This article is our second in a series related to leadership in turbulent times. We will share tips, tricks and best practise from industry leaders in this space.
According to Microsoft's Jason Brommet, the velocity of business is exponentially increasing as we transition to becoming a virtual workforce.
There is no doubt that in this brave new world, technology is a definitive game-changer. It is also reasonable to assume that technological influence is likely to continue beyond the current crisis. Numerous studies support this assertion reporting that most employees would like to continue to work either from home or adhere to a hybrid model in which they spend only a day or two in a physical office environment. What was once a temporary measure will become the new normal.
Within this context, as a leader, you need to ensure that you are providing your employees with the necessary tools to enable them to work effectively from home.
However, while acknowledging the importance of technology, you must not lose sight of this new working reality's "personal" side.
The focus of this second instalment in the Microsoft Leadership in 2021 series is on the personal or human side of the remote digital office.
The new modern worker and businesses, in general, have collapsed space in time due to lockdowns.
What this means is that while technology enables us to connect anytime from anywhere all the time, one of the potential downsides of greater remote access is ironically a decline in communication and collaboration. After all, and as Geoffrey Tumlin so adeptly put it, we all talk in the digital age, but do we really communicate?
So, what does communication in the digital age mean?
According to the former president, CEO, and chairman of the board for Foot Locker Ken Hicks, effective communication and collaboration is the "productive connections that make our work and home lives more meaningful and fulfilling.”
To achieve this level of fulfillment, people need more than the ability to communicate with technology. They need to make a connection – to be a part of something.
Unfortunately, feeling that you are still a part of something can be extremely challenging if you work alone from home.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the emphasis was on equipping employees with the technology to work from home. Now that you have met this requirement, you now need to shift your attention to their emotional well-being.
There are many reasons why focusing on employee mental health is essential. Beyond feelings of isolation, many workers tend to lose the benefit of a defined schedule, creating a work-life imbalance. The result is increasing instances of burnout and job dissatisfaction.
The best way to combat these and other issues is to practice what we will call “hands-on leadership proactively.” By leveraging peer groups or inside teams, you can keep your fingers on the pulse of your people’s state of mind and intervene where and when necessary. In other words, and in the same way you want to make sure they have the technology they need to do their jobs, you want to ensure that your employees are mentally engaged and stimulated and emotionally supported.
Model, Coach, and Care
Even before the pandemic, your people were looking to you for leadership. It is fair to say that this need is even greater now than it was previously.
Any leader who becomes insular and does not understand or recognize this new reality will precipitously lose touch with their employees and therefore, the ability to effectively lead.
To ensure this does not happen, Brommet suggests making a model, coach, and care investment in your people. Think of it this way, and starting with yourself, model by example, coach by experience, and care through actions.
It should come as no surprise that this process starts with you in that you and your management team must walk your talk. You set the example for your employees to follow.
Considering the above, the question you need to ask yourself is this: am I, as a leader in 2021, setting the right example?
Be sure to watch my entire Microsoft Leadership in 2021 interview with Microsoft’s Jason Brommet.