Will COVID-19 reveal how good leaders are? The answer is obvious: IT IS RIGHT NOW! Unfortunately, the pandemic was something most of us didn’t see coming. The question is, do you, as a leader, think so as well? If you agree with me, how are you preparing for the rest of this pandemic? What are your leaders’ next steps?
Where are we?
Most of us were blindsided by COVID-19. Since March, we have moved our office to the kitchen table, taken over daycare for our children, and spent more time with our immediate families than we ever wanted.
We’ve checked the box on Safety by having folks move their work setting from the office to their home. We have conquered challenges that prevented us from working, allowing us to settle into the New Normal. The natural tendency is for us to pause, take a breath, pat each other on the back (at a safe distance of course), and celebrate that we got through it together. Based on the prognosticators in the media, the New Normal could continue in varying degrees over the next year or so.
Now that organizations are starting to stabilize, leaders need to start considering how to align their organization to the New Normal.
As our teammates are getting into a routine, the new challenge is much harder: How do we lead in this environment?
Organizations have never been faced with this type of disaster before. We’ve been through disasters that have resulted in significant hardship and loss. In my lifetime, terrorist attacks and market crashes seem to have become events that, while shocking, have tested strategies. While each event leaves its mark, lessons, for the most part, have been learned. What makes the COVID-19 pandemic different is that there is a significant loss of life, difficult economic and financial impacts combined with a forced change to working remotely.
While the change to remote work pales in comparison to the constant loss of life or unemployment, it can have long lasting impacts that will dramatically serve as impediments or accelerants to your organization.
In a survey conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, “44 percent of managers say they lack training and feel overwhelmed at work.” My guess is those numbers are much higher now. Leaders are being tested under fire with little or no management training. What’s more, 42% of new managers admit they developed their style by observing and mimicking a previous manager.
Scary thought, isn’t it? 42% of our leaders are taking their next steps from a previous manager who hasn’t been trained.
Leaders Next Steps
As a leader who has survived the transition to working remotely, what should your next steps bet? Here are four areas for you to focus:
Put Trust Front and Center – Leading remote workers requires leaders to trust their teammates. Trusting your teammates isn’t optional anymore. You’re not in the same physical environment anymore. You can’t just glance over or stop by and chat. It takes effort to connect when working remotely, so it happens less often.
Embrace Servant Leadership – Now so more than ever, leaders need to embrace servant leadership. With all the issues that our teammates have faced and solved, small impediments can grow exponentially fueled by pent up emotions from personal and professional life. Removing impediments keeps your teammates engaged and appreciative as well as increasing focus. As a leader, your greatest opportunity is not in what you personally accomplish, but instead is a sum of what your teammates get accomplished.
Gather Data – This is a hard one. Try thinking differently. Rather than hours worked, focus on metrics related to the process and the system, not the individual. Cycle Time, Lead Time, and Throughput are process metrics that might make sense. Managers should consider looking at team health, employee engagement, Predictive Index, DISC, Parin (EQ), DISC, and 16 Behaviors. Your teammates may have been perfect employees pre-COVID-19. They have been thrust into a new environment that they may not be prepared for. The more data you have, the more informed your actions can be.
Be Present – As easy as it might be to just hunker down, don’t! Set up recurring one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and project meetings as you did when you worked in the office. When in meetings, set the example by keeping your video on and actively participating. If others aren’t present consistently, connect individually to re-establish that connection. Many times, your teammates are mirroring your behavior. They are watching what you are doing. If you’re not engaged, others start to believe that is the accepted norm.
There’s a lot more that we could look at, but these four areas of focus are the foundation that great teams and organizations are built on.
There is hope.
For the last 10 years, the business has been growing, and organizations haven’t had a reason to change. With COVID-19, leaders and employees need to acknowledge that change has occurred whether they like it or not. Organizations should be considering the next actionable steps of their leaders that are critical for their survival and for their future to achieve optimal efficiencies that can propel the business for the economic boom that is sure to come.
An obvious next step is for managers to get consistent training on a regular cadence. The training should be based on theoretical concepts with practical ways of application.
Check out our Management 3.0 training. It’s a great place to start.
STAY SAFE AND WASH THOSE HANDS!