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COVID Management Tools for the Future
This post was co-authored by Meara Razon Ashtivker.
This Corona quarantine has brought to life many simple truths.
Among them: teachers are not paid enough, sweatpants are the best worst statement in fashion, and there is beauty in the mundane.
Through this transitional work period from home, we have found three management principles to be critical.
1. Teams that operate cohesively can work together in crisis.
Teams can complete tasks without being fully functional. That is probably the case for many teams dependent on technical skills that do not require to problem-solving or creativity. The ability to adapt to remote work during a pandemic without major losses requires a team who operates cohesively. A team in which everyone is confident in their unique roles, knows how to execute and move projects forward, trusts one another, and feels comfortable critiquing and initiating difficult conversations. We’ve experienced this at our organization. Typically, our field staff brings in business while the marketing team supports their efforts. We now have a reversal of roles with marketing leading recruitment and the field staff supporting.
The manager, in this case, is challenged to rearrange responsibilities and provide support for the new department or person who has shifted from a “leading character” to the supporting player. Giving a voice to the change in team dynamics is crucial at this point — and only a unified team can work through a conversation where powers are reshuffled and certain projects are sent to the bench, overnight.
This nimbleness is possible because there was preparation before the crisis hit. We invested in open conversations and in mutual trust, clearly defined roles within the team to all the constituencies, and created the infrastructure that would empower team members to respond productively to changes.
2. Emotional intelligence is as important as technical skills.
Ignoring the world around us and carrying on with “business as usual” not only damages relationships with clients but with your teams and yourself. Normally, we do not work from home and our kids don’t require our undivided attention 24/7. Just like us, every team member carries a personal load in addition to their professional work. Everyone has great priorities, and no one person has a heavier plate than another. All of us need an outlet for ‘real talk’ to discuss what’s going on before we can invest our whole selves in the company’s work.
Managing during crisis is like walking a tight rope. On one side, there is productivity, comprised of employees who are focused on working to achieve a company’s mission. On the other side, there is baggage — both societal and personal — that each person is pulling around with them.
It is a manager’s job to evaluate how much the team leans to one side or the other before falling off the rope with everything crashing down.Aggressive changes, like the pandemic, require empathy even after the initial shock fades. Embracing the eventual unpleasant conversations, underwhelming performance, and unusual mistakes helps teams survive. Leaders need to guide with clarity and understanding.
3. We can make a “remote year” work.
You can be a successful employee while out of the (physical) office. There are advantages to having the team sit around the table. However, work can also be accomplished remotely and that can open new doors.
We know that people are more well-rounded when they travel and experience different places and cultures. Now that we’re learning to work remotely, imagine how much value employees can add with those experiences under their belt. The idea of a remote year has gained traction over the last several years with employees spending up to a year traveling to different countries while working virtually.
This benefit requires structure. Managers can learn, as they have during the pandemic, how to develop a productive and positive relationship with their remote teams. It is only a matter of time before companies will hire uniquely for talent and capacities, rather than proximity. This will unlock access to a global workforce that was never available before. And for young professionals, the opportunity to travel to inspiring places all the while boosting their career is unparalleled.
Managing during this unusual time is a great sandbox to explore alternative management styles. We have an opportunity to reevaluate the professional environments we’ve taken for granted and learn how to make them more resilient for the future.