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Two Perspectives On Leading In a Crisis

Positive surprises from a virtual leadership

With most of us on video conference calls all day for work, it can get tiring. Here are two good outcomes from the manager’s perspective on their benefits of going 100% virtual. What are your pros/cons on virtual leadership?

First Perspective

Client 1 has several direct reports who had not used video conferencing before, because in their oil field jobs, the team was together in person, and the supervisor would check on things and give direction in the field. While many of the employees had to be furloughed, those remaining actually embraced the new technology and working from home. The technology gave those employees a chance to learn new skills, and to contribute to meaningful new ways on projects the company needs for operational efficiency. Focusing on projects and training is a positive long-term strategy to embrace in the long term.

Positive Outcome Client 1

The mid- level managers who were used to face to face meetings noticed that the structure of video conferences with agendas, clear outcomes and shorter duration were super-efficient. They liked the short, to the point meetings. Decisions were made, they moved faster on problem solving, they got more done, they liked seeing everyone at once and it was easier to give everyone a chance to speak in this way to connect. Client 1’s managers were actually surprised that after a few weeks of this, as a group, they all became more decisive, directions were clearer since they all heard information at once from the source, and they enjoyed having a chance to ask questions. In fact, asking questions and weighing in on topics became the norm. Benefits included: more collaboration, swifter decisions and feeling even more connected.

Second Perspective

Before the quarantine, Client 2 felt his team was not aligned. Engagement and ownership were not happening on his team. Decisions all were relegated to him, (as the boss) and he was starting to feel like the bottleneck. Client 2 wanted his folks to make decisions, own issues and solve them amongst themselves but it just was not happening, for it was too easy for people to drop in on his office and ask him for decisions. Why weren’t they working across silos? Why did people hide behind their organizations and slow everything down? They were not aligned.

Like many bosses, Client 2 enjoyed feeling he was all knowing. He enjoyed the social aspect of knowing what was going on in all parts of the organization, and liked people dropping in and asking him for all the decisions. The problems that caused, however, were: no accountability, low engagement, lack of ownership, slow decision making, and people felt their opinions did not matter; they felt powerless.

Fast forward to today. Client 2 ‘s team cannot just drop in to his office so instead of calling him to ask him for decisions, his team is making their own decisions. They are reaching out to each other to solve issues. As a positive outcome, he has stopped micromanaging. His people feel like their opinions matter now and that they have everything they need to make decisions amongst themselves. How did that happen? Technology helped them get into planning agendas and getting to the point. Everyone shows up, meetings are short and sweet. No more walking to get coffee and chit chat before the meeting starts.

The boss was extremely uncomfortable at first and felt out of control with this, but soon realized work was getting done without him. His empowered people had great ideas. They met amongst themselves and only brought him in when he had to be involved. This gave him more time in his schedule to do higher level work.

Positive Outcome Client 2

We all miss seeing our colleagues in person and the casual water cooler talk and bonding, but in the above case, using Zoom and having regularly scheduled all hands meetings and smaller project meetings without the boss has helped everyone feel more equal, that their opinions matter. Morale is better and engagement increased.

Quite by accident, client 2 has learned to be hands off, be clearer, set the tone and direction and let his team determine strategy, and tactics. 

Let’s keep focusing what is working with our new practices for survival, and make them the norm going forward.

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