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Getting Ready as a Leader for the Day “Masks Are Off”

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Once the coronavirus outbreak is finally over, we will all quickly shift gears to make up for lost time and productivity. As a leader, your team leadership today, and your readiness for the day after, will be critical to your success in this mission. In this article, I explain what I foresee to be the changes and challenges we will face once business as usual resumes, and what recommendations we should implement to ensure we are set for success when we’ll need it most.

The day we’ve all waited for has finally arrived: We are fully back in the office and ready for business. But will it be the same for us managers? Will we just pick the team up from where we left off? My psychology background and years of experience as an organizational consultancy tell me we cannot expect things to return to the way they were.

Here’s Why

Team engagement and productivity: Although people will physically come back to work, others may still be away, emotionally speaking. Many will need time to overcome the emotional toll they experienced; the anxiety, stress, relationship tensions, grievance are just some of the factors that impact people’s ability to return to pre-COVID-19 levels of productivity.

Leadership assessment criteria: Whether it’s during the next formal talent review or as part of an informal conversation, team members, talent managers, and executives will reflect on how leaders stood up to the challenge. They will ask questions, such as: Who was resilient and proved themselves as leaders others can count on in difficult times? Who was there for their employees and kept them engaged, and who was not?

Reorganizations: I expect to see many reorganizations once the pandemic is over. The need to reincorporate new or returning employees (to make up for redundancies and attrition), together with the changing market conditions, will form a perfect recipe for making organizational changes.

Forming, storming, norming...again: Even with little personnel changes, many teams will need to regroup and align around their (new) goals (i.e., revisit boundaries and relationship dynamics until they resettle).

A dynamic talent market: The talent market is also likely to change dramatically. On the one hand, many will be looking for jobs, possibly willing to settle for lower pay after being out of work for a while. On the other hand, there will be an urgency to hire new employees for critical positions.

What Does It Mean for You Today?

Bottom line? It means that the way you act today, your virtues as a leader during the crisis, will impact your ability to succeed when it all “goes back to normal.”

Furthermore, forward thinking and planning for the day “masks are off” will help you reengage the team quicker so they help you meet your goals.

My Recommendations

Stand out as a trustworthy leader during these difficult days. Be the leader others can rely on during these difficult times, promote a sense of optimism, keep people motivated, and demonstrate strength in the face of adversity.

Stay closely connected to your team members and be there to support. This will not only help safeguard the psychological wellness of your team members but also increase their appreciation of you, their commitment, and speed of readjustment.

Keep your team intact and emotionally close. Whether it’s through regular team calls, assigning joint projects, or having an occasional virtual informal gathering, keeping your team together today will reduce the effort and time needed for regrouping them later on.

Think strategically on how to meet your future goals. Remember that the turbulences will not end together with the outbreak. There will likely be a huge need for organizational changes once we all return to our offices. Get ahead of the curve; think today how you can better align your organization structure and capabilities to meet your future strategic goals. Also, remember to keep a big energy reservoir for dealing with these future transformations.

Plan for a team regrouping process. Recognize that you and your people have been through a lot. In addition, your goals and personnel are likely to change quite a bit. As things get back to normal, schedule time to bring everyone back together, reconnect as a team, turn the page, and realign on how, together, you will achieve your mission.


Although we’re experiencing an unprecedented crisis that seems detached from our daily business routine, the way we lead today will significantly impact our achievements once business activities bounce back. Following these key recommendations will help position you and your team for success on the day the coronavirus outbreak is over.

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