The business environment has materially changed in recent weeks, as an outcome of the Coronavirus. The ‘social isolation’ mandate, health concerns, and travel limitations have changed how we work, collaborate, and interact with co-workers. As I am talking to executives, leaders, and colleagues, I’ve come to realize most of us are dealing with varying degrees of personal and emotional distress. Because it’s not yet clear how the crisis will play itself out or work environments will change, this article is designed to help executives engage employees and teams in today’s shifting climate.
In the immediate term, executives and companies must focus on the health, wellness, safety, and well being of their employees. It’s crucial to connect with team members, provide tools and resources to work remotely, make appropriate accommodations, and do frequent pulse checks to measure engagement. Equally important is an executive’s ability to ensure their teams are productive, engaged, and committed to business continuity. A company’s capability to retain customers, meet client needs, and deliver positive outcomes during this period of disruption, can have a material impact on the company’s future.
In the aftermath of Covid-19, executives may need to revisit their talent strategies, customer segments, product portfolios, supply chains, and competitive landscape. But in the short term, companies must compete for the hearts and minds of their team members. Those who successfully navigate the current challenges will have devoted, loyal, and highly productive employees.
Those who fail to shift or adapt to this new operating environment will have difficulty attracting and retaining the best talent. To help executives and companies navigate through this present reality, I’ve pulled together a playbook and a list of recommended practices. These principles are grounded in behavior psychology, organizational behavior, sociology, high-performance teams, and adaptive corporate cultures. Highly successful executives have used many of these practices during times of crisis.
INTENSELY FOCUS ON YOUR TOP PRIORITIES AND LINK THEM TO YOUR COMPANY’S VISION. The adage “less is more” has never rang more true. People are feeling overwhelmed. Simplify your message and give team members a sense of purpose, clarity, and alignment. By focusing only on your most essential priorities, and successfully linking these to your company’s vision (or mission), leaders create the gravitational pull that propels the organization, and business continuity plans forward.
CLEARLY COMMUNICATE YOUR GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS. Because team members are working remotely, adapting to a new virtual environment, and likely experiencing a variety of distractions, transparent and effective communication is critical. Leaders must outline, clarify, and gain agreement on the work to be done. Employees want guidance, direction, and visibility regarding what is needed and expected during this period of uncertainty. Discussing expectations, deadlines, and deliverables will reduce anxiety, confusion, and frustration.
BUILD MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS. Humans crave personal and meaningful relationships, especially in times of stress. People want to be heard, seen, and valued. Thoughtfully providing forums and processes for team members to communicate and get their work done is critically important. Use sessions for sharing, collaborating, checking in, or business updates. Build team members up, stay positive, share success stories, and celebrate wins.
MANAGE FREQUENCY AND CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION. Great leaders elevate the importance of communication during times of stress. Conducting successful individual, team, business unit, and company meetings are essential. I’ve heard from leaders that the present volume of meetings is adversely affecting morale and sapping productivity. Avoid having meetings for the sake of having meetings. If you don’t need them, cancel the sessions. If done early, give members back their time. The best leaders have brief agenda’s, encourage participation, demonstrate gratitude, celebrate successes, inspire team members, and outline core deliverables for the next meeting. They also use different channels to deliver messages. Because different types of communication appeal to different segments of your workforce, its essential to experiment with multiple approaches (email, virtual, instant messaging, and PowerPoint decks). Don’t rely on a unique method.
PREDICTABILITY AND STRUCTURE. Most employees like structure and routines. Much of what people have clung to or relied on throughout their careers has shifted recently. Provide structure and visibility, where possible. Avoid over engineering processes, but try to help your teams create productive routines. Outlining your desire to have pre-set team calls and provide a calendar for the week will be increasingly valuable.
TONE AND CREDIBILITY. In times of distress, team members are attentively listening to you, your word selection, and your mood. Leaders who lead with confidence, optimism, and encouragement consistently see higher levels of engagement, participation, and productivity. Some leaders, when attempting to communicate rationally or factually, may come across as robotic and uncaring. Be yourself. Speak honestly and credibly. While people may want assurances, they also want to know the truth. If your company has been disrupted and your future is uncertain, don’t mislead the team. Share what you can and what you know. If you’re unsure about how to respond to a difficult question, tell them you will get back to them and get back to them.
PROMOTE COLLABORATION AND OWNERSHIP. In times of unease, some leaders tend to take over and complete critical tasks themselves. While this may be necessary at times, your ultimate goal is to build and develop a highly engaged and productive team. Encourage ownership, partnerships, and collaboration between team members. This approach tends to build people up, expand their skill sets, and increase their confidence. Delegate, encourage, and promote accountability.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION. Members of your team operate, process information, think and work differently. Additionally, their family dynamics, remote working conditions, personal demands, finances, and lifestyle may be affecting them in a variety of ways. Adapt your leadership and tap into your team member’s unique skill sets. Explore what different members need from you, how you can support them, and increase their commitment to your team and company. Avoid micromanaging, creating arbitrary deadlines, isolating members, or losing critical contact with your team. Engaging in these practices will significantly increase your leadership effectiveness and increase the productivity of your team members.
This crisis has provided leaders with a unique opportunity – to make a meaningful and material difference in the lives of others. Members of every community and organization are looking to be inspired, led, and supported. In this time of change and instability, we owe it to ourselves, families, colleagues, and communities to be the best possible version of ourselves we can be. We can and should make a material difference in the lives of others, strengthen our teams, and help our companies become an even better (and more productive) version of ourselves.
Thank you for reading. If you are interested in learning more, please contact:
David Friedler – firstname.lastname@example.org,1-925-234-6394
John Vegas – email@example.com,1-612-387-5501