams. There are days when they may not accomplish what we are looking for and it’s ok, especially during these difficult times. “Our job is to keep staff motivated so they can be creatively inspired, while also offering flexibility and encouraging self-care. Every day is different and it’s all about finding balance; what counts is the quality of the output, not the exact hours put in,” states Reyes.
  • Engage with Your Team: While leaders are busy thinking about new business and how to keep their companies running, often times they lose sight of projects their teams are working on.  Reyes encourages showing enthusiasm for your team’s projects and progress, as this contributes to the well-being of the team and the organization as a whole. “As leaders, we set the tone for our teams,” states Reyes. “It’s our responsibility to stay engaged and demonstrate that we care,” she adds.
  • Honesty & Vulnerability:  Who hasn’t cried in the office or in front of an employee or supervisor?  I certainly did.  Being honest and vulnerable in tough moments doesn’t show weakness, quite the contrary; it shows that we are going through a difficult situation and it opens up the dialogue for problem-solving, creative ideation in a supportive and open environment.

And lastly, leadership can come from unexpected places:  Sometimes, the people you least expect to show up, do so, to solve a difficult situation, troubleshoot or provide creative ideas.  Our job as leaders is to embrace them and their thinking, acknowledge their contributions and encourage more situations where they can exercise their leadership qualities.  Leading during these times of uncertainty requires strength, patience and a great degree of empathy.  Showing up as a strong leader in the end is about caring deeply and genuinely for anyone whose life we touch on a daily basis.

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