Efficiency up! 3 most important things for a manager to do during COVID19

Updated: Nov 3

What to do with yourself and the team in the times of Covid19. Here is 3 step instruction. Remember, not every approach will work for your team. But none of the approaches will work if you don't apply them.






When we say that changes and ambiguity of the COVID19 have brought the market to a standstill, what we are actually saying it is us people who got frozen in our actions, in our decision-making and operations.


Below you will find a lengthy yet practical read on the 3 important areas that any manager (from an associate managing 1.5 analysts to a CEO managing MNC) in charge of people should prioritize and act on today.


Not every approach will work for your team. But none of the approaches will work if you don't apply them.


Importantly, in my conversation with managers across sectors, private and public, a quite common sentiment was that in the past month they experience "the first acquaintance with their teams". Whether you want to acknowledge this or not - but most likely you’ve had a thought that you have been getting to know your team(s) anew. And for some, it was a quite neurotic stressful experience, and not without disappointments. As Natalia says (plagiarizing a common proverb) - you harvest what you seed.


The mantra I’ve been "tooting" for as long as I’ve been in the corporate world - everything that you do for the team and with the team in the routine tasks matters. Some managers on the 2nd day of COVID19 lockdown woke up stressed murmuring “Now for sure the team would fail it all” and in parallel were typing some excuse letters to the upper management (read shareholders or the board) and angry, full of demand and micromanaging to the subordinates. 


Well, the below is for the sensible managers who invest in the team in advance or from today after watching the video and reading the practical instructions below.


1. (Re)organizing Your Business Process. 


Before we speak of things-to-do with the process. Each manager needs to define the guiding principles of his or her team operations.


The performance of unit heads / programs leaders / project managers is measured based on the outcome (weekly horizon for reporting). Everybody has an idea of what “macro” objectives he needs to realize within 5 days. It should never be about keeping a person next to his laptop ensuring his appropriate availability status (nor about before remote work - being present in the office for a certain number of hours without output). It should be about the outcome which depending on your industry can be anything along the lines of a product being launched (check), a product design completed (check), and client presentation delivered and accepted (check). 


All these macro objectives are formulated by the end of the preceding week so when people are back to the office in the morning on Monday (or Sunday like in the Middle East) - we do not spare time on figuring out what we need to achieve. Lazer focus is already there.


Important disclaimer - I personally do truly enjoy “getting hands dirty” with very small operational detail, especially when it comes to customer experience (guilty as charged!). Because then I know how hard or easy and how much effort and time a specific business process or operation requires and consequently I can 
have a fair expectation from a team member). But of course you ought to have a balance.

  • The full team receives one email communication (or be it in-person meeting) with those macro objectives (Including junior staff). This unites people. We, all of us, understand our common shared purpose. It also eliminates any discrepancies in the workload among the individuals and their micro teams. 

  • Having regular and frequent meetings (calls) where every person on the team articulates his and her priorities. The efficiency of your team is dependent on the ability of individuals to prioritize and justify the sequence of their actions independently. This is not the skill that you get inside an HR envelope with a letter of your promotion to the level of a team leader. We build this skill from an intern and up.

  • Last. Last day of the week is even more important than any other. This is when during the meeting each team member debriefs of on his highlight and achievement of the week (because you want to keep the spirit of achievement and not mundane and sometimes intimidating reporting). The challenges and missed shots - nothing to be ignored but never ever use a team meeting as a public guillotine place. 

2. Maintaining and nurturing corporate culture


Working for a specific company (especially before COVID19) meant a strong association of an employee with his workplace. This association is reflected in the office location, in the office design, in the way people dress coming to the office, the background and intellectual inclinations of colleagues, the subjects of shared topics next to a water cooler and coffee machines. What many people felt after moving rapidly to remote work is that they themselves might start turning into machines.


Some companies have quickly acquired sophisticated software to do project management tracking, others - elevated their Excel game. But the outcome is the same - we instantly started looking for a feeling of belonging and shared value and answers the question why exactly we work for this or that company - because in the end a high % of this WHY is about the people. 


What many people felt after moving rapidly to remote work is that they themselves might start turning into machines.


This is why with my team currently we have a weekly routine that can be of two kinds:


  • Reconnecting with each other over a cup of coffee (remotely). Each team member calls another one to have a chat that is not related to work - something you would have normally in the office

  • Regular team building activities - form Trivia to joint sport exercises (yes, including now using Zoom).


As a manager you remember that employees don’t leave companies, employees leave people. And because of the people we stay. 


3. Importance for a manager and a leader to take care of his energy balance


There is no badge of honour for doing that, neither there will be a promotion for this. But this is what comes with a title - the responsibility of taking care of the energy of the team. Team members can get frustrated, team members can get unproductive, team members can get negative and it is ok. You - can’t. 


And in times of quarantine, you need to crack your own “energy” DNA, if you haven't done before, and find the ways and new sources that give you that peace and energy. 

Take care of your energy. If you are not balanced and you are energy depleted even half of that work won’t be done or will be done with a net loss in terms of team performance and positive spirit. 




I am not a management genius, but I have some gifts, fairly good cognitive ability, and industry knowledge, but this all tops with practice, practice, practice and hunger to learn from every person I encounter and especially from my team.


Will the above work for your team? Different geography, different age group, different industry and operations. But we all are the same humans with very common patterns of behaviour, and triggers and motivations. Not every approach will work for your team. But not of the approaches will work if you don't apply them.


Not every approach will work for your team. But none of the approaches will work if you don't apply them.

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© 2020 by Natalia Sycheva