By now we are 7 months into the restrictions placed on us and our businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the Corona virus while awaiting a cure and a vaccine. Many businesses (small and large) have not survived. For those of us who have survived, we have learned many things including:
- How to wear a face mask
- How to maintain social distancing in public places
- How to work from home effectively
- How to maintain our sanity
- How to manage by the numbers
- How to onboard new employees in the absence of team modelling or support
Maintenance, but no growth
Yet one of the important themes I have heard in conversations with our clients is that “working from home has allowed us to maintain our business, but it is not allowing us to grow.” This is an interesting and challenging dilemma, because we are definitely not out of the woods yet, and the old normal is not going to be the new normal any time soon. What is the cause of this dilemma, and what can we do about it?
Humans are social animals. As a species, we are more successful in packs than going solo. We are emotional beings, and we are most effective (and happy) when we can relate to, support, and get support from our fellow travellers on life’s journey. During the COVID pandemic, we have been isolated from our fellow colleagues for health reasons, but also we have also been isolated from the social interaction we need to thrive as humans.
What can we do?
Management has gotten us this far in the pandemic. Management deals with things. It marshals the resources necessary to accomplish the mission. We have managed to deploy the resources and establish the norms for working from home. This will keep the lights on and the fire burning, but it will not take us into the unknown of the future. Now we need leadership, for the whole team, and especially for the new employees. Leadership is the human element which rallies the troops to seize the day and take the objective in the face of strong opposition. Leadership provides the vision to set the course, the adrenalin to motivate the human heart, the fuel to drive us onwards and upwards, and the caring to put a comforting arm around our shoulders, to share the load and to heal our wounds.
So what does leadership look like in this phase of the pandemic?
- Reinforce the vision often, updating to account for reality, but stressing that our desired better future is attainable with the plans we are making and the steps we are taking.
- Make the vision personal, by bringing it to the level and context of every team member.
- Define what growth and success looks like, and how it is measured, for each member of the team.
- Encourage the extra efforts made by your team members.
- Celebrate (personally and publicly) the positive outcomes of every team member. This is especially important for outcomes related to growth.
- Ensure your team has all the tools and support necessary for success.
- Deal with any internal road blocks which are frustrating your team members or preventing them from being as successful as they could be.
- Talk often with your teams, collectively and individually.
- Ask what challenges (personal and professional) they are dealing with.
- Offer practical and emotional support wherever possible.
- Show you care in meaningful and tangible ways.
- Make sure your team members are taking their vacations and time off, even if they aren’t going on any trips. Remember, this is going to be a long battle.
This will clearly take extra effort on our parts, but will pay big dividends in the long run. Adapting a quote from Darwin, it is not the smartest or the strongest who survive (and thrive) but those most adaptable to change (and the best led).
About the author: Bruce McAlpine is President of Fulcrum Search Science Inc., a Toronto-based executive search firm solving Mission-Critical hiring challenges throughout North America, and Past President of the Association of Canadian Search, Employment & Staffing Services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416.779.8505.