We are in the thick of the lockdown that has been implemented across the country, and getting used to what working from home feels like. Each of us are managing multiple commitments – to ourselves, to the family members, to colleagues, and most essentially to the customers. While there may have been an initial struggle, I see that many of us have sorted a routine out. The agility with which our teams aligned to the new work environments has pleasantly surprised all of us. It made me quickly make notes on ways in which people leading teams and organizations can steer their businesses through this unprecedented and unusual crisis. While the basic themes on empathy, agility, and customer-focus remains, how these need to be adapted to the current situation is what is essential.
The demands of working from home affect each employee differently, some stay alone, others with aged parents, children and so forth. Their days would look very different, and hence for team managers, it is essential to keep these factors in mind while planning on meetings or deadlines. Empathy is essential at all times, and in these times more than ever. While I continue with my team reviews, I keep in mind that TATs need to be more flexible as the work environment has changed. So, for managers, it is essential to discuss timelines, deliverables and so on. Similarly, one should continue to stay committed while being fearless of requesting for additional time, in case the situation so desired. With a reasonable degree of flexibility to match employee-specific needs, leaders can make a smooth transition to this new work culture, while adapting to changing business requirements and work environments.
With regard to remote work culture, collaboration is key. In today’s day and age, digital collaboration is of essence and hence, both leaders and team members need to align with its etiquettes and requirements, soon. Leaders can set examples by being on time for online meetings, have presentations pre-circulated, ensure the environment where you taking the meeting from is peaceful. However, do not frown upon colleagues who are not able to do so. Align them to the requirements and dos and don’ts and make them your digital champions! Also, by identifying key personnel in each team who collaborate consistently can makes business process continuity easier for the organisation.
These are stressful times, and maintaining a balance between too little and too much communication is of essence. This is true for customers, employees or partners. Establish open channels of communication, and let them be about clear & precise, honest and consistent communication. Show your commitment to the customer or your teams by being in touch, by engaging with them on your new strategies for these times, on being available whenever they may need you, and so on.
To formulate the right communication strategy in a crisis like this, you need a multi-pronged approach. I would urge leaders to use various channels of communication, and use them in an effective manner. Don’t over communicate with employees, or don’t forget to inform customers on your new digital access point (for instance). Keep the communication lines open to all, all the time.
Effective leadership during this crisis requires front-runners and managers to perform a balancing act. This involves taking care of employee welfare and managing stakeholder requirements. Continuing from the above point, have clear and well-defined communication for each stakeholder group, which is aligned to the business requirement. So, while you may have a new digital access point for your customer to reach out to you, it is equally important for everyone in the team to be champion of it! Your team should be the flag-bearer of all your initiatives designed for different stakeholders. Don’t let the ball drop on your commitments to customers or employees or any other stakeholder group. To be prepared for anything is the best way to be prepared in a crisis they say, because you don’t know how it will turn out. This way you can be sure that that your relationships with all key stakeholder groups outlast the crisis.
The coming months will undoubtedly throw new challenges our way. The need of the hour is a combination of rapid and humanised digitisation, adaptable solutions, and consistent upgradation of business processes to keep pace with changing requirements. It may be a tad bit too early to tell, but I wholeheartedly believe that businesses guided by leaders who adapt to these new demands smartly and proactively today may have a better chance at thriving tomorrow, when we emerge on the other side of this crisis.
The author is the MD & CEO, Bajaj Allianz Life