By: Benjamin Laker
Many businesses were entirely unprepared for the change that would hit them with the arrival of a global pandemic. They were totally blindsided – their organizational structure, team dynamics, leadership practices, and more were challenged with the new constraints that have come with prioritizing their employees’ health. Shelisa Bainbridge, Leadership Coach, believes that “In a way, the pandemic has given Leaders the permission to explore new ways of working.” She is a Business and Leadership Coach, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and a Design Thinking Facilitator.
The pandemic has given Leaders the permission to explore new ways of working
There are many things that Leaders can do in a time like this to lead more effectively – and if done well, they can use this time to re-set, purge bad habits, adopt a more progressive mindset and toolkit, and re-emerge more robust and more effective than before. Shelisa shared that, “The Leaders who will emerge stronger than before will be the ones able to maintain open minds, who are comfortable to challenge the mindsets and behaviors of the pre-COVID past, and who are bold enough to explore new ways of working to build a dynamic, responsive culture.” Below are a few ways you can be an effective leader during this global pandemic:
- Visualize your workflow – Creating a way for your entire team to see the work and the number of tasks managed across the organization, is a fantastic way to start. You will need to approach this from an empathetic point of view. Shelisa believes that “Now more than ever, leaders need to exhibit compassion, display deeper trust, and become comfortable allowing teams more autonomy.”
- Helping your team limit their work in progress: This means that once you have helped to facilitate a conversation with your team around work prioritization, you will want to have your team focus on the most critical items, one at a time. Challenge your desire for “all” work to continue; recognize that the vast majority of work can be removed or put on hold. Focus on critical business activities: 20 percent of work that drives 80 percent of the value.
- Managing the flow – This means managing the time it takes to complete work (vs. managing the people). Minimizing lead time and creating simple, more predictable processes will help your team complete work and deliver value faster. This is helpful to your organization because their new work environment is no longer conducive to hours and hours of uninterrupted work time; with family obligations meshing tightly with work requirements, simplification and predictability will increase the flow of work and meet deadlines.
- Make policies explicit – Align with your team on policies that you can all respect and observe.
- Create feedback loops, improve where necessary, and evolve – Create a cadence (perhaps weekly to start, then moving to bi-weekly or monthly as the team eases into their new routine) where you and your team can discuss what is working and what needs to be improved. This will give your team an opportunity to share how they’re feeling (which provides you with as a Leader the opportunity to listen and demonstrate empathy) and collaborate on improvements.