The vast spread of the coronavirus compels social sector leaders to manage with urgency through stressful and rapid change. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has identified six Results Count® tools and skills that leaders serving children, families and communities can use to maintain a focus on achieving equitable results — even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Recognize that your focus has not changed.
The strategies that you were pursuing a month ago may have changed, but your focus on children, families and communities remains unchanged. Continue to keep your target populations at the center of what you are doing, paying closest attention to the children and families least likely to do well during these difficult times. Identifying a condition of well-being (i.e., a result) that you desire for these groups and analyzing strategies to advance this work can make a difference in both the short and the long term. Leaders can center their work around race and ethnic equity by understanding the roles that race, class and culture play in shaping outcomes and opportunities for their target populations. For example, who is hardest hit by COVID-19? What strategies — new or longstanding — should you be pursuing to ensure that population’s outcomes are maximized? What contribution can your organization can make? The Foundation’s Results Equity Crosswalk tool helps leaders bring attention to and act on racial and ethnic disparities.
2. View this as a time when we must all adapt.
People react differently to change and have different needs. Pay special attention to the need to process loss and change. The pandemic magnifies threats like illness, job loss and economic insecurity. Even sheltering in place and working from home are changes that can be very destabilizing to your staff and partners. Acknowledging these changes and providing space for processing them is important. For example, begin meetings with a simple question that acknowledges what participants are feeling or thinking as they approach the work. A simple, genuine “How are you?” is an important opener because it allows the group to know what might be distracting individuals from joining the work. Be prepared to take more time for these kinds of check-ins. Follow up with a question or two that draws attention to the work at hand, such as “What do you want to get out of this meeting?”
3. Reach out to partners, because you need them now more than ever.
Ask yourself and your team what can be done in partnership with others right now in a highly aligned and meaningful way. Look beyond your long-standing partners. Which unlikely partners share your result and can contribute to it? The Foundation produced a short video on how to achieve high action and high alignment in large-scale work.
4. Use yourself as an instrument of change.
Individuals at any level — no matter the job title or description — can practice leadership. Think about your staff and partners looking to you for leadership right now. How are you communicating with them? What information do they need to keep work moving? How can you maximize connections when you may not be able to meet in person? How are you using data to drive decision-making? How are you holding results and equity at the center of your work?
5. Be nimble and thoughtful, not reactive and impulsive.
This is the time to use your data, make hypotheses, commit to action and test things out. Pay attention to what you are learning and then revise as necessary. Remember to look for data — both quantitative and qualitative — that can inform your thinking and the success of your efforts, even in quick-time cycles.
6. Remember to take care of yourself.
Model the importance of taking time with your family and be graceful with yourself and others. The unknown can be a scary thing.
These six skills are part of Results Count®, the Foundation’s competency-based approach to leadership development. Casey uses Results Count to help leaders in the social and public sectors accelerate measurable and equitable improvements in outcomes for children and families in communities across the country.
“Strong leadership is desperately needed right now for the good of our kids and families,” says Barbara Squires, the director of Leadership Development at the Foundation. "Most leaders are feeling enormous pressure right now, and these Results Count concepts remind them how much they know and are able to do."
Watch a recorded presentation introducing Results Count