‘CARER’ Leadership in a pandemic

By Rick James

Leading during a pandemic is incredibly tough. People are worried and uncertain, so their brains are reacting neurologically to a high threat response. I find this acronym CARER (from Jon Pratlett) helpful in thinking about how we might lead:

Certainty – Strive to create certainty, wherever possible – even in minor ways. “When you give people any information at all, it activates the reward networks in the brain because the brain craves information. Any kind of ambiguity, on the flipside, creates a threat response.”  

Autonomy – At a time of uncertainty, try and offer unexpected autonomy and flexibility. Even giving people the option of choosing a time for their performance review might reduce some threat!

Relatedness (Belonging) – humans are social beings. So as leaders, “if we take a genuine interest in our people, in who they are, what’s going on at home, increases empathy and understanding and encourages effectiveness in spite of the virtual environment.”

Equity – At times of uncertainty, we need a sense of fairness in how we and others are treated. Some people will be more productive virtually, others will be less (those with home-schooling or caring responsibilities for example). Watch out for a ‘crisis of fairness’. 

Recognition – Working virtually we need recognition more than ever at the moment. We need to feel appreciated and listened to. Also when giving feedback remember that people are especially sensitive right now.

As you look to the week ahead, consider what one or two things you could do differently to increase CARER amongst the people you work with.

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