How leaders respond or react, adapt, chart a new course, and bounce back as Covid-19 continues to challenge the US and our globe reveals numerous leadership styles.
Numerous people have led and worked within global, virtual, and remote teams for decades.
There is no question that the pandemic presents organizations with a brand new challenge: how to collaborate with and oversee colleagues, customers, suppliers, vendors and other counterparts we know well, we’ve worked with side-by-side or face-to-face – who are now trying to telecommute or work effectively from home with different communication patterns, distractions, and hurdles.
Consider these practical steps that any leader may use and modify their organizational culture:
- Mission & Vision: Grappling with a pandemic isn’t the time to begin long-term strategic planning. Set simple short-term goals, defined tasks, and clear deadlines. Analyzing future scenario planning, based on possible outcomes for the virus and how they bounce back or return to a “new normal” may unfold in your industry is a worthwhile investment of time and energy.
- Workforce: Avoid hiring new team members unless they have specific skills needed immediately, such as crisis management or scenario planning. Staff layoffs, furloughs, and terminations need to be done carefully and in consultation with an employment attorney.
- Technology Resources: Many people have home offices already; although some aren’t prepared technologically or psychologically to work from home. If possible, have your IT department assist with securing a secure internet connection for their tablet or laptop, along with reliable 3G or 4G.
- Routine: We’ve all heard this tried and true advice – to the extent possible maintain the routine and structure of a normal workweek. This includes staff meetings and luncheons. Currently, those may occur virtually by phone or video with team members bringing their own food. Schedule times to speak with each team member for 15-30 minutes once a week.
- Communication: Be prepared for this aspect to change. Focusing on the work product is still primary; however, the relationship becomes more important. Plan to spend a lot more time asking questions, truly listening to and helping team members adjust to this new indefinite reality. It’s almost certainly creating fear, anxiety, and boredom. Update the team via email, teleconference, and phone, even without new developments since silence leads people to assume the worst.
- Trust: This is a time for explicit trust in all team members without close supervision. You hired them so trust that they will do the right thing in the right way. Be vigilant. Trust but verify!
- Delegation: Assign work according to each team member’s duties, experience, and expertise. When necessary, supervise. If regular activities can’t be performed, team members may appreciate the opportunity to work on projects that contribute to development or research.
- Consultation: As well as being more available and connected with internal team members, consult regularly with external advisors, coaches, mentors, stakeholders, and other counterparts.
- Accountability: Virtual role modeling is crucial during any crisis. Channeling calmness, transparency, communication, consistency, and productivity hopefully inspires the same in others.
- Reviews: Review team and individual progress at regular intervals; especially after deadlines or milestones. Verbally recognize accomplishments and contributions. Evaluate missed goals, failures, or setbacks as opportunities to learn, adjust, and move forward.
Many leaders who have worked from home for decades have never experienced anything like this collective, global rush to create and implement work continuity plans that require most people to work from home and leaders to lead in such a different way.
However, those leaders who meet this challenge in a conscious and caring way will emerge with an even stronger team when the curfew is eased and bouncing back begins. Stay tuned for the next segment in this series.
Sharon Schweitzer wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
I agree with the communication part – it needs to be crystal clear with no room for mistakes. Working online is very impersonal and messages can easily be misunderstood or taken the wrong way with digital communication, and not being able to show or explain things in person.
Dear Triple I Consulting,
Thanks for your feedback about holding a team together during Covid-19. Communication is the toughest aspect.
At this point, numerous people have Zoom or virtual fatigue from back-to-back online meetings. Hopefully a trustworthy vaccine is available to the general population in 2021.