Mark Helm, President & CEO of Dolese Bros, and Abby Fanfsler, Senior Safety Consultant for Caterpillar, hosted a webinar emphasizing the importance of good leadership and communication in the workplace last May 6, 2020, entitled “Leading for Safety in Uncertain Times: Check Your Messages”.

While these sentiments are not particularly new, the Coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly affected the morale of millions of workers worldwide. Both the virus and the attempts to contain it via community lockdowns have led many to experience severe psychological distress, brought about by the hardships of adjusting to the new world. Even with the inevitable lifting of the enhanced community quarantine, many still bear stressors that constantly affect their daily lives.

Helm and Fanfsler are both veterans of the construction industry. They know it is going through a rough time and acknowledge that it was hit badly. While the sector will eventually get back on its feet, they know that there is a “new normal” and pretending the past few months were of little consequence would be a huge mistake. 

During the webinar, each of the hosts shared their recent experiences on how connecting with their employees on a regular basis helped strengthen their working relationship. They found that employees appreciate it when their management shows concern. They see it as a positive sign that the company is dependable and considerate for their people.

In the hour-long talk, the hosts discussed the five ways leaders can efficiently work with their team ensure results that benefit everyone in the long run:

 

1. Create a comfortable work environment

  • Create an environment that lets workers speak up and be heard. A team that prides itself on honesty can go a long way in ensuring excellent work dynamic.

  • Earn your employees’ trust by recognizing the importance of maintaining good psychological health. Both mental and emotional baggage can severely affect a worker’s performance. Find out how you can help them feel comfortable without being too nosy or overly patronizing. 

2. Increase worker trust through social and moral support

  • Take the time to meet with everyone digitally. How often should you do this? Helm mentions that his employees wanted to meet with management at least more than once a week.

  • Increase employees’ sense of control over their actions by letting them know that their health comes first.

  • Acknowledge that work culture is how people react to certain things. It is how you will know if they will be proactive in enforcing precautionary measures against COVID-19. The more people are aware of what they should do, the more likely they will get used to working safely.

  • Encourage action as a way to mitigate uncertainty.

 

3. Stay alert for everything

  • Be aware of your employees’ emotional status. Ask them how they are doing, how they are feeling, and if there is anything that is bothering them that may affect their work.

  • Offer employees access to Employee Assistance Programs if possible.

  • Stay close to the rumor mill. This may affect the performance of your people. Also, take the time to inform yourself of construction and health-related news every day.

  • One should also know if there are circulating rumors that can lead to an employee getting ostracized by their coworkers.

 

4. Create and share learning moments

  • Stay positive! Always try to find the bright side of things amid the negativity of the pandemic. 

  • Ask employees about their day. Bond with them in a way that would not feel superficial or forced. 

  • Engage your people by keeping them in the loop in regards to their work. This is to avoid any suspicion and resentment in the long run. 

 

5. Modeling leadership behavior

  • Establish a culture of safety. As mentioned before, work culture dictates how your people will function in a work environment. 

  • Encourage self-care by reminding them that they should not push themselves to the limit, or even put themselves in harm’s way by ignoring precautionary measures.

  • Never discount someone’s fears or insecurities. A good leader knows how to make things work, rather than put their arms up in the air in defeat.

  • Encourage people to speak up. Remind them that communication is the key to working safe.

  • Finally, lead by example. Be the person your workers want to be: inspiring, hard-working, and caring. 

All in all, the main goal of these five points is to just be human. A lot of people are desperate these days, and the prospect of losing their jobs due to personal issues can affect the way they work and treat their coworkers. Leaders need to find a middle ground in being supportive and being stern with their people. 

Be nice, promote efficiency, but above all, keep the morale up. People need leaders they can look up to and not bosses they can be terrified of. The world has a long way to go before it can fully recover, but keeping these points in mind gives you a great start.

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