Lockdown Learning

The last few months have been an extremely challenging time for us all – both on a personal and professional level. For many of us only use to working one or two days from home or not at all, we have had to adapt overnight to working, managing and leading remotely. Like thousands of others, I continue to adapt my management and communication style week on week to get the most from myself and my team, whilst also ensuring that my team and my colleagues have the support they need.

Whilst my current approach is far from perfect, these are some of the points that I have reflected on;

1. Leadership has never been more important. During times of great change and disruption, our leaders need to provide clear direction and purpose. With the world around changing so rapidly, clear work priorities, consistent messaging and a transparent and well articulated vision can help to keep us anchored.

2. Clear, consistent and effective communication is essential. Choosing the right frequency and approach is important, but also a level of self awareness as to how the message might be received. A poor choice of words or a random comment at a departmental meeting can have and has had a profound impact – heightening stress levels and causing unnecessary anxiety. Communication shouldn’t just be a random stream of consciousness based on what’s on your mind at that given moment.

3. Empathy and understanding have become core skills for me in recent weeks, with my one to ones and team meetings sometimes feeling more like therapy sessions than work planning meetings. Without the normal ‘office support network’ around us, line management relationships have become even more critical, often providing the only outlet for frustrations, anxiety, tensions and concerns. These conversations have naturally spilled from our working lives into our personal lives as the boundaries have become ever more blurred.

4. Recent months have put the spotlight on clear decision making and effective delivery – as we have had to respond rapidly to changing needs and demands. In the office, somehow looking busy and talking the talk was enough for some to get by, but working remotely has really put the focus on achieving outcomes or at the very least outputs.

5. Recent months have given leaders and managers the opportunity to be more ‘human’ than ever. In my early career and when I first became a manager, I always felt like a manager should be superhuman, solving every problem, showing no weakness and having all the answers. The rise in video conferencing has allowed managers to wear their normal clothes, share their homes and introduce their families (often through unplanned and sometimes embarrassing interruptions). I’ve also felt it important to share my challenges with home schooling and working remotely, and be entirely honest that I have even less answers than normal with the current uncertainty.