Managing Better than Anyone Ever Managed Us

Author: Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Hands-off approaches of the past didn’t motivate then and don’t motivate now. In our diverse, multi-generational, Covid-19 world, we must manage and lead better than anyone ever managed us. Four approaches work today:

  1. Manage with empathy. Our world is upside down and we do not know when it will right itself. Being able to understand and share the feelings of another person is more important than ever before. Each person on your team needs you to look them in the eye and ask,” How are you doing?” Don’t settle for a response of “fine.” Not one of your team members is fine right now. When you listen, you show you care. Only when they feel cared for will they be able to get back to caring for their responsibilities.
  2. Build relationships at work. In the absence of relationships, interactions become mere transactions. There are three important relationships to nurture: that between leader and team member, among your team members, and between departments that work closely together. As a leader, make sure that not every conversation is a project update. Ask about families, hobbies, vacation plans, the weekend, etc. Be ready to briefly share the same information. When was the last time you hosted your team for lunch or drinks after work? Personally invite each one. Build relationships both within your team and between your department and the department they work with most closely by organizing a retreat, two department lunch, softball game, corn hole tournament, pedicures (men like to be spoiled too!), contests, etc. Without relationships, individuals as well as departments become siloed.
  3. Overcommunicate. The more change your organization and team members are experiencing, the more frequently you need to communicate. Your team members need at least weekly--if not twice weekly or even daily--meetings with you. They need your guidance, coaching, support, and affirmation. They need to hear from you about their role in the future of the department and organization.
  4. Talk about the changes and the constants of your work world. Repeatedly remind your team about what will never change. Is that your mission? What else? What needs to change? Directly address their concerns. Engage your team in developing solutions for needed changes, and also in contingency planning if “X” or “Y” changes by surprise. Build your team’s adaptation skills by conducting practice runs of the different plans. Build their engagement by involving them in needed changes.

Uncertainty requires great management and leadership skills. Management skills are needed to get work done today; leadership skills are used to move the organization beyond today’s structure and strategy to the new future state. Empathy is your best management tool today. Use it liberally. Relationships are the key to building trust and flexibility. Overcommunication—repetition of key messages--is what your team needs to stay focused. Last, ask your team “What needs to change—and how can we implement that change?” Also involving them in developing and practicing contingency plans builds your team’s resilience and adaptability for whatever comes.

About the Author:

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP works with Progression Partners, a national leadership development and management consulting firm, as an Organization Development Advisor for change and talent management strategies.

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