​Leading Teams in Our New Normal

By: Heather Odendaal

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Last week, we hosted WNORTH’s first virtual Conference, PIVOT. I’ll be honest, I’ve been hesitant to host a virtual conference in the past.

We surveyed our membership last year, and one question we posed was, “Would you attend a virtual conference?” Less than 10% said yes. That was 2019, this is 2020.

Fast forward to mid-March 2020; we had just made the difficult decision to postpone our 6th Annual WNORTH Conference until October. The business landscape was changing on the daily, many of us navigating leading our teams in what has become “our new normal.”

I captured some of the key takeaways from our online Conference PIVOT below, advice shared by speakers from Cisco, Indeed, Amazon Web Services, Zoom, and more.

Managing and motivating remote teams.

Recent changes in our global health landscape have dramatically changed how we work and how we lead our teams. Many leaders have shifted to managing remote teams, something that they may have never done before.

In this session, we spoke with three leaders from Indeed, Amazon, and Zoom about their best practices when it comes to managing and motivating remote teams. We covered everything from maintaining a consistent schedule to keeping your team updated as to when they can expect the most e-mail volume from you to the importance of keeping morale high and being visibly present (through video) on calls.

1) Spontaneous interaction is key.

We miss unstructured conversation right now, so think about implementing open office hours after a team meeting.

2) Be visible.

Use Loom videos for showing your face to co-workers in other time zones.

3) Make things fun.

Encourage Zoom virtual backgrounds or a meeting theme (hats, show off animals, children, costumes).

4) The right tools.

Ensure your team is well-equipped with the tools to do their job remotely (home office set up, monitor, training on remote tools).

5) Put your oxygen mask on first.

Take care of yourself and show your team how important self-care is, and they will follow your footsteps.

[Related: Six Reasons Why Selfish is the New Black]

From crisis to pivot — how these organizations shifted gears.

In this session, we heard from three leaders who had faced diverse scenarios where they pivoted following crisis.

As the Director, Sales, Marketing, and Guest Services at the Sea to Sky Gondola, Christy Allan and her team faced crisis last year when it was vandalized and forced to shut its doors for over six months.

As Director, Sales and Partner Events, at Cisco Global Events, Kerry Chalmers and her team have worked tirelessly over the last few months shifting events of 3–30,000 people from live to digital.

We also heard from Executive Vice President at AG Hair, Michele Matthews, who successfully led a restructure of their workforce to take up the challenge of converting their production of hair and beauty products to hand sanitizer, developing protocol to allow employees to work safely in their facility during the lockdown.

Here is some of their advice.

1) Be nimble.

Team members who can take on multiple roles in a time of crisis are invaluable to organizations.

2) Roll up your sleeves.

Challenge your team and timelines. AG Hair brought their hand sanitizer to market in 30 days, as opposed to the usual 12–18 month timeline.

3) Digital strategy.

If you aren’t a master online yet, the time is now! Take this opportunity to improve your e-commerce, refine your CRM system, and master the art of social media.

4) Lead with compassion.

Recognize that some employees may have families and loved ones that will require their attention. Stay in open communication with them as to how you can support them.

5) Maintain community among your “tribe” during a crisis.

For the Sea to Sky Gondola, this meant keeping the Christmas dream alive by inviting Santa to come to the base of the Gondola. What does that mean to your organization?

[Related: Why Every Solopreneuer Needs A Tribe]

Leadership lessons to support working parents during COVID-19.

One month into home schooling, working from home, and balancing our lives during this pandemic, I spoke with three diverse leaders about best practices for how we can navigate this new reality as parents, as well as ways colleagues and managers of working parents can best support their team members.

Mita Mallick works at Unilever out of New York City, leading the North American Diversity & Inclusion Agenda and Employer Brand, which leads global cross cultural marketing. Similar to many of us, Mita and her husband were both transitioned to working from home, shortly after she found out that her children’s school had been canceled due to COVID-19.

Esther Wojcicki, author of the acclaimed How to Raise Successful People, also joined the discussion. She is famous for three things: teaching a high school class that has changed the lives of thousands of kids, inspiring Silicon Valley legends like Steve Jobs, and raising three daughters who have each become famously successful.

And finally, Colonel Mark Gasparotto, a Canadian military veteran, shared his family’s tent routine that he adapted from military tent routines carried out during winter warfare training, exercises, and operations.

Below are some of my highlights.

1) Foster independence.

In the homeschooling journey, try to foster independence in your children. Don’t micromanage. Boredom is also essential to creativity.

2) Recognize everyone is on their own COVID-19 journey.

Working parents, those who live alone, those who are retired — every journey comes with its own challenges. Recognize and embrace the positive in your situation.

3) Embrace flexible working hours.

Hopefully, this pandemic will show organizations the importance of agile working and the necessity of fluidity in schedules.

4) Prioritize.

Highlight the three things that have to get done each day. Stay focused.

5) Kindness and understanding.

Give working parents or those looking after loved ones some slack. Check in on them, but also give them space. Withhold judgement and show compassion.

[Related: Keeping it Real: Mom Strength at Home and the 9–5]

Heather Odendaal is the founder of WNORTH, a boutique-style conference that happens annually in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. It’s focused on providing a forum for women who are aiming for, or already on, a senior executive leadership track. Top female business leaders in corporate, public, and entrepreneurial sectors come together to enhance their leadership training, engage in high-level networking, and witness inspirational talks from global leaders. If you are interested in watching the video playbacks and resources guides of these sessions, please visit the WNORTH Website. If you leading teams and are a interested in additional online content, check out The Members Club at WNORTH.

Originally published at https://www.ellevatenetwork.com.

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