The advent and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting need for many people to work remotely has accelerated the use of new, fast and frequently changing digital technology to solve business problems. Whether it has been the use of ever advancing technology like ZOOMSM or Microsoft® TEAMS or the fast-tracking of more complex technological processes like Telehealth, businesses are radically re-thinking how they are using technology, people and processes to survive and thrive in the current economy.
Recently I had the pleasure of moderating the first-ever virtual Women in Leadership panel at the American Biomanufacturing Summit. The panel consisted of senior female leaders of Allakos Inc, Amgen, bluebird bio, Roche, and Sangamo Therapeutics, Inc. Each of them brought a different and rich set of experiences and knowledge to the virtual table.
When I coach leaders, I often discuss how to keep people motivated. But COVID-19 has added a twist: “How can I motivate my teams—both in-office and remotely?” How do you keep people motivated when you’re not in the same building?
Much has been written about life during COVID, including the endless Zoom conferences, challenges with work/life balance and homeschooling, and the unusual work-from-home situation that forced family members to spend more time than usual together. On the work front, people describe how working from home has muddied the waters on roles and responsibilities. Communication and decision-making have become much more complicated.
A client recently asked: How do I lead my team effectively when we’re never in the same space, and many things can’t be done the way we used to do them? How do I consider each team member’s personal challenges, while still creating an environment for high performance? What does high performance even mean right now?
With COVID-19 restrictions and work-from-home orders lifting, executives are working toward shared workplace reentry. Some organizations are planning a phased return to the workplace, starting with senior leadership. Others are focused on critical functions, like R&D. Still others feel it’s a bad idea to shift people who can work from home back to the office before a vaccine is in place.
While organizations are diligently addressing systemic and process requirements, leaders are thinking about how they will lead to achieve a smooth transition.
There is a time-tested military leadership best practice that is known by the mantra; “Officers eat last.” It is reflected in what Simon Sinek described as a “circle of safety” that exists in high performing organizations so that all members will feel safe and secure and able to focus on battling external challenges and “seizing big opportunities” as a team, rather than worrying about internal conflicts and threats. That safety net is established by supportive leaders; those who put their people first and who will make personal sacrifices for the good of their teams.
Leaders planning the return to workplaces for employees who have been required to work from home (WFH) because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are finding they will need multiple working arrangements to keep their businesses thriving.
Whether returning to the office all at once, in staggered shifts, using split schedules, or maintaining WFH for some or all, leaders will need to be flexible and adapt their behaviors and management skills to deal with the fusion of the unique cultures attributed to each of these ways of working. Complicating the situation further are the still-to-be-determined cultural norms for how to behave in a socially distanced work-world.
Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living and working with a mental health issue. More and more, companies realize that it is time to fight stigma, provide support, educate and advocate for policies that support people with mental health issues.
Whether intended or not, teams working remote feel the need to be virtually present all the time. This desire to be visibly productive to their leaders and colleagues is creating longer than necessary work days and a lack of attention to personal priorities.
You athletes will probably laugh at this but humor me – there is a point – and it’s a true story!
When I was in basic training I was not much of a runner. We were doing our final test - a seven-mile run, and I was struggling at about the 5-mile mark when my instructor came up beside me and said something to me that I have never forgotten. He said; “I can see that you are getting tired and you have quite a ways to go” Then he said, “Don’t think about the end; instead just keep putting one foot in front of the other one.”