The resources shared this week include:

  • Managing People – the value of compassion in the workplace
  • Managing the Work – getting more out of your online or conference call meetings
  • Managing Yourself – to be there for other people, take time to look after yourself 
Managing people – Unleashing compassion

Organizations that provide support to staff’s emotional needs during times of crisis and their aftermath build loyalty. An article by Jane E. Dutton in the January 2020 Harvard Business Review, Leading in Times of Trauma, describes the value of compassion to: 

“Facilitate an institutional response on two levels. The first level is what we call a context for meaning—the leader creates an environment in which people can freely express and discuss the way they feel, which in turn helps them to make sense of their pain, seek or provide comfort, and imagine a more hopeful future. The second level is a context for action—the leader creates an environment in which those who experience or witness pain can find ways to alleviate their own and others’ suffering.”

Suggestions for how to support your staff’s emotional needs include:

  • One C.E.O. shared that she started a ‘code lavender’ in her organization so managers and staff could call on one another for emotional support when they needed to during a crisis or after a series of crises. 
  • Let people know they are not alone in their work. Maintain an ‘all hands on deck’ presence where possible to provide encouragement and logistical support where needed
Managing the work – On line meetings and conference calls are here to stay; 4 tips to make them better

Video meetings and conference calls are traditionally planned more out of necessity rather than preference. They are organized to connect people who work in remote sites, who are travelling, or who have other commitments and only have time to squeeze in an important conference call. 

Many people experience outright frustration with these meetings: various participants struggle with technical difficulties, or are distracted due to dual-tasking as they check e-mail or organize their photos of cats in sinks, or hear high decibel background noise disturbances such as dogs barking or traffic, or people talk over one another. Suggestions for how to get more out of your online meetings include:

  • Establish rules of conduct – Be specific about your expectations of how people need to prepare and participate in meetings. Don’t let them get away with arriving late, not testing their equipment beforehand, not arranging to be in place free from most outside noises (even in so-called “quiet” locations, the mute button should be used except when a person is speaking). Sure, some exceptions will need to be allowed when they are beyond a person’s control; for example if an urgent matter such as child care or illness has arisen.
  • Technology – Ensure the technology and platform you have chosen to support your virtual meetings has been tested for user-friendly access, privacy, security, and reliability.  Provide step-by-step instructions and designate an IT person to provide one-to-one support for those who cannot cope on their own. Invest in the headsets, speaker system, internet bandwidth augmentation device, and anything else you find to remove video and audio glitches. In the meantime, have participants use their telephone access to accompany their video participation on the call.
  • Meeting Best Practices – Ensure you set rational and experiential objectives for each meeting. Tick off the items as you proceed through your agenda, plan for everyone’s participation and interaction, and send out meeting notes that highlight actions and responsibilities. Make good use of “shared screens” to display the agenda or a powerpoint presentation.  When possible, email these materials in advance.
  • Leadership – The above three elements won’t happen without you taking charge and holding people responsible for contributing to the meeting. 

My suggestion is to treat online meetings as a practice that is here to stay, and will be the norm even after the pandemic is over; so, change the paradigm. You may not have time right now to focus on the details of this, but your commitment will speak to the expectations you have of others to prepare for the online meetings as they would for in person.  Use face-to-face meetings judiciously when extended periods of time are needed to discuss very significant issues.

View this video, A Conference Call in Real Life to have a laugh while thinking about the pitfalls of virtual meetings – we have all been there!

Managing yourself  

As in the case when oxygen masks become essential when an airplane experiences significant turbulence, you need to place it on yourself before assisting others. Another article from the Harvard Business Review, 4 Behaviours That Help Leaders Manage a Crisis, suggests how to maintain your own well-being include:

“Keep mind and body in fighting shape. To reliably deliver, leaders must maintain their equanimity even when others are losing their heads. Establish a routine of self-care: a healthy diet, exercise, meditation, or whatever works best for you. Stock up on energy, emotional reserves, and coping mechanisms.”

In summary, we are currently living in unprecedented times with minimal ability to predict the length, severity and impact of the crisis.  We cannot even determine if this is a one-time ordeal, or something that can be expected to recur.  By following these suggestions, you join a corps of managers and leaders who help others cope by responding in healthy ways to this pandemic.