Our Head of Training & Capability, Michele Fonseca, has recently been running some leadership training with Bastion’s senior managers. Here, she shares her insights on how to lead well without a guide book.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been running some professional development training for Bastion leaders, with a focus on managing teams effectively in a hybrid environment.
We’re now 20 months into the pandemic and for many leaders everywhere, their clients and customers need them more than ever. At the same time their own teams are tired, some are struggling to stay motivated and the stop-start nature of life can feel frustrating.
Google “how to lead effectively” and you’ll get no fewer than 576 million results. But the rules for how to lead effectively through a global pandemic are being written in real time. While plenty of advice has already emerged on leading through COVID’s various stages of health crises and lockdowns, with the environment changing so frequently, each day can present challenging new scenarios to tackle.
But through our training sessions, I’ve been pleased to see a positive story emerge about confident, intuitive leadership. In the absence of a How To guide to refer to, our managers have quietly and instinctively found ways to lead their teams with compassion and insight.
In our sessions, they’ve been sharing little gems of stories about how they’ve made it work. From the manager who noticed in a regular online meeting that one team member just didn’t seem “quite right” so followed up with her straight after; to the manager who introduced walking meetings early on; to the manager who took off her armour and instead started letting her team know when she was finding things hard; to the manager who has a virtual open door session at the same time every day where his team can catch him for a casual chat about anything.
Nothing revolutionary here – just some simple, powerful examples of building connection and trust.
And in a world which can feel overwhelming and uncertain, that’s where the focus should be for leaders today. Get to know your team and be curious about them – what’s going on in their lives, what are they passionate about, what brings out the best in them, what worries them? By creating a space where your team members feel heard by you and feel safe to be themselves, the productivity and the great performance are much more likely to follow.
Remember too that in a hybrid environment, for many employees their organisation fades into the background and their manager comes to the fore. It’s quite possible that some of your employees are spending more time online with you than they are with their friends or loved ones. The shadow you cast as leader is long. So remind yourself every morning – a little kindness and curiosity can go a long way to making someone else’s work day better.
PS – One of the highlights of the training for me has been the guest appearances of little people in our sessions. They’ve starred as noisy extras when someone comes off mute to ask a question, and in leading roles when conducting negotiations for ice cream (at 10am). I took on my first leadership roles a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away where I felt at pains to lead as if somehow, I didn’t have children. I’m not for a moment suggesting it’s easy or ideal to be trying to care for children while also trying to focus on training but on one level, I’ve loved seeing the messy and chaotic intersection of work, family … and ice cream.