Agility is all the buzz in corporate America right now. The need to pivot and address unpredictability with speed and flexibility — all with a largely hybrid workforce — is pressing companies to flex like never before. While this may seem like largely an external or output-driven shift, Luster says the real work for leaders starts on the inside.
“The ability to adapt as an organization, that’s very introspective,” Luster says. “This is especially true when it comes to employees’ mental health. It often just means meeting employees where they are and asking them what they need.”
Again, Luster uses the pandemic as a reference point. “Leaders had to be willing to modify their leadership style. Not everything works. This put leaders to the test. We saw what they were made of during this trial-by-fire period,” he says. Two anecdotes illustrate what he means.
“Fast-food drive-throughs and restaurants were packed during the pandemic, and I could see the stresses on employees that told me there was nothing available to address their mental health needs,” Luster says. “Their leaders are taught to produce, and so when customers were stressed or complaining, they weren’t able to flex and adapt to help their employees through that. They were focused on output instead.”
In another setting, a health clinic, Luster observed people packed into a small lobby. “The manager was communicative, ‘touching’ everyone in some way with questions like, ‘Do you feel like you need a break right now? How are you doing? Can I help you?’ It wasn’t, ‘Hey, we’ve got a number of people in here, we’ve got to step it up.’ This manager took ownership of the situation and helped his team by first making sure they were OK, showing them care so that they could feel confident in helping deal with the customers,” Luster recalls.