2020 redefined leadership at all levels, forcing leaders to think on their feet and shift strategies at a moment’s notice. Without a solution to lead people through a crisis, leaders crafted their own methods to support their unique situation.
To effectively support team members and the organization through this crisis, Verity’s leaders pivoted their approach. Through their stories, we share tips for building a sustainable structure utilizing an authentic approach for different levels of leadership.
Leading the organization through a crisis
Rose Minichiello, Managing Director
Get comfortable dealing with ambiguity
2020 was an interesting year to be a leader. In the face of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and change, we learned something crucial: courage, vulnerability and resiliency go hand in hand. The challenge of dealing with COVID-19 stretched and frustrated us, and it exposed some of our vulnerability. We all had to pivot to work in a virtual environment. We moved back and forth between innovators, managers and resistors in response to the unexpected changes. There was no script to follow, and no one could do this alone. We had to consider the safety and well-being of our employees as well as their higher-level needs such as truth, stability, authentic connection, self-esteem, growth, and meaning in the context of the crisis.
Create a sustainable structure for your team and lean on others for support
We communicated with our employees in ongoing, frequent, transparent, and honest ways. We used video rather than just written communication, established office hours, and instituted a team health and wellness challenge. More frequent video meetings allowed us to catch up with colleagues and provided everyone with direct access to leaders and to each other, which helped employees navigate these unprecedented times while keeping some level of sanity.
Leverage the strengths of all leaders
We have leaders who have great analytical and problem-solving minds, leaders who are great at making fact-based decisions. But we also have leaders that practice empathy while demonstrating their own vulnerability. This combination allowed the organization to ensure that the decisions that were made and actions taken aligned with the company’s purpose.
In 2021, we must continue to move forward to shape the organization’s future direction. We as leaders must innovate and experiment with new ideas that will work in the future and not stick with those that have worked in the past.
Leading people through a crisis
Christine Miners, Managing Director
Adapting for a pre-existing remote team
Because of the nature of consulting work, my team is primarily remote and client-based which means that we have an atypical working environment already. While I haven’t had to change a lot of my approach as our relationships have always been remote, there are two things that I have consciously done through the pandemic:
Foster relationships and cohesion
I’ve allowed for more time in meetings and one-on-ones to build connections and unity. We’ve added this to our agenda so that it is a priority.
Rethink roles and realign reporting relationships
I’ve reconsidered roles and better-defined boundaries and decision authority within roles. I also realigned some reporting relationships to ensure that our day-to-day decisions and interactions better leverage our people and are more efficient. We’ve always had a reasonably open role structure in our team, and it has worked well in the past. At the start of the pandemic, we had to pivot our business. This meant taking on some new priorities that were not on the agenda previously. In meeting these new needs, we have had to re-think some of our roles which has allowed us to tackle some different priorities and is a better use of our skills and talent. We have adopted a fluid and open mindset towards roles and reporting relationships, starting to align resources in a more agile way.
Leading yourself and maintaining team relationships
David Gatchalian, Executive Coach
I think that the biggest change to my leadership style during COVID-19 has been to make space for social connection. This means intentionally sharing what is happening for you personally, even if it means showing some vulnerability and admitting to the team that “I don’t know”.
Cultivate personal resilience
This event is unprecedented. While undergoing their own challenges that arise from the lack of connectedness, focus, and energy, leaders are faced with the task of maintaining healthy team relationships. Cultivating personal resilience through meditation, yoga, walks, reflective journaling has become mainstay to just stay on an even keel.
Create a “safe space” for dialogue
As leaders, we may be feeling overwhelmed at this time and it’s also likely our teams are experiencing different feelings. I strive to carve out some time in team meetings and one-on-ones for open dialogue.
Make space for fun
Also, planning fun is so important at this time. This can include sharing personal experiences, hobbies and interests that can bring the team closer together.
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