Four essential post-pandemic changes for remote line managers
We face in to a challenging future. As the economy reopens, leaders are addressing complex and demanding issues. Their toughest, is how to bring align employees safely while rebuilding operations and recovering revenue streams.
The only helpful aspect of leading in a crisis is that it focuses minds in the early phase. For a period, people behave as if they are in a start - up. That intensity is difficult to sustain in the midst of a pandemic. Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey, talks about how firms and managers must “Act with urgency” in a post-Covid return. He believes businesses “have worked faster and better”, demonstrating more agility and decisiveness than they thought possible. Our own clients have shared the unlocking of positions and changes that have occurred, achieving in months what would otherwise have taken years. Sneader says “maintaining that sense of possibility will be an enduring source of competitive advantage”. Line Managers must shift from being about delivery to being totally about operational effectiveness. Personally, encouraging their teams to spend time innovating not just operating.
Leaders with remote work teams will now put emphasis on assessing outcomes rather than tasks and the time it takes to complete them. They must ensure expectations of employees are extremely clear, what is to be achieved and trust them to get it done. Line Managers of remote teams will need to develop new ways of giving spontaneous lean in support or having a discreet word with an employee. Smart and timely intervention using good data will be critical to sustaining performance.
Reduced face to face contact in businesses means communication on all matters must be strong and simple. We have all shared a message with a group only to be met with multiple interpretations. This will be harder to correct with dispersed teams, adding perhaps to change resistance, at a time when responsiveness will be key. As organisation structures are likely to flatten, managers must ensure information sweeps across the business in a consistent, fact-based manner, and includes remote workers. Celebrating good news will be essential to counter the feelings of burn-out or anxiety many still experience, along with the continuous threats from medical leaders that restrictions may become necessary again.
Early on in this crisis, a Gallup study identified four universal needs that employees have of their leaders during times of challenge. They are Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. As firms return to full operational status, this will be unlike previous recoveries as reminders of the pandemic remain in place all over our organisations. From protective shielding, health and safety consumables, Covid signage, remote working patterns and the absence of tactile interactions, the pandemic leaves its lasting marks everywhere. To grow engagement, line managers must demonstrate empathy, humility and their own vulnerability.
Recruiting into leadership roles will centre on the ability to demonstrate these above traits. While "managers" can cope when times are stable, only leaders deliver in a crisis. And this crisis is with us for some time yet to come.