We are told that better managers are emerging from the crisis.
It’s been quite a transition: The novel coronavirus crisis has pressured managers from using the traditional techniques of running an operation into delegating authority, trusting colleagues, empowering employees – overall into the non-authoritative figures that the management-speak literature has been recommending to us all for years.
Forced out of their comfort zones, and even their offices, trying to take care of children and work at the same time, managers have faced many challenges: “The darkest moments were just feeling really bad that you’re not a great dad, not a great husband and not a great leader because you spread yourself so thin,” confesses McDonald’s UK CEO Paul Pomroy in an interview with Management Today.
Learning to trust and delegate turned out to be the solution. “You find out a lot about your leadership teams when you get into a crisis like COVID-19,” says Pomroy. “The delegation of decision-making becomes even more important.”
Managers who have tried to take another tack have failed. “They have spent wasted hours in an incessant stream of chat, emails and video conferences, trying to make sure workers are productive. Some have tried key logging, automatic screen captures, webcams, etc. And they all have failed,” comments Jean-Denis Garo, the Paris-based international integrated marketing director of the telecommunications firm Mitel.
Instead, it is the Chief Happiness Officer who should take over. “This crisis has emphasised what we already knew, the importance of soft skills is paramount,” he adds.
The crisis is helping to create a new breed of managers — those who talk less and listen more.
“There is an element of this crisis that is forcing managers to be the kind of managers people always wanted, which is really caring about their team’s welfare, and really listening,” said David Rock, director of the Neuroleadership Institute and author of “Your Brain at Work.”
The leader post COVID-19 has to be trustworthy and straightforward, the Gartner Group agrees.
“Hone a clear, honest, empathetic and simple approach to communication as the COVID-19 situation evolves. This is obvious, I know. Yet I include it because it is so important and also because we live in an era of rapid dissemination of information that is of questionable veracity, from multiple sources.”
Learn to be the trusted source. “Remember that in any communication plan, it matters less that you communicated something and more that your audience understood it. As a colleague of mine is fond of saying, it shouldn’t be called a communication plan — it should be called an understanding plan. The emphasis should be on what your listeners take in, especially in a situation that is volatile and unpredictable,” says Gartner.
All right, you don’t have to be the Chief Happiness Officer. But you have to learn to listen and try to help.
“You can’t solve all of people’s problems,” writes Samuel Colbert, author of Good People/Bad Managers,” But you can listen, give support, and back them up.”