Last week, our world fell apart.
We live in Austin, Texas—and if you had your eye on the national news, you probably saw that our city fell into a deep and extremely dangerous freeze. Electricity (and heat) went out for days. Pipes burst, water was turned off, and the water that managed to keep running was no longer safe to drink.
It was stressful, to say the least. (And cold. Very cold.)
We decided to take a week off from this newsletter and remember one of our very best leadership lessons:
Treat your teammates like people.
In the midst of disaster, the work can wait. If your people are panicking, anxious, grieving, or on day five of no showers, their ability to join the morning Zoom call can (and should) take a back seat. Instead, check in on them as humans.
It’s amazing how significant a genuine “how are you?” (with no ulterior agenda) can be.
But knowing how to respond to your team well in times of crisis requires that you know your team.
The “good leader” work doesn’t start when the s#!t hits the fan—it starts right now. What do your teammates like? What do they do when they aren’t working? What’s their favorite book or TV show? What stresses them out? How do they respond when the world gets hard?
Building relationships with your colleagues—knowing your teammates as people first, employees second—will make you a better leader. It will equip you to respond well when things go wrong. It will build trust, cultivate honest conversations, and prepare you for the hot mess situations when they arise (if 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything, it’s that out-of-our-control disasters are unavoidable).
And as an added bonus, it will make work a lot more fun.