6 Tips for Being a Strong Leader During Disruption
If you’re in a leadership position, you’ve found yourself in a bit of a predicament recently. You may have caught wind of the Covid crisis before it became so widespread, maybe you didn’t, but regardless of planning there’s little doubt any of us expected the fallout to be this severe. Plainly speaking, the pandemic has been a leadership test for CIOs, CTOs, and tech leaders around the world, among other things.
Let’s look at the massive change we’ve all seen unfold before our very eyes. Crowded cities turned silent for the first time in a century. Schools closed their doors and took education to the homefront. Companies turned to remote work, deploying entire teams to work together across vast distances in short amounts of time, on top of having to deal with team and personal stress as well. None of this came easy. None of this came cheap.
Some companies didn’t even have plans for this kind of event. Many had zero remote policies up until now, relying on their teams in the field to manage their workflow from the office. Those that didn’t, well… shaking up the company’s model wasn’t a smooth ride. That burden, as I’m sure you’re feeling, fell on your shoulders. Thankfully, there’s still time to improve, capitalize, and integrate your remote teams during disruption.
The following are some tips on how to deal with this crisis and lead your team strongly and accordingly.
Define Clear Goals
The change of scenery and atmosphere makes it real easy to get swept up and lose direction. Before your teams get too locked out on the wayside, remind each team member of your company goals, or update them if your goals have changed. After this contingency, there’s no guarantee that your expectations and objectives will still be the same.
What you were aiming for at the start of 2020 may not be the same now. A shift in dynamic to this degree must be clearly communicated and defined for your team members, as it should help orientate them in the new world. Keep everyone involved and be transparent about what is expected of your team, as well as how you can contribute and support your company’s survival and eventual growth.
Ask and answer some questions for yourself. What should your team keep doing? What should they stop focusing on? How can they support each other and maintain communication more efficiently? It’ll take a bit of getting used to to transfer from an office setting mindset to a remote one, so patience and establishing a definitive baseline for your team is essential for moving forward.
Exemplary communication is what sets us apart from beasts. The lengths, breadth, and depth we’ve gone to establishing ways to talk to each other across the world has been a compelling cornerstone of how we function as a species. It also happens to be how effective organizations are run, so jot that down. Rule number one: communication is key in any crisis management strategy.
You can’t afford to be the silent head, there’s no benefit there. Only through concise, consistent disclosure can you be expected to be the leader your teams need. Demonstrate you are present and ready to answer any questions or concerns. Open communication is necessary for successful collaboration, especially during remote projects.
Keep in mind that face-to-face meetings have the in-person factor, where you get to play and answer by people’s reactions and expressions. You’re missing that in remote work. Even with video conferencing, the effect is greatly diminished, which further exemplifies the importance of explicit, detailed information sharing.
Right now you need to effectively communicate requirements, concerns, and expectations. Don’t leave any stone unturned, make sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to do. You might come off as overbearing at some points, but that’s a price you may have to pay to keep everything properly organized, informed, and respected.
Recognize the Humanity of Each Team Member
Respect. Envision you’re forced to wake up and go into work every day, and while you’re a highly skilled tech worker, you’re relegated to inferior positions because your leaders and teammates don’t hold you in your proper regard. You aren’t told things, or you’re the last to be informed, and you find that your skill set is unappreciated and your worth as a human being feels undermined.
Sucks, doesn’t it? This is the reality you want to avoid your team members being in at all costs. It may be exaggerated, but you never really know when you might accidentally tread on someone’s toes.
Recognizing the humanity of each team member boils down to respect, and that covers everything about them. The well-being, safety, and health, both physical and mental, of your workforce is a top priority right now, perhaps more so than ever due to the nature of this crisis. Ask about their personal situations, make sure their current remote working schedule fits their lifestyle at home. Some workers may be fine with a 9-to-5 schedule, but some others will be dealing with homeschooling or other personal issues that need to be tackled at the same time as work.
Home becomes everything: work station, school, gym, therapy chair, etc. We’re living in unprecedented times, and it’s important to remember that our personal lives won’t stop for our work lives when both worlds clash in the same space, 24/7. Being a strong leader involves having the foresight to handle each team member with the same respect that you would have them hold for you.
Regularly Check In and Provide Ongoing Support
Being a strong leader is as much serving as it is leading. When your team is splintered and working remotely, it’s your job to help keep them connected. Consider altering your meeting style, opting for more frequent, maybe briefer and more effective meetings. Involve everyone, get straight to the point, and send them back on their way. Doing so binds the group as a whole together while maintaining a sense of organization and support.
Keep communication open, make sure you keep them informed about how the situation evolves, answer questions, let everyone know what they’re doing well, what they’re doing wrong, and how you can be of support to help overcome any challenge. It can get lonely and frustrating for people who are very used to connecting with other people inside an office everyday, to suddenly not see their teammate’s faces on the regular.
This is why video calls have become all the rage since stay-at-home orders came into effect. Being able to connect not just vocally but visually as well derives a better connection between coworkers, family members, friends. This is your time to be the backbone to your team. Make sure to recognize when someone is doing an outstanding job and sharing success stories so everyone feels connected and motivated.
Focus on What You Can Control
The world sorta feels like it’s caught in a maelstrom, and as much as you struggle against the current, there doesn’t seem to be much you can do. We’re all at home, waiting out the virus while we hope someone out there is finding a cure, and wondering when the restrictions will finally be lifted and it’s safe to venture outside again. It sucks to hear, but there’s no real concrete time scale for when that will happen. It’s out of our control.
As easy as it would be to dwell on everything that’s going on around us that we don’t have control over, that will only generate useless stress. Unburden your mind and focus on the things you can do. What can you improve within your company? How can you support innovation and growth? This is an opportunity to invest in new technologies that you know will be needed in the future.
Now isn’t the time to sulk and kick rocks around. Quarantine is terrible, but it’s not without its merits. Right now, you can be preparing for the future as a strong business leader should. Having the correct infrastructure to work remotely was the difference for many companies between adapting effectively or having massive losses in the process. Whether you were the former or the latter, you’ve learned. You’ve seen firsthand. Now it’s time to do and take control again.
Embrace the New Normal
Remember when we said there’s no time scale for when things go back to normal? That’s something you’re gonna have to get used to for the long term. Even if restrictions were withdrawn tomorrow and everyone was free to return to the office, there’s a very probable chance that things are never really gonna be quite the same again. And that’s a good thing.
Make peace with the idea of having a distributed team in different places, cities, or even countries. Having remote teams on hand, even using members from your own team that make the remote switch, is something that benefits everyone involved, both productively, mentally, and organizationally. You may come back to your regular office schedule soon, or somethings may stay the way they are right now.
The reality is, a new normal will emerge from this situation, and it’s exciting. You need to remain positive, transparent, supportive, and flexible for the things, seen and unforeseen, that are coming your way. Being a strong leader means setting an example and being able to roll with the blows. Keeping your chin up, smiling, and taking things as they come sets the bar for everyone else.
It’s a stressful time. You may know someone who’s been hit hard by this wave of change, or you might have personally been gouged out yourself. We know. Right now, humanity is showing it’s true colors by coming together for each other across the globe. We may not be perfect, but we do the best with what we’ve got.
As for your company and how you can improve as a strong leader, hopefully this list helps. Summing up, you need to define clear goals, communicate effectively, recognize the humanity of your team members, regularly check in, focus on what you can control, and embrace the new normal. In the end, taking these concepts to heart helps make you a person greater than the sum of your parts. You grow.
iTexico recognizes the tremendous changes that are occuring internationally, and we’re proud to say we’re at the forefront of helping businesses adapt to the new world as it is. We can provide the support, knowledge, and connections needed to sustain and grow your business, especially now. If you’re interested in our services, visit our contact page to learn more about what we can do for you.