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Covid Conversations: The Business Voice

In our last article, we explored the personal challenges described by senior leaders in managing a pandemic-altered world – along with the approaches that have helped them find balance and keep moving forward.

For our Covid Conversations project, though, we didn’t fence in our questions.

When we asked about greatest challenges, for instance, our discussions with leaders led them to unearth many dimensions of their recent management experience.

And as might be expected from a leadership group spanning diverse industries and business models, a wealth of professional insight emerged.

Brave the challenges

Echoing their personal focus on staying close and maintaining relationships, many found their greatest business challenges in the realities and constraints of a virtual world.

Collaboration at a distance, particularly in creative contexts, is a challenge made even more complicated by the sudden profusion of digital assets and tools.

Communication is fraught. Too much…or too little? Too optimistic…or too blunt? What cadence walks the line between thorough communication and overload?

Corporate priorities are elusive, with uncertainty compounded by inconsistent action (and reaction) as well as varied planning approaches across business units, teams and individuals.

The loss of casualness is a consistent lament. In a virtual world of rigorous structure, how to preserve not just the culture built through informal connections, but also the responsiveness and decision-making speed that come with in-the-moment interaction?

Bring out the best

What is the best thing your company has done in recent months? Our leaders had thorough top-of-mind responses.

Many focused on resilience and flexibility, deployed in highly creative ways. Shifting teams from underused areas to more intensive ones. New assignments. Voluntary work-sharing and compensation shifts. All delivered on the fly, with minimal bureaucracy.

As one leader put it, “I have learned how nimble our company actually is.”

Others praised the recognition of the human dimensions of the pandemic: added personal days and time off, cash allowances to help manage transitions, greater access to wellness programs supporting mental and physical health.

Across the board, leaders praised the exponential shift in communications practice. All-staff meetings not twice a year, but twice a week. Continuous CEO messages, weekly or more often. One-on-one senior executive calls to every single employee in their area.

Faced with the difficulties of distance, companies have truly – if perhaps unexpectedly – gone above and beyond.

Be ready for change

As leaders think about next quarter, next year, the three-year plan, what changes from the Covid era do they see as staying with us for good?

Communication – content, breadth, frequency – will keep its remarkable new levels and dimensions, and leaders will have to remain committed to transparency, speed, and focus on individual needs along with team dynamics.

Working from home will be a normal part of the business landscape, and we will never all be in the office at the same time again. In most companies, building expertise in dispersed management and collaboration will be mandatory.

The definition of productivity will change to be about what gets done, not where.

Technology, data access, processes, team dynamics, schedules – all will shift to provide effective and efficient support for a diffuse corporate workscape.

And with the lessons of crisis-related speed and scramble in hand, the Scouts’ motto stands firm: always be prepared.

Bring the questions

We continue to be inspired by creative business discussions with our clients: team thinking, growth strategy, brand positioning, market assessments, new product development, innovation.

With our Covid conversations, we have added to that inspiration a world of personal, social, relationship dimensions, shared eagerly and openly.

Which brings home the fact that, whether as leadership coaches or business advisors, a simple rule holds: genuine, thoughtful questions bring authentic answers.

And those answers, in turn, bring insights and learning that forge lasting connections in the pursuit of positive change.

 

Jill Roussy and Wendy Shaw are coaches, consultants, mentors and facilitators with extensive experience in large corporate environments as well as entrepreneurial settings. Together Jill and Wendy co-founded Spark Ideas Inc in 2003.  Spark exists to help people, teams and brands thrive. 

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