For months, the Covid-19 has disrupted the way we conduct business, the way we work and the way we communicate, forcing us to rethink our social interactions, our goals and shaping new essential skills for the leaders of tomorrow.
A new work environment
If there is one certainty for business in these times of uncertainty, it is that digital transformation is part of the future – whether on the customers’ side or on the employees’ side – and consequently requires a new business strategy. Post-Covid leaders must therefore be able to understand, implement and manage, at least from an operational point of view, the technologies that will support those adjustments. AI, AR/VR, robotics, machine learning, programming… those are only a small portion of the fields that will strongly impact the way we produce, sell and consume over the next decade. Can you right now detect the opportunities in their use and transform them into results and performance ? If not, it’s probably time for you to get your tech knowledge to date and broaden your skills set.
When you get familiar with the technologies arising, you can then work hand in hand with your CIO and tech teams to create new business models, seize market opportunities and optimize your overall business performance: cost-efficiency, selling, customer support, communication, customer engagement, supply chain, monitoring… The fields of action and improvement through digitalization are wide-ranging and as Covid-19 has already radically changed our habits and business, the next phase will likely have some more surprises in store. Now is the time to anticipate, get prepared and reinvent your business to avoid disruption. Once new tools are implemented, comes the need to interpret data in order to enable pragmatic decision-making. Understanding the figures will truly save you time and money and help you check whether you are well on track strategically or not. Last but not least, getting comfortable with technology communication platforms will also help you manage and inspire your team more efficiently as detailed further. Always remember however that embedding digital into everyday working can imply greater-risk, faster pace of working and information flow and an adjustment period for your coworkers. This means that as a leader, you will have to be more agile and resilient in your tasks as well as more attentive and supportive with your team.
A new perception of leadership
According to a research conducted in the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University (BYM) over 220 student teams within two Midwestern universities, new ways of working affect the way we perceive and acknowledge leadership. Traditional leaders with formal authority and perceived as extrovert persons used to inspire confidence in face-to-face meetings but do not stand out as much in online meetings.
On the other hand, a new profile of leaders emerges in virtual environments: the ones undertaking small actions like taking time to assist others achieving their tasks, monitoring timelines or providing feedback tend to get more recognition and validation from the team members. In a digital place where human interaction is limited, there seems to be less focus on charismatic personalities and more attention to concrete initiatives and support.
Empathy and confidence in times of uncertainty
It’s not that surprising to observe teams gather around people that provide a sense of caring and personal involvement. Any crisis brings up a high level of stress, uncertainty and a shift of priorities on a professional as well as on a personal level. Hence, people start turning to leaders that they feel can ease their concerns and tasks while ensuring their safety and personal interests. They expect a leadership focused on pragmatic and immediate solutions rather than long-term promises or political considerations.
The boom of remote working also involves a range of constraints and adjustments that many employees were not ready to deal with. On one side, there is the communication issue: a feeling of social isolation for some and a lack of face-to-face communication. Working from home, far from colleagues and coffee break chit-chats isn’t made for everyone. On the other side, practical work-related issues arise within our new virtual office: a limited access to some information, distractions at home, a new planning organization, etc.
To address and defeat fear, make your team feel involved: managers used to project, set up 5-years plans and make a bunch of decisions far from their team members while those were expected to turn these strategies into reality. Social distancing has build a stronger than ever need for inclusion. Too many uncertainties have now arisen to perpetuate this approach. It’s time to shift your focus from future concerns to reinforcing the bounds with your team right now and start with trust. Remote working doesn’t necessarily imply a decrease of productivity and efficiency as many managers tend to think so. However, your coworkers do need some adjustments to make the most of it.
Whether through individual calls or team meetings, you should establish a daily contact routine for your team members to feel in touch with each other and know there’s always a dedicated time slot for communication, questions and possible concerns to discuss. It is also crucial to check that the information flows effectively throughout the team. Once the communication is on track, ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of his work duties, planning and the new digital tools available to ease the process. Always remain as transparent as you can be on the situation and the goals to achieve on the short-term, dealing with one thing after another. The context is new for everyone therefore everyone needs to stay tuned. Besides, transparency will boost commitment and confidence among your team.
Do no hesitate either to schedule some social virtual meetups such as online drinks with a view to nurturing the cohesion of your team and the feeling of belonging. Virtual parties can even be considered when celebrating an achievement, with food delivered to each team member. Finally, remember to check on your coworkers’s wellbeing and ask for feedback on a regular basis. Whether from home or in the office, they have faced and are still facing a bunch of challenges and worries. Asking regularly how they’re doing in general and how they’re adjusting to the situation and their new work organization only takes a few minutes but has a lasting positive impact.
Author: Sophie Vande Kerkhove – Content Manager