Coronavirus; COVID-19; has continued its spread to several nations around the world, severely impacting the worldwide population and global economic activities.
In recent weeks and months, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, several businesses, organisations, national governments, and government agencies all over the world have had to introduce extraordinary and stringent measures to help control and limit the spread of the disease.
Recent news and stats show that the United States is now the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the US surpasses China and Italy with over 100,000 reported cases and over 1,700 deaths (as at 28/Mar/2020).
In a previous article, I listed some of these measures and guidance, and discussed 8 key ways that businesses and organisation could manage disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Yesterday, here in the UK, it was announced that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, have both tested positive for the coronavirus.
Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus.
I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.
— Boris Johnson #StayHomeSaveLives (@BorisJohnson) March 27, 2020
Following medical advice, I was advised to test for #Coronavirus.
I‘ve tested positive. Thankfully my symptoms are mild and I’m working from home & self-isolating.
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) March 27, 2020
Also, the nation’s Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty, is self-isolating after showing symptoms compatible with Covid-19.
You’d agree with me that remotely leading a project team of a few people is arguably challenging enough, and requires resourcefulness, tenacity, and leadership qualities.
And doing so in these rather disruptive times is even more challenging.
But I’ll reasonably argue that such challenges aren’t as enormous as the challenges faced by leaders of businesses, organisations, and nations at all levels; people who are inherently required to demonstrate sound leadership qualities and preparedness in the face of critical crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
This set of challenges appear surreal and, perhaps, somewhat overwhelming. But, like every other challenge out there, these challenges are eventually manageable and conquerable.
In this article, I share my thoughts, suggestions and tips on key ways that leaders can effectively organise and lead their businesses and organisations during these unprecedented times:
Make sure you have the right sets of IT tools & kits required for the job
Your collective abilities to effectively communicate and have virtual meetings depend largely on the state and effectiveness of whatever technologies, tools, and systems you have available to you.
“Your collective abilities” as used here refers to the abilities of your entire team, and not just you as the leader.
So, perhaps, a good starting point would be to assess and review the state of your IT assets (at work and at home), get a detailed overview of what is available to each member of your team, and make purchases or hire as and where deemed necessary.
Get everything started right now
Raising purchase orders or material requisition requests where applicable, and getting these fulfilled do take time.
And, with several employees already working from home or not physically present in your business locations due to national or regional restrictions on travels, chances are the lead time required to meet these requests could be more.
Getting people connected is generally considered not too difficult, given the types and the top levels of technologies and tools available today for online virtual collaboration and teamwork.
But getting remotely connected people to be considered collectively productive and efficient takes some reasonable amount of time, patience, perseverance, tenacity, and efforts.
Increase your engagement & (virtual) presence
In crisis times, like we have now, more frequent regular productive meetings of senior management and leadership help establish effective crisis management as well as pull together key measurable objectives set out by the leadership team.
So much of what some of your employees are dealing with are invisible. As a leader, especially in crisis times, you need to be as transparent as possible, and lead from the front, with a touch of empathy and sound reasoning.
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
Yes, each meeting should be short, usually no longer than 30-45 minutes but packed with clear measurable tactical and strategic objectives that can be tracked and used as sound basis for insightful reporting.
As a trusted leader, your presence (or perceived presence) during meetings allows a calm atmosphere, and encourages your colleagues and team members to focus, involved, and participate in discussions.
Recognise you’re human too
It’s very good and noble to be present and available to your team and people that depend on you too get their respective jobs done.
However, please do remember you are still human, and can only do so much.
You may have family members that need you as well; particularly young children that wholly depend on you for your existence and wellbeing.
At a time like this, almost everything will appear stressful and somewhat overwhelming.
Remember, it’s okay not to be okay sometimes, even as a leader.
If you aren’t feeling too well on a particular day or at a particular time of the day, don’t pretend that everything’s okay because the quality of your deliverables will suffer; and some members of your team will find out, sooner or later.
As rightly captured by Carley Sime, “Leadership vulnerability is about sharing what’s appropriate in the workplace and having some boundaries around what is helpful and apt and what isn’t.”
Leadership vulnerability isn’t about pretending to be a superman (or superwoman), a fictitious person without any limitations or personal challenges.
Remember to always keep it real!
Take good care of your own physical and mental wellbeing.
Vulnerability sometimes seems out of place when dropped into the work sphere but it really is powerful stuff. Vulnerability, as a resource in leadership and within the workplace, can impact the entire culture and creativity of a team.
Take the time and efforts necessary to find that fine balance necessary for you to care for your physical health, your mental health, your emotional health, your direct family member, your work team, and finally, for you to take care of your responsibilities and commitments at work.
Slap the table only when you are informed enough to do so
Metaphorically and in many cultures, “slap the table” expression is generally used to demonstrate emotions (usually anger or frustration), to express objection to a statement or claim made by a speaker, or to emphasise a key point expressed in one’s speech.
Also, the expression is generally used, particularly in military vocabulary, to convey closure, decisiveness, and accountability on a subject that has been extensively and sometimes tirelessly debated in a group discussion without end.
The expression seemingly demonstrates that the leader has decided upon themselves to make the final decision on the subject, that the leader is accountable for the decision so taken, that the final decision taken is binding on everyone in attendance at the meeting, and, more importantly, that the decision is collectively understood and everyone is expected to align to the common decision on the subject discussed.
Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.
From time to time, particularly during leadership meetings, you will need to slap the table; believe me, it’s inevitable and it comes with the territory.
But, as a good leader, you shouldn’t be in a haste to slap the table and you shouldn’t do that too often either.
As a good leader, you should always endeavour to be effective in your decision-making process – be all-inclusive, ensure clarity of purpose, identity points of misconstruing or misrepresentation of collective decisions and plans of action.
Lead from the front. Lead with clarity and defined purpose.
Ensure that you’re always communicating with your team.
Ensure that you practice and encourage an effective decision-making and all-inclusive process within your business and organisation, particularly within your leadership team.
At a time like this, over-communicate is overrated!
Stay safe. Stay productive. Lead your team from the front.