OVERCOMING A CRISIS
A reflection guide for managers whose teams have been impacted by the Covid crisis.
Since spring 2020, many managers have had to deal with their teams being disrupted at varying degrees, by the effects of the epidemic. This guide invites managers to reflect further on the direct and indirect impact the crisis has had on the well-being of their team.
It will enable them to assess the potential benefits in their context of adopting one or several of the three essential components of our Fair Leadership approach:
- Protect or restore a climate of trust
- Recreate opportunities to rally around impactful projects
- Stimulate collective intelligence through good collaborative practices
These suggested practices can also serve as a great opportunity for managers to test their leadership resilience and strengthen their ability to overcome crises of all kinds to which they are (and may well be again) exposed!
I — PROTECT OR RESTORE A CLIMATE OF TRUST
Members of a team should feel safe enough not to fear taking initiatives and to play the ‘collaboration game’, despite the challenging uncertainties in a volatile context.
However, the climate of trust of many teams has been put to test by the management constraints set to cope with the very real dangers of health and well-being and by the threats that may affect the company’s very existence.
It is therefore essential for all managers to ensure the ‘trust capital’ of their teams before it is too late:
First by being attentive to any signs of professional relationships and exchanges deteriorating within the team. And by making sure to practice authentic communication, to leverage available competencies, and to explain the relational rules of the game.
Protecting trust starts with an authentic COMMUNICATION style.
When a team is in bad shape, the messages of the manager will always been viewed as suspect ; team members will hesitate to openly express their opinions for fear of the consequences; and before we know it, rumors will spread as fast as a virus!
To avoid reaching this stage or to remedy such a situation, the first task of leaders is to give the example of openness by “putting on the table” successes, failures, and open questions, by listening to the points of view of team members, and by giving them proof of their discretion on confidential exchanges.
The second condition to respect is that team members keep or regain confidence in the team’s capabiltites and COMPETENCE.
Members of a team in distress typically wonder if there is a “pilot on the plane”, questioning whether their manager is able to lead them and if the leaders of their organization are up to the situation. In such an environment, many members may be tempted to find a parachute and look for the emergency exit.
Leaders must react quickly if distrust sets in and must show that they are lucid, that they have confidence in their own capabilties and those of their team members, and that they believe in the success of their team. They need to focus on supporting and positioning their team members in a way that will set their contribution up to succeed, according to their function and profile, through their impact on operational performance, strategic agility, or the development of human capital in their organization.
The third and final condition for a climate of trust is that the team design and own the rules of the game, that they adhere to a RELATIONAL CONTRACT that binds its members together, with their leader, and with the rest of the organization.
The strongest sign of a loss of trust is when a growing number of team members start rejecting the explicit or implicit terms of the existing contract; that they cheat with management processes and violate the “shared values” while pretending to follow them; that they favor over resourcefulness and are looking for accomplices.
Leaders will have no chance of maintaining or restoring a climate of trust in a team facing a crisis if they fail to explain the rules of the game and to provide their team members responses to three essential questions : what is the scope of responsibility and the degree of autonomy of each individual? What are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors? How will contributions to performance be evaluated and recognized ?
With these key components, leaders will be able to free up energy and engage their team in new projects and succeed in putting them to work.
II — GATHER YOUR TEAM AROUND AN IMPACTFUL PROJECT
The Covid crisis has accelerated the dissemination of tools for remote working and the opportunities to get together have become scarce. Managers have increasingly had to adopt leadership in a hybrid mode with an important part of interactions being virtual, as has been the case for many years with people in sales management and international managers.
They have to find a balance between establishing or maintaining relationships of trust with their ever distant colleagues and having the ability to monitor their performance.
They must help everyone to adapt to changes in their working conditions, especially when teleworking.
Above all, they must find a way to breathe new life into the collective commitment of their team, despite an often depressing context and despite the scarcity, even the disappearance of opportunities to meet physically.
The best way to do this is to give their teammates the opportunity to come together around an impactful project.
The proposed project must have a PURPOSE, a reason that is convincing- an initiative that has significant relevance for the team and for their business, for example, responding to new customer needs or resolving a quality issue.
Managers must also mobilize their team and engage other party stakeholders through an AMBITION, an end result which the team will be proud to have achieved, a project that feels like a “new frontier”, surpassing peers and competitors.
This ambition must be made concrete by the clarification of the various OBJECTIVES to be reached by the team — for example the renewal of production processes or the development of good practices in the product delivery and usage among distributors and customers.
The team members and other party stakeholders will need to monitor the progress of the project towards these objectives through measurable or observable MILESTONES.
A foundation of recognized VALUES, practiced by all despite the diversity of cultures within project teams, will facilitate the development of trust and cooperation.
The essential condition for the succesful design and implementation of the project is that the management PRINCIPLES, consistent with these values, be known and respected.
Establishing new rituals to communicate and celebrate around such a project will enable the multimodal leader to provide consistency in the virtual world, succeeding in restoring a team spirit.
III — STIMULATE COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE THROUGH COLLABORATIVE PRACTICES
The mindset of some teams has suffered from forced teleworking and/or partial unemployment. To foster a lasting collective intelligence and energy, their leaders must encourage collaboration and solidarity by applying good and fair leadership practices. Running an impactful and meaningful project gives them this opportunity.
Launching a project in “fair process” mode, consists of ENGAGING the representatives of each stakeholder in the reflection on the purpose of the project and on its ambition.
A shared feedback process with experienced and skilled people, on their attempts to address similar issues and on the lessons to be learned from such projects, will help leaders to test the credibility and attractiveness of their project.
It will also be a useful means of adopting management principles that work.
Choosing the right people to be involved in EXPLORING the issues to be addressed and the possible options and goals to privilege is a particularly pointed means of consolidating the team commitment and ensuring the necessary support : how to involve the representatives of key players for parts of the project implementation ? How to reconcile different points of view and honing in on effectiveness of collective reflections ?
EXPLAINING to each stakeholder the choice of objectives and decisions taken on the organization of the project will be a pivotal step to convince main players to join and to mobilize the necessary resources to deliver the results.
EXECUTING the project collaboratively requires the engagement of actors on the expected contributions and milestones in order to ensure progress, and their adherence to the shared management principles for the project management.
This is where understanding the values, hopes and fears of all actors, selecting allies to be solicited and choosing communication habits to adopt will make the difference.
By respecting these good practices of fair leadership, managers will be able to see a renewed energy in all of the team members.
They will maintain that level of energy during the course of the project if they involve team members and partners in monitoring the progression, and if they take care to look back and EVALUATE the overall management of the project and to draw lessons.
And they will have the opportunity to perpetuate the impact of this experience on the collective intelligence of their team:
- by systematically adopting these good practices for preparing and implementing the decisions and
- by engaging their team members to apply these same principles to develop together and help each other resolve the problems they encounter.
Feel free to contact the authors at email@example.com
Your feedback is welcome and we would be delighted to engage with your further, be that individually or through webinars on topics of interest.
MyDev are Jorge Dos Santos, Jean-Pierre Gicquel, Philippe Masson & Patrick Parker, surrounded by a fantastic team of contributors and sparring-partners!
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