Finally, we are seeing a tiny sliver of light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
It’s not over by a long shot, but the language from our elected officials is pointing to getting back to work and being open for business again.
Hold on – we have been working and open for business, it’s just been what I call “business unusual”.
As a manager, now is the time to stop and reflect on the next phase of managing through the crisis, to ensure that the humans who transition back to the office can carry the momentum of the lessons learned in this time.
COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for us all (forced us you could say) to run a whole range of experiments; to explore ways to be more engaged, efficient and effective in both the human and technical elements of the day-to-day operation of business. Working from home seems to work, getting to know work colleagues as humans has been fun, home schooling and juggling the household chores is at best a short-term career move and technology can be good when used with the right intention.
We may never get such a chance again to experiment and explore a better way of working and the big question to be asking is this:
How can we build on this momentum and be better than we were before COVID-19 turned up?
It’s critical right now for managers to spend some time in dialogue with their employees to slow down in the busyness for a moment in order to capture the upsides of the last six weeks of exploring and experimenting.
Here are my 5 recommendations to make sure the transition into the next phase can be a smooth and successful one:
- Involve everyone in the discussion – Managers don’t have to have all the good ideas. Every human’s opinion matters right now, from the CEO right through to the humans working on the floor doing the grunt work. Some of the greatest ideas come from the most unusual places. Everyone has experienced this time differently and will have a story to tell and an idea that needs to be heard. Now is the time to engage in human dialogue and learn from the collective rather than be told by the few. Set up some short sharp cross business zoom calls and create some virtual ideas boards to stimulate the thinking and capture the ideas of the many.
- Let go of the time wasting rituals – We should never utter these words again post COVID-19
We’ve always done it this way…………
That “business critical” weekly report that nobody ever reads and nobody has missed in the last 6 weeks, the follow up meeting that happens after a meeting to discuss what happened in the last meeting, the amazing PowerPoint deck that looks pretty but nobody opens, the grind of daily stand ups and WIP meetings that have humans wishing they were somewhere else. Stop being a busy fool. Times are hard, staff numbers have been cut so now is not the time to lose momentum by overloading already stressed humans. Doing more with less and holding onto time wasting rituals is a quick way to kill momentum.
- Communicate, communicate and the communicate some more – when humans can’t make sense of what's going on they immediately access their “bad news filing cabinet”. That’s a momentum killer right there. We are a survival species and silence is a form of danger to us. The businesses that are coping best in crisis are the ones that have been regularly communicating with their employees. Telling them the good and bad news in an open, honest and timely manner. There is no better example of this than the recent comms the CEO of Airbnb Brian Chesky sent out to his entire team It ticked every box on how to communicate in a timely manner with clarity, transparency, compassion, care and most importantly humanity.
- Add In The Human Work – I keep hearing this old chestnut. Why did it take a pandemic to get us to be human? We are seeing it everywhere particularly in the relationships between managers and employees. Friday zoom catch ups over a beer or a glass of wine have really bonded humans and build deeper connections than we could ever have imagined. The challenge is to keep doing it once the transition back to the old environment occurs. Work involves both the process, strategy and technical and the human elements. Don’t underestimate the positive impact this has had in a time of real crisis. Value technical and human as both as important.
- “Go First” & Be The Role Model – the great leaders in a crisis step up and demonstrate the behaviours they want to see from others. They “walk their talk” by Providing direction, being open, checking in regularly with employees, walking the virtual floor and asking for help.
Positive momentum is such a wonderful thing.
Now is not a time to stop being human and going back to “business as usual”. There’s no such thing anymore.
Mark LeBusque is a Harvard-trained consultant, author and Founder & Director of The Human Manager – the go-to expert for anything managerial.