Business Leadership in the Time of COVID - 19
Work from home. This is, for now, the new normal for professionals. The coronavirus crisis has forced us to take refuge in our homes, but business life must go on—so much depends on how efficiently and effectively we can rise to this challenge so that our business can survive. Business leaders, from top management to team heads, are challenged to lead from a distance, to provide guidance, direction, and assurance in ways that are new and perhaps, uncomfortable for many. There was no time to prepare or train for this phenomenon, but true leadership is indeed tested in times of adversity. Here are some tips to lead in the time of COVID:
- REACH OUT. Convene your team as soon as possible. Create a workgroup on the easiest platforms that you can (FB Messenger, Skype, Zoom, etc.). The first agenda is to ask each member how they and their families are doing. Set the tone with EMPATHY. Everyone is anxious and fearful. Listen to them. Let them know that your foremost priority is your members’ well-being.
- ASSURE THEM. Times may be uncertain but assure them as best as you can that you will help see each other through the crisis. Now is the time for that REAL PEP TALK. Make no promises unless you are in a position to do so, but make each member feel that work-from-home output is crucial to keep the business boat sailing. Problems that arise can be dealt with proactive anticipation or on-the-spot solutions. Adversity is the mother of creativity after all.
- SET A CLEAR AGENDA (by day or week). Discuss the goals and work output expected by day or for the week, with reasonable deadlines. Get their inputs. Setting a group and individual laundry list is a good way of creating that work mode mindset. Ticking items off that list gives one a sense of accomplishment and productivity. Work also becomes a positive distraction to negative and alarming COVID-related news. Identify a common time to do regular virtual or digital meetings. Depending on the need, these may be daily, bi-weekly or whatever works best for your team. Assign a different member to collate the work-outputs of the team, both for documentation purposes and as reports to higher management, so that they know your team is continuously productive on workdays.
- MASTER THE MEDIUM OF VIRTUAL COMMUNICATION. It may be trial and error in the beginning. It could be frustrating at first, but fun as well. Learning to master the new modes of virtually working with your team members will add a new dimension to work and personal relationships. Address concerns such as the absence of internet access, laptop, etc. Look for alternative ways of keeping connected. If someone needs to work using a mobile phone, “share-a-load” to pre-paid members will keep the work going. Walk them through the steps, even if you yourself are not as savvy. Identify the techie-savvy in your team and let them lead the way. This is all part of the learning curve.
- PROVIDE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK. Commend your team, as a group and as individuals at the end of each workday. Let them know you appreciate their efforts and productivity. If there are members who are not pulling their weight, send them a separate message and discuss your concerns privately. There is no need to add more unnecessary stress to your team by making them aware of tensions, etc.
- TAKE BREAKS. Within a workday, take breaks. You can challenge each member to come up with an activity like a game, a short learning activity, a sharing, etc. that can boost team spirit and provide rest, recreation and learning as well. It’s important to stay positive, motivated and proactive in times of adversity. This hits two birds with one stone—team building and development!
MODEL THE WAY. Be present. Be accessible. Do your own work. Share your output. Share your feelings (when appropriate) and show your team that now, more than ever, each member matters and belongs. OHANA—no one gets left behind—is most profoundly relevant and reassuring.
About the Author
Ms. Marisyll Pengson is John Robert Powers International Curriculum Director. She is a results-oriented professional with a 35-year track record as a teacher, educational administrator, and personality development expert for both local and international audiences. Ms. Marisyll is a creative and strategic thinker strongly committed to helping students achieve their personal and professional goals and objectives. She is also a book author and resource speaker for radio, television, and print media on topics related to Personality and Professional Development.