Several months into the novel coronavirus, there are still many unknowns about COVID-19 and its impact on the human population. Doctors and researchers are learning more about it every day, and our society looks forward to a hopeful future.
But, it is human nature to fear the unknown. Feeling anxious is okay, as many of us have shifted from following a routine and planning for the future, to taking one day at a time, not knowing what to expect.
The uncertainty of the virus and its eventual impact is felt hardest in hospitals and health systems and among the professionals providing bedside care to patients. With many moving parts within hospitals and fluctuations in the patient population, healthcare workers need strong leadership during this uncertain time and look to their managers for guidance.
Here are four approaches to help healthcare managers lead during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Clear Communication
Communication and transparency are key to successfully leading a team, but it is even more crucial during this uncertain time. With multiple outlets constantly streaming news about the coronavirus, it is vital for hospital leaders to make sure they are communicating facts to their employees and to filter out the noise and speculation. Employees should know how to protect themselves and minimize exposure and any hospital protocols and procedures. Department managers should make information clear and concise and available to all employees. Monitoring the messaging and getting all employees on the same page will help create a supportive environment.
- Lead with Empathy
Compassion is always needed, especially now with a virus that is leaving healthcare workers exhausted and concerned. Healthcare managers should meet their employees’ concerns with empathy and then find a way to move forward. That said, this is an experience that most have not dealt with in their lifetime and everyone is out of their routine. Being understanding to employees’ challenges and being flexible and available for guidance is important. Emphasize with their feelings and then strategize how to move forward to support them.
- Seek Order, Not Control
In an ever-changing situation like this, it can be tempting to try and regulate what you can. This sets up a system of approval for minor daily decisions that your employees are likely able to make themselves. This roadblock drives the organization to become less responsive and increases frustration. As a manager, employees are looking to you for guidance and support. You must trust your employees to do their jobs and follow the direction as established by your leadership.
- Take the Long View
In the face of uncertainty, it is easy to become focused on what is directly in front of you, narrowing your focus to the foreground. Leaders must be able to pull back, taking into view both challenges and opportunities. Establishing order and guidance is made possible by viewing what is ahead of you and letting employees manage their task at hand – caring for patients. What will be most beneficial during this time is ensuring someone else (your employees) are managing the present while you (the manager) focus the majority of your attention on leading beyond the pandemic toward a more hopeful future.