Mar 27 2020| Leadership | crisis

Leading in a Crisis - Cascade Kindness

Using your 'boxes and lines' for good

by Phil Eyre Founder

Now more than ever, we need to use our structures - the boxes and lines that show who reports to whom in our organisations - to cascade kindness. 


Over the last few years, we have witnessed and encouraged a move away from reliance on the annual appraisal towards more frequent conversations. Establishing regular one-to-ones are part of this, creating a healthy environment for effective feedback. The best companies utilise these to deliberately build relationships and trust, emphasising human factors in these conversations rather than tasks to be performed. The support and challenge environment creates not only powerful bonds but leads to excellent performance. 


There are a few businesses that we work with that have absolutely nailed this, where these conversations between manager and their report are mutually supportive; feedback is two way, the focus is on the purpose of the work being performed and how both are learning together. Combining kindness and clarity in these conversations is important; 'I care about you enough to tell you this clearly' and not only from manager to their report but the other way, too. It's mutual support in practice.  The hierarchy becomes less about who’s “higher” and more about partnership and teamwork. 


Today, more than ever, we need to use our structures and reporting lines to cascade kindness; up, down and along them.   Now that business continuity measures are in place, with many people working from home, our next move as leaders is to build in one-to-one processes, making the best use of technology and making the relationships in our teams just as much a priority as the tasks they are performing. 


Some suggestions: 


  • Make sure that everyone knows that you care; hopefully, they already do. 


  • Set up clear expectations; for example, every manager will check in with their people on a one-to-one basis for 20 minutes every week / every fortnight.


  • Use video-call wherever possible rather than phone; a lot of communication is non-verbal. Don't rely on a messaging app.  


  • Don’t leave it to chance, schedule the catch-ups. This doesn’t preclude people from making spontaneous calls to their people but ensures that everyone is included, that expectations are clear and that your people know in practice that they are front and centre in your thinking. 


  • Value the check-in time, make it a priority once it’s set up. If you have to reschedule, set a time that’s as close as possible to the original and keep it. 


  • Make it clear that these conversations are to see how people are, to keep thinking positively, to support each other. 


  • Use a simple framework; I like to set for questions that we always ask:


1) What’s working well for you at the moment? 

2) What’s stuck?

3) What are your biggest surprises? 

4) What opportunities can you see?  


 If you do nothing but ask, ‘how are you doing and how can I support you?’, that will be enough!


  • Don’t make these conversations about tasks, make them more about feelings around the tasks and the environment that your people are in. 


  • Model this, i.e. set up a process with the people that report to you. 


  • Allow people to ask how you are and offer their support; kindness can flow in all directions, not only down from the top.  By allowing others to express kindness to you, you give permission for them to receive it. 



In the crisis conditions that we’re in, ensuring that relationships remain healthy will require more effort than usual (more dates to schedule) yet will be more welcome than ever.  And you never know, you might establish highly valuable habits that will carry on once we return to more stable conditions. 


About The Author | Phil Eyre

Phil is Leaders’ founder. He has an enthusiastic and inspiring style, drawing on his experience in business, academia and social sectors to help any leadership team to achieve phenomenal performance. Phil has sophisticated expertise in psychometrics and in the application of human data for individual, team and organisational success. He has trained with, and been mentored by, global leaders in this field, notably Dr Chuck Coker in the US. Phil began his career in the UK offshore finance industry in 1994, working for a wealth management company in Guernsey, Collins Stewart (CI) Limited, now Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil was head of the company's Guernsey division, with a staff of 120 and assets under management of £4.5billion before resigning from executive responsibilities in 2008. Phil has served on the boards of three charities, including BMS World Mission, a UK charity with over 80 employees and a global reach. Phil also ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and served as a non-executive director for Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil is a member of the Institute of Directors.

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