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Two Metres Apart – Leading Through Times of Fear…

22 Apr 2020


Unprecedented. Uncertain. War. Just three of the words bombarding our airwaves, TV screens and social media feeds daily. Yet they have the power to frame our days and languish in the back of our minds every waking hour.

So what can leaders like you do to combat this negative drip? How can you walk-the-walk and lead by example in the new normal – these pandemic times?

To begin with you can be consciously aware of the current situation and its likely impact upon your people. Then follow five simple steps!


  1. Acknowledge that when change removes control, it's replaced by fear and chaos.

    Don’t fall into the trap of pretending this is business as usual. It’s not! We are in a new world where fear and anxiety can breed and spread among your team in a heartbeat. It can also get out of control in your mind!

    So acknowledge the situation – consider what you can influence and what you have no control over? Then work on those things you can influence and accept the rest is out of your hands. Remind everyone of this constantly.

  2. Accept we all need space!

    Many people – including HR professionals believe home working is the answer to workplace stress. It never has been, and it isn’t now. 

    Removing the commute might appear to give your team a couple of extra hours of ‘work time’ each day, but they actually need even more time to consciously meet their basic human needs e.g. moving enough, getting fresh air and connecting with others. So in reality they actually are more ‘available’ but less productive.

    Remember when choice is taken away we feel restless and frustrated. And when confined to one place all day, balancing work, partners and children at home can quickly become a hothouse for stress!

    For others, isolation affects their mental and physical health. So, set realistic expectations for what you and your team can achieve. Be open about what you are juggling as well – remember everyone is in this together!

  3. Help to balance life and work

    For some of your people, work demands will increase, for others less so. Either way they will find it harder to separate work from home. They will be constantly checking their phones, social media and email and find they are working late into the night.

    Lead by example and show the importance of switching off from work in a lock down situation. Mental health and performance are negatively impacted by being “on” all the time. Having a break improves performance. It also gives you and your team time to connect with others in your life. Now is the time to prioritise the balance and curb any workaholic tendencies. Consider others and don’t send messages outside of normal working hours. Remember this situation is likely to continue for some months – and you want your people to be fit at the end of lock down – not on their knees and burned out!

  4. Be a proactive leader

    Fear and worry triggers a variety of issues from low-level stress to high-level anxiety, something that’s serious and difficult to manage.

    Now is for you to actively support your people. Be proactive and talk about mental health, tell them mental ill-health is a big risk during lock downs. And pay special attention to any team members with pre-existing mental health challenges – they may struggle, and they may remain silent.

  5. Be prepared to be unprepared!

    You are a leader not a doctor, so don’t expect to have a solution to every health scenario. But do make yourself aware of the warning signs e.g. people who experience trouble getting to sleep or frequently wake at night may be suffering stress. Do your research now and establish who may be at risk. And find out what company services you can lean on, what external professionals you can use, and what online training it may be time for you and your team to use to sharpen your skills. Programmes such as I-Act* can now be delivered remotely and are even more vital in situations such as stressful Pandemics.

And finally – look in the mirror each day and ask yourself – How am I doing today? And if your answer isn’t GREAT or you are worried about your team feel free to contact Adelle for an informal chat. 


adelleshaw-flach of sweet potato consultancyAbout the Author:

Adelle Shaw-Flach is the Founder and Director of The Sweet Potato Consultancy.

The Sweet Potato Consultancy work to improve performance and mental health, through training, online programmes and coaching for leaders and employees.

Get in touch if you’d like to know more – adelle@thesweetpotatoconsultancy.com or 07810346107.   

* I-Act, bespoke or off-the-shelf training can now be provided remotely by appointment!


Please note, this content is not produced by the IoD and therefore does not necessarily represent the views or thoughts of the organisation.

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Euan Holmes, Press Officer

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