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IT leadership: What the pandemic taught me about balance, agility, and trust

IT leadership: Top lessons from the pandemic

The last year left businesses reevaluating everything – their operational resilience, their overall security posture, and how to continue to meet customer expectations while adapting to the challenges presented by an influx of remote workers.

It’s also forced many leaders to reexamine how to get the most out of their team members in the new remote environment. It’s certainly forced me to take a hard look in the mirror and see what kind of leader I’ve been and what kind of leader I want to be.

3 leadership lessons

With that in mind, here’s a look at the top three leadership lessons I’ve learned that I’ll take into the post-pademic normal.

1. Showing you care matters

With many employees suddenly forced to work remotely, the lines between work and personal life began to blur.

No longer is it considered unprofessional for a person working from home to have their dog barking or their child running into the room in the middle of a Zoom meeting. The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways.

As a leader, I’ve tried to show that I understand and care about each of my employees’ situations and have strived to create an environment that embraces a healthy work-life balance. This starts with getting deeper on a personal level.

[ Does remote work leave you exhausted? Read our related story: Remote exhaustion: 13 tips to reduce fatigue. ]

I’ve implemented more regular one-on-one check-ins with my team members, focusing on their and their family members’ well-being. I’ve given employees the flexibility to schedule workouts (or any other activities that may help relieve stress) during the workday. I’ve also organized more virtual team-building calls to maintain camaraderie and morale among employees and to help foster a sense of normalcy despite what we’re all going through.

By being more aware of each individual employee’s circumstances at home and accommodating their needs, I’ve been able to build a genuine rapport with each of my team members while also enabling a better work-life balance. This has cultivated a much more trusting and productive working environment.

2. Agility starts with good communication

What started off as an open dialogue with customers about their needs morphed into an internal workshop with my team members.

At the beginning of COVID-19, many of our customers wanted to split their time between their own production offices and our workplace recovery sites. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a service that plugged this gap, so we had to adapt to meet the demands of our customers.

What started off as an open dialogue with customers about their needs morphed into an internal workshop with my team members to strategize solutions. From there, we worked to gain buy-in from leadership so we could implement changes to better accommodate our customers.

If some are not on board with the changes you’re proposing, that’s understandable and expected. But it’s up to you as a leader to get all your team members on the same page.

To overcome resistance, address the vision to team members individually. Recognize that every role is unique and that the change will impact each person differently. Clearly lay out why you’re making the changes, how these changes will lead to the company’s success, and why it’s the right move both now and in the long term.

This works only if you keep your team members involved throughout the entire process. Place a heavy emphasis on inclusivity: The more you involve your team from the onset, the smoother the journey will go.

3. Trust leads to greater productivity

Adversity reveals what people are made of. If you’re lucky, they’ll rise to the occasion.

Adversity reveals what people are made of. If you’re lucky, they’ll rise to the occasion.

I run three teams: a program management team, a colocation team, and a workplace recovery team. Since the pandemic had a greater impact on the workplace, I’ve shifted much of my attention to that area, often leaving gaps in the other two teams.

Rather than seeing this as a detriment to the business, I saw it as a chance to give the managers below me more opportunities and responsibilities. And it’s paid off.

They’ve been exposed to more leadership and management roles and had a greater hand in the day-to-day operations. This has given them a different perspective on the business as they gain experience and grow in their roles.

The trust I placed in them was well-founded and resulted in a win for everyone.

Taking on the next normal

Many of the challenges we faced over the last year will likely carry over into the next normal. And we’re bound to face some new ones along the way.

As leaders, we must continue to evolve and learn. Start by reexamining what your employees need to manage their work and personal lives. Address their perspectives when communicating change and trust them with more responsibility. Even the smallest changes can make the months and years ahead better and more successful for everyone.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

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