The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on people management skills
The challenges facing leaders and managers are as extraordinary and diverse as the times in which we now find ourselves living and working. 'Normal’ operations have been well and truly disrupted by the global pandemic and new norms are emerging. Managers are working within the current wider context of risk and uncertainty, responding to the challenge of delivering tasks and/or products, supporting individual team members with their specific concerns and circumstances, all while managing our own unique situation and anxieties.
Here at Impact we have been thinking about how our (and others) management skills have been evolving. In the initial weeks, the main challenge was about supporting and guiding staff with the sudden change and dislocation that ‘lockdown’ presented our teams with. Leaders were focused on firefighting novel challenges, (in some cases crisis management) with geographically scattered teams and finding new ways to communicate in a time of uncertainty and ambiguity. Now, while an organisation’s survival is a priority, and economic uncertainty far from over, the people management skills of leadership teams continue to be key to the wellbeing of individuals and the company. So what, if anything, have we changed?
Communication has always been important, but now it’s more like the lifeblood of the business. Clear and regular communication helps to keep everyone in the loop. So, it’s important to us to remember that ‘Facts are King’- sharing clear information helps to combat mis-information - reducing uncertainty and, subsequently, anxiety. When under any kind of stress, individuals can not only struggle to take on board information, but also express themselves clearly so, even more important than sharing information, is listening. Our managers are finding one-to-ones as vital as team meetings, in order to allow real communication. One-to-one meetings are about work and personal life, so our leadership team are dedicating more time to this as a sounding board and support network for all. Lines are still a little blurred, we’re all being a little more open about our home/personal life, as that’s still the office for many of us, but this seems to be making us closer and more aware of the challenges we are facing as individuals, as well as a team!
Trust, as always, is vital. Not necessarily being physically present all day, naturally means that we are even more reliant on the trust we have in our teams. A confidence that employees want to work for the good of the whole company, regardless of whether they are ‘in the room’ or working to ‘office hours’ is vital. Being present and available to support is very different to ‘helicoptering’ or micro-managing teams and this shift in the use of our time has allowed more autonomy. Goals are changing, workloads are variable and the fact that managers have faith in their teams to be able to delegate more, and still get results, shows that we can really rely on each other. As time has passed and developed confidence in our new ways of working, the expectations we place on each other has also increased. This is not a ‘trial-run’, we’re here now (for the forseeable future) and our very capable team are delivering more commitment, enthusiasm and innovative ways of working than ever!
Managers, alongside all team members, are being flexible. Time available to devote to the job (actual office hours), job roles and the actual number of people available to ‘get the job done’ has altered throughout recent months. Home-schooling children, furloughed staff, rapidly fluctuating business levels as well as all the usual things like sickness, have all impacted on the general workflow. Our managers have led the way, being flexible and adaptable, dropping and swapping roles, understanding and supporting the roles of everyone in the team, to quickly adjust to the changing needs of the business. This of course requires them to not only be chameleon-like, but also super-organised, to ensure everything is running smoothly day-to-day.
One of the management qualities perhaps less obviously linked to the well-being of the team, is positivity and optimism. As well as generally improving the atmosphere and working environment, a useful consequence of positivity is innovation. The forward-thinking managers who demonstrate an ability to identify and engage potential opportunities for the future, when others around them are perhaps treading water, can help to stimulate creativity. If they can help their team envisage a positive future, they can support the growth of the individual and give a feeling of hope and power to steer their own future (and that of the company) in a positive way. In uncertain times we are all in need of some decisive leadership to give us some stability and confidence. That is not to say the decisions will always be right, but we all respect each other enough to recognise and admit if we’ve made a wrong decision and work collaboratively to move forwards. Strengths have been both developed and revealed from this and great managers nurture those strengths and give their teams the confidence and opportunity to use them.
The response of the Impact team, to the recent economic (and personal) changes, has made the management team incredibly proud. What constitutes good management may be evolving but ultimately the heart of it has got to be a team who respect and care about each other as individuals and who are on board with fighting towards common goals. We went into this a close company, but you never really know the fortitude of the squad until it is tested and we have become much closer. The management style of the team hasn’t really changed a huge amount, it has been this way for some time but the impact (pardon the pun) of the solidity of the team has really been revealed in recent months. The employment landscape is changing and we are at the very forefront of supporting industry with those changes and challenges. So, we will continue to learn and support each other, regardless of the obstacles COVID-19 or anything else presents us with, so that we can help candidates achieve their career goals and create recruitment solutions that really make a difference to people.