What I Have Learned During This Pandemic, Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts where I will share my business lessons learned (thus far) from the global health crisis. How long a series will this be? Not sure… the lessons are still percolating, and the crisis is far from over. This could be a long series…

In my first post of this series, I wrote about realizing how quickly everything can change, and how unsettling that was. In the second post, I wrote about the importance of agility, and the ability to quickly pivot your business during a crisis like this. Today, I am writing about management style during a crisis.

Because everything can change quickly… and because your business needs to be agile in a quickly changing environment… your management style needs to be able to pivot just as quickly as your business. Trust me… mine has.

The amount of change your management style has required over the last few months certainly depends on what your style was pre-pandemic. But let’s start with this basic premise. No matter what your basic management style was before, I think we all can agree that some adjustment has been mandated. Consider the following fact pattern:

  1. Business revenues go from healthy to very much at risk in two weeks;
  2. The business culture transitions from largely office-based to entirely remote in two days;
  3. Many teams were asked to display incredible agility and pivot their company’s business in major ways, all while managing the crashing intersection of their personal and professional lives;
  4. Everyone in our lives is suddenly isolated from each other, the things we all do to entertain and distract ourselves are no longer available, and we all become quickly petrified…

Well, if that fact pattern does not cause you to look in the mirror and consider changes to your leadership style, then I don’t know what to say.

In my case, the switch to a virtual office environment while at the same time quickly pivoting our business (from primarily in-person training services to entirely virtual training services) was definitely a challenge. Big pivots in your business require lots of communication, discussion, planning in front of a white board… and all of those things are harder when your team is never together, and everyone is working from home and trying to carve out some workspace amidst their family dynamic. The concept of the workday needed to change dramatically and quickly. People on our team now break up their day in different ways… some have shifted their day earlier, some later, and some break their work day up in chunks based on the needs of their family. Not only are we never together in a room anymore, but we often are not even working at the same time.

All of this forced us to work on some very new and very clear communication norms:

  1. When to use email vs personal text vs group chat as a communication channel.
  2. The rapid and complete adoption of video conferencing. We use Microsoft Teams internally, WebEx for our training (most of the time), and Zoom or GoToMeeting when the client asks for those. We needed to become fluent in all of them.
  3. How to manage documents, shared server drives, and our internal editing process. We even reiterated our language around how we name different versions of documents that get edited by multiple people.
  4. We did a total revisit of roles and responsibilities, to make sure there were not any gaps between where one person’s job ended, and another person’s job began.

And all of these things required that I figure out when to involve myself, when to stay away, when to ask for communication, when to trust my instincts and when to fight those same instincts. My personal leadership mantra has always been based on trust. But now it is based on trust and giving my team the grace and space to do their job while also managing their life.

The bottom line is this… when everything around you is changing, and your business is going through major transitions, and your team is under great stress… don’t forget to look in the mirror. If everything around you is changing, there almost certainly needs to be some changes from the person in the mirror as well.

Have a great day, stay safe, and hug your family.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.