Our brains are naturally wired to find repetition and patterns and to stick to what works. This tendency creates a path of least resistance, making our work more efficient. However, it can hinder creativity and innovation.

For example, take our morning routines. We often perform these on autopilot, until something disrupts the process, such as running out of shampoo or losing our phone. While this mental efficiency can be helpful in some situations, it can become problematic when we need to think outside the box.

Leading in an uncertain world poses an even greater challenge. The post-pandemic context, the possibility of economic recession, and the rise of artificial intelligence are just a few examples of the rapidly shifting macro-environment.

This doesn’t even consider the movement of people into and out of our organizations, funding changes, the market’s evolution, etc. These factors can make it difficult to maintain stability and make informed decisions, highlighting the need for resilient and adaptable leadership.

With these challenges in mind, there are seven critical components for leaders to develop or reinforce a resilient team.

  1. Understanding The Future Workplace

  2. Activating Emotional Intelligence Within Your Team

  3. Factors Of Employee Motivation

  4. Strategies For Employee Engagement

  5. A Hybrid Work Model For Collaboration, Flexibility, & Fulfillment

  6. The Power Of Coaching In The Workplace

  7. Reducing The Impact Of Labour Turnover

So how do we cope with all this change? And as a leader, how do you help your people navigate times of uncertainty?

First, consider the sequence of events. Uncertainty precedes change and often makes it difficult for humans because it forecasts possible change.

The fear of the unknown is often more daunting than the actual impact of the change itself. This experience can be seen in a common chart known as the change curve (see below). This diagram has many variations, but the basic concept is the same.

What To Expect As A Leader Amid Uncertainty

  1. Disruption: An event occurs providing knowledge or data about a particular situation.

  2. Uncertainty: Next, we process the potential impact and begin to analyze it to understand the potential impact.

  3. Exploration: Based on our analysis, we experiment and make necessary adjustments to adapt to the new reality. This could involve changing our behavior, attitudes, or actions to better align with the new information.

  4. Adoption: We begin to feel a sense of ownership and embrace our ability to influence the future. This means we are more confident in our ability to navigate the challenges that lie ahead and make decisions that will help us achieve our goals.

the change curve

3 Types Of Support Systems That Can Help Leaders Stay On Track

As we navigate the different stages of our personal and professional growth, we experience various emotions that can make the journey feel like a wild ride. We need specific tools and support systems for problem-solving to make sense of these emotions while staying on track.

  • Frameworks are structures for identifying and processing.

  • Relationships are sources of support and connectivity.

  • Perspectives are solutions for confusion and problems.

Frameworks are valuable tools for managing our emotions and improving decision-making. They can help us understand the patterns and triggers of our emotions and develop strategies for managing them.

Plus, we often need support from trusted advisors to help navigate challenges and embrace change. These advisors can offer valuable mentorship and a seasoned perspective on current situations.

Leaders who provide this kind of guidance can be especially helpful when processing emotions. By offering support, these leaders can help us identify blind spots, provide advice for overcoming obstacles, and suggest a new course of action.

Did you notice an emerging theme within the previous content?


However, if you read most of the literature or frameworks on change and uncertainty in the workplace, you will notice little mention of the personal impact.

leading change through uncertainty

Why Leaders Must Focus On The Emotional Toll Of Change Upon Their Teams

Most change information, programming, and market consulting focus on organizational impacts. The two most common things you will hear concerning the workplace are change management and change leadership.

  • Change Management: typically associated with a project or initiative and managing the change impact associated with that effort.

  • Change Leadership: large-scale organizational changes that could impact culture or business operations.

However, neither can happen effectively if we are not helping individuals deal with the emotional toll during times of uncertainty.

Our employers, just like all of us, are at a loss. We did not evolve to work in the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) whitewater, yet here we are. We know that if we do not take action, many will suffer.

When employees are uncertain about the future of their job, the organization, or the industry, it can heighten anxiety, stress, and fear. These emotions can lead to several negative outcomes impacting the organization’s success.time.com

Organizations must recognize the impact of uncertainty on their employees and take steps to support them through periods of change. If not, leaders can expect to experience heightened levels of adverse effects in four critical primary areas.

4 Ways Change and Uncertainty Can Impact Organizational Health

  1. Less Productivity: Employees distracted by worries and concerns about their job security or the organization’s future may have difficulty focusing on their work, leading to lower productivity.

  2. Poor Morale: Uncertainty can create a sense of unease and erode employee morale, decreasing employee engagement and motivation.

  3. Higher Turnover: Employees uncertain about their workplace may seek more stable opportunities elsewhere, leading to higher turnover rates and increased costs associated with hiring and training new employees.

  4. Resistance To Change: When a disruption occurs, employees can fixate on their concerns, losing sight of the potential benefits of the change. As a result, the organization may struggle to gain traction to move forward amid uncertainty.

Unfortunately, some leaders overlook the impact of ignoring or not supporting their team in this area. This is a grave mistake, as leaders can significantly influence how employees respond to change within their organization.

Leadership contributes 71% of the success of change amongst employees. Therefore, leadership and leadership traits were critical factors for change reactions for employees. The openness of the leader increases the positive reactions to change. However, the resistance of the leader stimulates negative reactions to change from the employees.springer.com

Transparent leadership can increase positive reactions to change. Therefore, leaders must prioritize supporting their team and exhibit the traits necessary to lead through change successfully.

We can continue to do exactly what we did with our mental health response to COVID-19—wait until the damage is done, and respond with palliation.

Alternatively, we can make use of our unique advantage, namely: Modern scientific knowledge of how to flourish in uncertainty. What positive behavioral scientists have learned in the last 30 years about the psychological drivers of wellbeing and how to build them offers us hope today of weathering the coming storm.Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Martin E.P. Seligman

Creating a culture of openness is essential, where individuals feel comfortable expressing their concerns and asking questions. In this environment, leaders can address issues promptly and ensure that team members feel supported and valued.

Leaders must proactively support their employees during times of uncertainty. Waiting until the damage is done is not a strategy.

To successfully support and lead through change, great leaders take practical action to help them manage uncertainty and course-correct as quickly as possible.


leading through change

7 Proactive Strategies For Leading Through Change And Uncertainty

1. Take Care Of Yourself: Ensure you get enough sleep, eat healthily, and exercise regularly. Also, consider seeking support from a health professional.

2. Build A Support System: Reach out to friends, family, and colleagues to discuss your worries and concerns.

3. Focus On What You Can Control: Identity areas within your control, such as your attitude and actions, rather than worrying about things out of your control.

4. Practice Mindfulness: This can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths and observing your thoughts without judging them.

5. Make A Plan: Set goals and make a timeline. Ensure your ideas are flexible enough to adapt to changes as they arise.

6. Take Action: Break your goals down into smaller tasks. This will help you to stay focused on the present moment and make progress. And celebrate your accomplishments along the way.

7. Manage Your Stress: Practice techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to help you cope with the uncertainty. Consider scheduling regular breaks throughout the day to recharge and reduce stress levels.

Acknowledging that people on your team manage and process information differently is crucial. Factors such as tolerance for ambiguity, resistance to change, task adaptability, and openness to change can significantly influence how people respond to uncertainty and change.

How To Lean Into Your Team’s Strengths In Uncertain Times

The key for leaders is quickly understanding, recognizing, and empathizing with how their team members may respond to change. Without this knowledge, leaders can struggle to communicate, support, and motivate their teams effectively.

5 Steps To Unleash The Strength And Resilience Of Your Team

  1. Acknowledge Every Member Of Your Team Has Valuable Strength

  2. Gain Insight Into Each Team Members Unique Qualities

  3. Delegate Tasks According To Motivations And Strengths

  4. Celebrate Individual And Team Achievements

  5. Provide Consistent Development Opportunities For Members To Grow In Their Strength

By acknowledging individual differences, leaders can effectively tailor their approach to address each employee’s needs and concerns in difficult times. This shift in mindset can significantly increase engagement, motivation, and performance while reducing negative outcomes.

Cloverleaf provides a range of assessments that can provide insight into the unique ways we may react to uncertainty and change.

For example, our behavioral assessments are the most likely to provide insights about how one might react to change. Strengths-based assessments, including StrengthsFinder and StrengthsScope, reveal strengths individuals and teams can leverage to increase resiliency.

Cloverleaf assessments

Take A Cloverleaf Assessment

By taking assessments and getting actionable insights on your results, you’ll learn something new about yourself and your team.

By completing multiple assessments, leaders, teams, individuals, and coaches can get a more comprehensive view of the unique strengths, personalities, and dynamics that exist within the organization.

Understanding individual differences and leveraging team members’ strengths is critical for leaders who want to lead successfully through change.


Embracing the uniqueness and strengths of your team members is vital to influential leadership during times of change. Leaders who tailor their approach according to the strengths of their team will drive more engagement, motivation, and performance in turbulent times.

Investing in and celebrating individual differences is a critical step toward creating a resilient team to face the headwinds of change.

Start a free trial to get personalized coaching on managing uncertainty in the workplace for you and your team.

Cloverleaf Product Mockup

Emotional intelligence in the workplace can greatly impact the success and productivity of a team. It involves understanding and managing your own emotions, being aware of other’s emotions, and adapting to new situations.

Traditional leadership models have primarily focused on technical skills rather than soft skills like emotional intelligence. Some leaders may not understand the impact of emotions on workplace performance and decision-making. At the same time, others may believe emotions are personal and have no place in the workplace.

Plus, developing emotional intelligence skills can be time-consuming and may not be seen as a priority for leaders focused on meeting short-term goals and targets. However, as awareness of the importance of emotional intelligence continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly clear that leaders who invest in developing their emotional intelligence and that of their teams can reap significant benefits for their organizations.

In this post, we will explore why emotional intelligence is so important in the workplace, provide examples of self-awareness, and share strategies for increasing emotional intelligence among teammates.

Why Is Emotional Intelligence In The Workplace So Valuable?

Individuals with high EQ tend to be better leaders, have stronger interpersonal skills, and are more effective in handling workplace stress and conflict.

For example, a study by TalentSmart found that 90% of top performers have high EQ. Another study by Hay Group found that leaders with high EQ have teams that are more engaged, more productive, and experience less turnover.

Research in the Journal of Organizational Behavior outlines that individuals with high emotional intelligence are better equipped to overcome one of the most significant obstacles in their work-life: employment gaps. These gaps can be involuntary, such as a termination, or voluntary, like taking time off to care for family. The higher an employee’s emotional intelligence, the more likely they are to navigate interruptions in their employment successfully.

It’s no surprise that high EQ is linked to increased job satisfaction, improved job performance, better relationships with coworkers and leaders, and employee retention.

And soft skills aren’t just great for creating a fulfilling and pleasant work environment. The link between profit and leaders with high emotional intelligence is clear. In one study, CEOs whose employees rated them high in character had an average return of 9.35% over a two-year period, nearly five times as much as companies with CEOs who had low character ratings.

Prioritizing emotional intelligence in the workplace can drive significant improvements to an organization’s bottom line. If high EQ among teammates can affect job satisfaction, performance, and employee retention, investing in EQ development within teams can be a wise business decision for leaders.

IF EQ In The Workplace Is So Important, Why Do Top-Level Leaders Resist Prioritizing It?

It’s not uncommon for leaders to push off emotional intelligence initiatives because they are familiar and comfortable with traditional measures of job performance. Things like technical skills and intelligence seem easier to quantify and measure.

Wall Street Journal survey of 900 executives found that 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89% of those surveyed said they have a “very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes.”

Additionally, they may not realize the impact of soft skills in achieving long-term success. Further, the lack of an established or standardized method for measuring EQ could also lead to it being overlooked as a valuable metric for success.

importance of managing emotions in the workplace

For decades scholars have debated the relative importance of cognitive intelligence (IQ) versus emotional intelligence (EQ) to workplace performance. Research shows both are helpful. However, in the era of COVID-19, my bet is on emotional intelligence playing a much stronger role.fastcompany.com

Remote work and other factors shaping the future workplace experience require stronger levels of communication and collaboration. As traditional workplace dynamics and routines have been disrupted, EQ becomes even more crucial in helping teammates navigate workload, well-being, conflicts, and fulfillment to create a place to thrive in their work.

We define emotional intelligence (EQ) as the power to identify, handle, and express emotions and to comprehend and empathize with the emotions of others. When it comes to the workplace, having a high EQ is crucial for building trust and managing conflict to be an effective team.

Self-awareness emerges from two places:

  1. Internally: Understanding one’s desires, strengths, weaknesses, and impact on others.

  2. Externally: Realizing how others interpret and experience you.

When it comes to internal and external self-awareness, it’s tempting to value one over the other. But leaders must actively work on both seeing themselves clearly and getting feedback to understand how others see them. The most highly self-aware people are actively focused on balancing the scale. – Harvard Business Review

Teams that exercise emotional intelligence do more with less drama. They are tuned into their internal emotional life, can manage those feelings, and transition that energy into positive team momentum.

What Does Self-Awareness In The Workplace Look Like?

Self-awareness is crucial to emotional intelligence, starting with understanding your emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. In the workplace, having a strong sense of self-awareness can take many shapes and forms, such as:

  • Acknowledging when you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or angry and taking proactive measures to manage those emotions

  • Being mindful of how your actions and words can impact others around you

  • Taking a step back and reflecting on your behavior to pinpoint areas that need improvement

  • Seeking feedback from your coworkers and superiors to understand yourself better.

Emotional intelligence is being able to understand your own emotions and manage them. It’s also the ability to observe others’ emotions, understand a situation, and adapt to remain productive at that moment.

By taking the time to understand your emotions, behavior, and thoughts and being proactive in managing them, teams can foster a positive productive work environment.

self awareness in the workplace

Examples Of Self-Awareness In The Workplace

Have you ever had one of those mornings where everything seems to go wrong? You arrive at work feeling overwhelmed. Every person can relate. Maybe you lost your dog, became angry in traffic, or experienced a disagreement with a family member before leaving the house. But, what if you could process those emotions and release them, allowing you to start your work day feeling recentered and in control?

Emotional intelligence can help you acknowledge and understand your emotions to prevent them from dictating your experience at work. Recentering your feelings to ensure they do not influence how you treat your teammates or drive you to make decisions because of things outside of work.

As a leader or coworker, it’s important to not only manage your own emotions but also be aware of the emotions of those around you. If you notice a colleague coming in with a negative demeanor or a bit huffy, take a moment to ask how they’re doing and if everything is okay. By simply asking questions, you can help them process their emotions and release any tension they might be feeling.

8 Questions To Help Teammates Process Their Emotions And Refocus On Work

  1. How are you feeling right now?

  2. Is there anything that you need to vent about or share?

  3. Can you walk me through what has been bothering you?

  4. What steps can we take to resolve the situation?

  5. How can I support you at this moment?

  6. Is there any specific task or goal you need help with?

  7. Can you tell me more about your experience and how it has impacted you?

  8. How do you see yourself moving forward from this situation?

emotional intelligence at work

By actively listening to team members verbalize their feelings, you can help them become more aware of their own emotions to help them feel more centered and able to move forward. This small act of empathy can go a long way in creating a positive work environment and improving overall workplace relationships.

How To Increase Emotional Intelligence Among Teammates

The best way to increase emotional intelligence in the workplace is to help improve self-awareness within each team member. Self-awareness enables individuals to identify areas for improvement, manage their emotions, and make more mindful decisions, which is foundational to increasing emotional intelligence.

Teams can proactively support EQ-based initiatives by implementing strategic efforts to help members feel, recognize, regulate, and communicate their emotions.

  1. Utilize Automated Coaching™: Cloverleaf provides personalized, ongoing coaching tips to help employees develop self-awareness and powerful insight about teammates.

  2. Celebrate Feedback And Reviews: Encourage employees to give and receive feedback in a safe by creating the structure to do so with performance management platforms.

  3. Empower Learning and Development: Offer training programs that hone in on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and personal growth.

  4. Cultivate Open Communication: Work with your team leaders to establish consistent 1-on-1 meetings with direct reports to establish clear initiatives, trust, collaboration, and relationships.

Leaders play a pivotal role in shaping the culture and dynamics of the workplace. That’s why leaders must make emotional intelligence a priority. If not, the rest of the organization may not value developing their EQ or fully supporting initiatives.

And that’s where things can start to unravel. Even further, teams may lose their best talent as many seek places of employment that recognize the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

Talent turnover is an expensive problem and, therefore, must be solved. Thankfully, it’s a problem that can be solved. For the most part, employees leave for reasons that are within the control of employers:

    • Culture

    • Work Environment

    • Growth Opportunities

    • Leadership Disconnect

World Economic Forum

examples of emotional intelligence in the workplace

By prioritizing emotional intelligence and creating an environment where employees feel valued and challenged, organizations can retain top talent and even attract it.


The next time you encounter an emotionally charged situation, consider using a simple checklist to guide your response. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” and “What can I do about it?”

Encourage others to share their emotions by asking, “How are you feeling today?” and “How do you want to show up for this?”

Starting a meeting with these questions can help team members process their emotions and be more present in the moment. Consider offering support by actively listening, responding, or taking action when addressing a situation. This approach can help increase emotional intelligence and create a more supportive and effective work environment.

If you’re looking for additional ways to enhance emotional intelligence in the workplace, visit the post that details an Employee Engagement Strategy For A Human-Centered Workplace.

Potential is such a loaded word and can be incredibly subjective. Yet we throw it around a lot in leadership development circles. In fact, multiple talent management models (including the popular 9 Box approach) use potential as a cornerstone element.

When leadership performance and potential are assessed and plotted on the graph, individuals in the upper right quadrant (Box 1) are identified as high-potential candidates for succession, while those in the lower left quadrant (Box 9) may need to be reassigned or removed from the organization.shrm.org

Identifying high-potential employees should be on the radar of every leader; however, using a definition for hipo (high-potential) team members that clarifies how your organization recognizes and retains top talent is crucial.

How to Identify High-Potential Employees

The most important thing your team can do to retain future leaders is move from a fixed mindset concerning high-potential employees to a growth mindset.

What actually is potential? According to the dictionary, it is “having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.”

The problem talent management leaders face is we all have different definitions for what that something is. In other words, what is the “something” you are developing hipo individuals into?

Depending on the organization, role, experience, or your manager’s perspective, potential can mean many things.

One challenge with defining what is ‘potential’ in organizations is that the process of gauging it is elusive and imprecise — and can be highly subjective. And despite what some leaders would like to believe, potential does not equate to current or past performance.shrm.org.

What I typically hear when I ask others what they mean by the term potential is “management potential.” This definition implies that those who want a technical or craft-focused role have no potential for that organization over the intermediate or long term. 

And this is precisely why using potential as a key component of talent evaluation is so dangerous. The criteria for how a CTO evaluates potential relative to a Sales Manager or Marketing Leader vary widely. 

This mentality is a fixed mindset approach to talent evaluation that only sees the world in black and white (possibly with some limited shades of gray) instead of being full of vibrant color.

what do you want employees to have high potential for

What Do You Want Employees To Have High Potential For?

Limiting a team member’s potential to a specific role will decrease your ability to mentor growth opportunities that are much more expansive than a position and more valuable to your organization.

If your only lens for evaluating potential is fixed according to your organization’s immediate needs rather than using a spectrum that empowers top talent to contribute and even create new ways of providing value, you will hinder future leaders.

…science reveals that regardless of the context, job, and industry, such individuals tend to share a range of measurable qualities, which can be identified fairly early in the process. hbr.org

Another definition of potential is “qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success.” I like this definition much better, and it should represent how talent management views the potential of their workforce.

To identify high-potential employees, leaders must expand their definition of potential to include room for the unique value that every team member offers. Next, mentor hipo individuals to empower them to contribute significantly to the organization.

The reality is that everyone on your team has potential. At Cloverleaf, we have a saying that ‘everyone has value.’

How our team aligns this value with the organization’s needs is fluid. We work to manage this dynamic rather than control it because we believe it grants freedom for our team to contribute their best work uniquely.

Would you rather help develop someone’s potential towards a fixed expectation or increase their capacity to add value?

Strictly adhering to labels like potential without mentoring team members to develop their unique leadership will minimize or cap the value each person brings to our teams and organizations.

3 Effective Ways To Ensure You Consistently Develop High-Potential Employees To Provide Value

Adopting the belief that everyone has value (or potential) will impact how we lead, build culture, and make talent decisions. Doing so can help leaders increase collaboration and productivity as they choose to honor, empower, and coach hipo employees.

Here are three ways to effectively build a culture of developing high-potential employees:

1. Prioritize Coaching For Your Team That Is Personalized And Values-Based.

The Cloverleaf team uses our integrated coaching product to constantly reinforce these unique elements of value brought by each team member in a way that broadens everyone’s view of potential over time.

For example, imagine helping your team to further realize their strengths and those of their teammates.

Providing your team with relevant insights into themselves and those they work with will boost self-awareness, strengthen collaborative efforts, and minimize workplace drama.

Boss to Coach Ebook Mockup
If you’re a leader ready to learn practical management skills that utilize coaching to develop your team, check out the Boss To Coach Playbook.

2. Embed Recognition Of One Another’s Unique Value Into Your Teams Rhythms And Rituals.

Creating a practice that habituates celebrating team members’ competencies and accomplishments is a powerful way to supplement your employee development strategy.

This practice can include an all-team lunch weekly through Zoom, shout-outs that are rewarded with bonus opportunities, quarterly all-team off-sites, and regular team coaching sessions.

3. Allow Team Members Roles To Evolve Based On Their Motivation And Strengths.

Facilitating space for individuals to pivot within your organization that aligns with their giftings and natural drivers organically creates development opportunities for your entire team.

Although Cloverleaf is a smaller team, we have a track record of Internal mobility where roles evolve as stronger recognition of an individual’s strengths and interests surface. Repeatedly, we experience the benefits of innovation and engagement by permitting these types of transitions.

In Summary

It’s possible to limit your team’s potential by limiting your definition of what it means to develop it.

We should expand the definition of potential and create pathways for everyone to understand the unique value inherent in each of us and seek to align that with the needs of our organizations.

Stop using antiquated methods to identify high-potential employees according to the organization’s current needs. I encourage talent and people leaders to develop potential by fostering and coaching the inherent value each member offers your team.

You can begin the journey of multiplying your team’s potential by starting a free trial with Cloverleaf today.

There is an old adage in leadership circles that “the best test for whether a leader is exceptional is how they handle a crisis.” Unfortunately, leading during crises is tricky. A crisis situation presents a ton of competing tensions. The best leaders manage these times of uncertainty by embracing paradoxical leadership—behaviors that manage seemingly competing, yet interrelated demands. 

Outlined below are four paradoxes that can pop up during times of change. To help practicing managers understand how best to flex their “paradoxical leadership” potential, I offer some examples specific to the coronavirus pandemic. For managers, the outbreak was complex and confusing to overcome, making it a textbook opportunity to evaluate how best to lead during uncertain times.

Balancing Speed and Accuracy

When a crisis hits, team members want to know what’s going on and what the plan of action is. For example, as the pandemic spread across the U.S., leaders were struggling to make big decisions because the situation was constantly changing. They had to make big decisions, such as travel restrictions, remote work policies, and preemptive cost-cutting solutions.

The challenge for leaders is balancing the need to communicate with team members in a timely manner, yet provide information that is accurate and actually helpful. When leaders wait too long to communicate critical messages, employees fill the void with their own assumptions, and often lose faith in their leader’s ability. But when business leaders provide half-baked, unclear, or misinformed messages to their employees, it makes it that much harder to overcome the challenges as a team.

Leaders should proactively consider varying courses of action, ensure that they are in-the-know as critical information surfaces, and then immediately focus their attention on offering timely decision-making and direction, but never at the expense of accuracy.

Balancing Uncertainty and Clarity

Crises are unfortunate in that they cut to the core of a need we all have: security. Although a leadership team might feel compelled to reassure their employees that everything is going to be fine during difficult times, in reality, they can’t make that promise.

Making statements, for example, about when pre-pandemic policies will go back into effect may have satisfied employees’ immediate concerns, but was a guess at best. What a leader can do is communicate what exactly they are doing to manage the uncertainty. This, in and of itself, is a way to help people feel more secure. For example, leaders should have been outlining who they are working with or talking to in order to have an evidence-based recommendation for how to overcome each step of the outbreak.

Balancing Details and the Big Picture

Crises tend to have varying levels of uncertainty and a wide variety of implications. Specific to the pandemic, it affected individuals’ health and livelihood, organizations’ short-term profitability and long-term survival, and society’s overall health and economic stability. 

Leaders must carefully explain to employees why and how their choices affect these important and connected systems.

It’s a mistake to only explain to employees how the organization’s decisions affect them individually. For example, it should have been clear that the reason employees were being encouraged to work remotely had just as much to do with contributing to the societal-level initiative to “flatten the curve” as it did with employees’ personal health.

Balancing the Past and the Present

When the coronavirus was finally under control, lots of us stopped working 100% remotely, customers re-scheduled their canceled meetings, and supply chains eventually caught up. This was actually the best opportunity to evaluate crisis leadership. We tend to think of crisis leadership as an in-the-moment phenomenon. But this is only partially true.

When the dust clears, everyone will have plenty of time to critique the extent to which their leader was prepared to manage the crisis. It will be at this stage where great leaders admit their mistakes and create a plan for going forward, while weak leaders will spend so much time covering their tracks or justifying their decisions that they will squander the opportunity to re-group.

Crises, by definition, are complicated and unpredictable. Mistakes are inevitable. Effective leaders embrace the mistakes of the past, yet have a clear plan for the future.

Crisis Leadership Is About Balancing Paradox

Leading a crisis is an imperfect balancing act. The change and uncertainty that teams will face is loaded with paradox. That’s why we need leaders that can embrace these tips in order to manage difficult situations.

Instead of judging your crisis leadership skills on whether or not you did one thing perfectly (e.g., speed), consider evaluating whether you simultaneously did two things well (e.g., speed and accuracy). And instead of judging yourself on whether or not your decisions where “perfect,” it might instead be helpful to evaluate whether the way you communicated about your decisions included room to correct mistakes and acknowledge the complex realities of the situation.

By definition, it’s impossible to “solve” paradoxes. All you can really do is acknowledge them and then do your best to keep afloat.

Boss to Coach Ebook Mockup

If you’re a leader ready to learn practical management skills that utilize coaching to develop your team, check out the Boss To Coach Playbook.

About Dr. Scott Dust

Scott Dust, Ph.D. is the Fealy Family Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship at the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati. Scott is also the Chief Research Officer at Cloverleaf, an HR-tech platform that facilitates coaching insights for everyone. Scott earned his Ph.D. in Management and Organizational Behavior at the LeBow College of Business, Drexel University, and his B.S. and M.B.A. from the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. His primary areas of research are leadership, leader-follower relationships, and teams. His work has appeared in academic journals such as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Leadership Quarterly, and Human Relations, and he currently serves on the editorial review board of the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Group and Organization Management, and Journal of Social Psychology.

How much does trust REALLY matter? Let’s do the math (Thanks Workforce Institute)

  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of employees say trust has a direct impact on their sense of belonging at work.

  • Employees who do not feel trusted are less productive: Two-thirds (68%) say that the perception of low trust hurts their daily effort.

Those are some interesting numbers but what does that mean for YOU, a new manager, faced with managing a group of humans waiting for you to guide them?  You may also be thinking that employee trust is a two-way street, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But right now, you only have 100% control over yourself, so let’s start there.

Building Trust Starts with….Relationships

Think of the person you trust most in your own life. Maybe it’s a partner, parent, or best friend. When you think of WHY you trust them, what comes to mind? You might feel that there is a lack of feeling judged, a feeling of being able to be yourself and they might even be great listeners. 

While work relationships and employee engagement may be a bit different, having some of these aspects present between you and your team members can only be a good thing. This will be easy with some people. Others may make you reach for that second cup of coffee while trying really hard not to eye roll. Yes, sometimes we have to manage difficult people, people we would NEVER be friends with outside of work, and even people who utterly annoy us. 

This is where you grow and build mutual respect. Where you get to shine as a leader is in how you build trusting relationships in your work environment with those that are the most difficult.

How Trust Opens Doors

We’ll get to the HOW of trust in a moment, but ultimately, trust between you and your individual team members AND within your team just makes things happen. When you establish trust it opens the door to increased productivity, quality of work outputs, and yes, an ENJOYABLE experience at work. 50 years ago people went to work to get a paycheck. Now people (rightfully so) demand that they might actually get to enjoy what they do. 

When trust is present 1-1 with your team members:

  1. You’ll be perceived as approachable and able to get ahead of problems that need to be solved ASAP.

  2. You’ll learn more quickly how to leverage the talent of your team members for optimal performance. 

  3. You’ll keep people: If you’ve ever had to pick up the slack when a team member leaves, you know the importance of employee retention.

When trust is present AMONGST your entire team:

  1. You might actually like going to work.

  2. You’ll all feel like you’ve got each other’s backs. This leads to less stress and burnout when a company culture where no one is left to fend for themselves is in place.

  3. You’ll unlock creativity and potential in each other which has a ripple effect on collaboration, and productivity while helping people do their best work.

How and WHY to Identify a Lack of Trust

You’ve just been promoted, and you sense that a member of your team is pretty stand-off-ish. In your first 1-1 with this team member they give a lot of one-word answers, don’t make much eye contact, and don’t seem too interested to let you in. We don’t always know EXACTLY what is going on so be careful not to jump to conclusions.

When you sense a lack of trust, good leaders know how to get in there and open up the difficult conversations. If trust isn’t present, you have to do the hard work and find out why. Now, this doesn’t mean going full-on “Olivia Benson SVU” and interrogating the person as if they are suspected of a crime. It does however mean an honest conversation with a few powerful, yet tactful questions:

Start with:  “I want to make sure you feel comfortable coming to me with whatever you need support with.”

Followed by these options:

  • How do you think we can work together best?

  • Is there anything you need to share for us to have the most productive work relationship?

  • What type of support do you feel you need most from me right now?

From what they share, LISTEN before responding, and know that this may take more than one conversation.

How to Build Trust With Your Team

Let’s go back to what people are actually saying. In that same Workforce Institute research we shared earlier, they asked team members how their managers can earn their trust. Here are some of the top answers and some practical tips to go along with it.

Be Dependable

  1. For people to count on you, they need to be clear and consistent. Do what you say you will, and if you CAN’T do it, communicate the change as soon as possible. 

  2. Be a calendar warrior. Include reminders for when you said you would check in with individuals or projects and don’t rely on sticky notes or your own memory.

  3. Ask for help from YOUR boss when you need it. Don’t try to be a hero or a lone ranger. Lean into teamwork and speak up when you need support. 

Actively Listen

  1. Active listening is an art. It means NOT thinking about your to-do list, your weekend plans, or your latest Netflix series obsession while someone else is talking to you. Trustworthy leaders FOCUS on what the person is saying. 

  2. Focus on what the person is also NOT saying. Observe their behavior, emotions, and body language. What is your gut telling you to say or ask next?

  3. Clarify and reflect back on what you hear to ensure you understand: “So what I am getting from our conversation is that you don’t have enough support from the team on this project and we might need to share ideas in a meeting to discuss this – is that accurate?”

Give Helpful Feedback

  1. Give feedback on time, when it counts, and with an intention to contribute.

  2. Criticism is not feedback. Constructive feedback with alternative approaches and solutions is helpful. 

  3. Don’t stop at “great job!” Express the impact that a job well done has had on the team, organization, and specific individuals as well.

  4. Empower your team members to solicit feedback when they need it to build high levels of trust.

The key thing to remember is building trust is hard work and takes TIME. Every person you manage is bringing their entire lives into this working relationship. Every person has their own challenges with trust, and part of being a great leader is navigating the path to building trust with confidence that eventually will all work out.

Boss to Coach Ebook Mockup

If you’re a leader ready to learn practical management skills that utilize coaching to develop your team, check out the Boss To Coach Playbook.

About Stephanie Licata

With more than two decades of leadership and management experience, Stephanie Licata is a skilled professional coach, adult learning specialist, consultant and speaker. She has trained thousands of leaders and managers in the art and science of coaching as part of large-scale projects to develop coaching cultures within organizations. Stephanie received her professional coaching certification from New York University, and is also certified at the ACC level with the International Coaching Federation. She holds a BS in counseling and a Masters in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.

Congratulations! You’ve just been promoted to management.  Whether you are a first-time manager or a new manager within your organization, this can be an exciting time. You’ve received your “how to manage people in all circumstances” handbook right? (Just kidding).

Managing humans is something we aren’t always prepared for. We might be highly skilled in our industry, but have a lot to uncover about being a great leader. It’s an ongoing journey.

Here at Cloverleaf, we are all about supporting people AND teams to thrive. 

You may have heard it said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave their boss. In Gallup’s research, featured in the 2019 publication, “It’s the Manager,” one of the most important data points is that an overwhelming 70% of variance between high workplace engagement and workplace disengagement can be directly attributed to quality of the leader. 

What does coaching mean to you? 

Being a “boss” might conjure up images of status and power, but being a “coach” presents you as a champion for your team. Your job as a leader is not about checking off boxes when things get done, but ensuring that each team member is engaged, productive, and continuously being developed.

You don’t have to learn to be a master coach, you still have your own job to do. This is more about learning to take a coaching approach to leading, or moving from a boss to coach mindset. It’s not something you learn overnight. It’s almost like learning a new language, the language of leadership. 

What does a boss say vs. what does a coach say?

Here’s a quick example:

Boss: “That report needs to be complete asap no matter what. There’s no other option than to get it done.”

Coach: “That report is definitely a priority. What support do you need to prioritize what is on your plate to ensure we can meet the deadline?”

How to move from boss to coach

We’ve gathered some of the most important tips to empower first-time managers in their new role and to help you go from boss to coach. Along the way, we’ll share bite-size practical management skills that you can use right away. Here’s a sneak peak:

  • Leadership Vs. Management: We’ll help you discover the difference between managing and leading. By learning this distinction you’ll get clarity on when you use which approach. 

  • Humility, Empathy, and Better Communication: Discover optimal communication strategies for multiple situations. By gaining clarity on how to leverage humility and empathy appropriately, you’ll create a work environment built on respect.

  • Building Trust: Create a deep understanding of what building trust in the workplace looks like. Learn practical repeatable strategies on how to build trust with your team as you manage. 

  • How To Coach As A Manager: Coaching Skills 101: Learn how to coach as a manager using quick and easy techniques to have impactful conversations with your team. Learn how to coach on the fly in almost any situation. 

  • How To Give Feedback: Find out how to prepare for providing consistent positive and constructive feedback. Apply specific approaches to giving good feedback that contributes to developing a culture where feedback is solicited. 

  • Conflict Resolution & Having Difficult Conversations: Walk away with specific difficult conversation starters you can use for tough topics and how to manage conflict. Strategize and create your own signature process for tackling team conflict and difficult conversations. 

  • Motivating Employees in the Workplace: Learn how to tap into employee motivation to get the best work out of everyone. Discover micro-recognition activities that can fast track igniting employee motivation. 

  • Performance Management: Discover a new and innovative approach to performance management through multiple touchpoints and coaching conversations. Find out how to use goal-setting effectively to help team members get results and develop their careers.

  • Virtual Team Management: Uncover simple strategies to create healthy communication and productivity with virtual teams. Find out how to recreate “water cooler moments” when your team is dispersed.

  • Leading During Change / Uncertainty: Leverage key approaches to leading people during change to support performance and engagement. Uncover important pitfalls to avoid while managing change.

  • Managing and Developing High Performing Teams: Now that you have your playbook of things to remember, uncover the strategies on how to manage and develop high-performing teams. Help people win individually and together.

One of the most important places to start is distinguishing between leadership and management. We may use these terms interchangeably, but they are different concepts. Once you have “leader mode” articulated you can be aware of when to leverage it for success. This awareness will help guide you through all of the other information about coaching employees we are going to share. Here’s to your success.

Boss to Coach Ebook Mockup

If you’re a leader ready to learn practical management skills that utilize coaching to develop your team, check out the Boss To Coach Playbook.

About Stephanie Licata

With more than two decades of leadership and management experience, Stephanie Licata is a skilled professional coach, adult learning specialist, consultant and speaker. She has trained thousands of leaders and managers in the art and science of coaching as part of large-scale projects to develop coaching cultures within organizations. Stephanie received her professional coaching certification from New York University, and is also certified at the ACC level with the International Coaching Federation. She holds a BS in counseling and a Masters in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.