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.
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.”
Personal Reflection: Staying engaged while being new and virtual.
Anh Vo joined ALULA at the beginning of 2020 and was progressing through her onboarding when the whole world changed. Onboarding to a new company is challenging in itself. But onboarding during a pandemic is especially challenging. These are Anh's thoughts on making virtual onboarding work.
January ended on an immense high note: I was joining a new company and a new team! I was really looking forward to getting to know everyone and learn about the organization, as well as my place in it. Things were progressing as planned. I got to attend the annual company meeting (in beautiful San Diego!) and meet everyone from all over the country. I traveled to the company headquarters for an onboarding session and met with colleagues. The usual onboarding activities, as expected.
In this time of pandemic, we are intensely caring for our families, our clients, our company, and our careers—and in some cases even schooling our children at home, or caring for loved ones and neighbors. We are giving 110% to everything at once. Many of us have become adept at this, working virtually, leading meetings remotely, hurtling forward day-after-day.
But too often we are not caring for ourselves. Though we are strong, leading the way daily, our minds and bodies need breaks too.
ALULA has worked as a virtual company for years, so we’ve learned a lot about staying healthy in “the virtual life”—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here’s some advice, especially for those who may not be accustomed to working from home.
When a crisis hits, many companies turn their attention outwards. Understandably, business leaders spend time crafting external messages and planning for ongoing communication to clients, partners, and other external stakeholders. Equally important, business leaders need to craft plans for nurturing and strengthening internal relationships through ongoing communications.
In these uncertain times, your team members will have deep-seated concerns about their health, their families, and job security. It is critical that you recognize the value they bring to the continuity of your operations and to your organization’s culture. How you relate to your team during this worldwide pandemic will have lasting consequences.
It is critical to maintain solid relationships that demonstrate trust and respect, inspire, show empathy, and create positive accountability. Your primary role as a leader in these times is to ensure that people continue to feel valued, heard, and connected.
Personal Reflection: Caring for Family and Colleagues
These personal reflections are from Danielle Geissler, Ph.D. A trusted advisor and coach to many senior executives in the U.S. and abroad, Danielle boards planes, trains, and secures ride services on a daily basis to better help executives create positive, productive, and engaged workplaces. She resides at—what is today—the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak. These are a few of her insights.