Leadership In Crisis: Re-entry After Corona

 

My name is Sari van Poelje. I’m the director of Intact Academy and Team Agility. At Team Agility we help businesses innovate more quickly than their products to accelerate their time to market. In Intact Academy we organize accredited training programs for coaches and consultants to themselves and their practice. I’ve been a consultant for 35 years and a leader in multinational businesses for 23 years. This series of blogs is a way for me to transfer my knowledge to a new generation.

One of the things that fascinates me at the moment is how we are going to take care of re-entry after Corona, or even during Corona. Here in Holland, we’ve been through a period of infection and we’re actually expecting a second wave of infection, but in the meantime, we’re slowly reopening businesses, restaurants and theatres in a very controlled manner. For instance, in the theatres, now you can have 30 people there who have had their temperature checked, and are wearing face masks. I can visit my mother now in the care home for half an hour. So slowly, slowly, we’re reopening. And at the same time preparing to close again, because there is an expectation of the second way. 

Why are we expecting a second wave? Because the government has let go of the imposing of guidelines, they’ve given the responsibility to us as citizens to maintain our distancing, to maintain our face masks, to maintain reasonable guidelines, and to prevent infection. 

I find it interesting that because of the guidelines we have less Coronavirus, and we also have fewer deaths because of other causes. I was speaking to a doctor who explained that because of all the measures we’ve taken we have “under death”. Statistically, there should have been more deaths in this time.

One thing we’re really fearful of is how do we reintroduce people after a pandemic? How do we take care of re-entry?

I don’t really have any answers yet, but I have a lot of questions and ponderings. 

 

Managers need to change their leadership style

 

One of the things I notice is that managers really have had to change their leadership styles. Leaders had to change their style because people were working from home, they were forced to trust them. And this forced trust is something that should have happened a long time ago. This paradigm shift from command and control to trust and relationship is one I’ve been advocating for a very long time.

When they come back into the business, the question is, are they going to be able to maintain this trust? What we know from research is that most people leave or derail because of their bad relationship with their leader, because of a relationship with the leader where the leader doesn’t trust them. So will this mean if people actually shift paradigm that people will work harder and longer for one person? And what does that mean in the long run? In the past 20 years, we’ve seen an acceleration of job hopping. Maybe now we’ll see a deceleration. And that means that people will stick to their boss and maintain loyalty, build up more knowledge. Maybe that’s a good thing.

 

Virtual platforms can be fun 

 

During this time of working from home, we’ve all had to work with MS Teams or Zoom or any other virtual platform. A lot of leaders really don’t know how to use the platform. Just yesterday, I had a leader who lamented how boring it was using a virtual platform. What do you do? Just talk to the camera? He said: We have an agenda beforehand, and we work the agenda, but people are missing the relationship. 

I use zoom in a very different way. I do what I usually do, which is connect through the camera, and extend my energy. I do fun things during meetings on zoom. I call in my yoga teacher to give yoga exercises every two hours. Last time I had a DJ on board who played music during every break, and we were dancing in the living room, all of us together. There are many ways you can use zoom. 

With virtual working it’s much easier to call in experts from all over the world. You don’t have to wait anymore. You can just contact someone and say, Hey, could you speak to my team for an hour? It’s much easier than it used to be. I hope people start to be playful in our virtual working that would make our lives much more fun and easier.

 

We have entered into people’s homes

 

The other thing that’s interesting with virtual working is we’ve actually entered into people’s homes. Behind me you can see my home office. This balance between home and work has shifted because this virtual curtain, that there used to be between home life and work life, has dissipated. 

Sometimes I zoom with my clients who are top leaders in organizations and their children suddenly run by and ask for milk and cookies. Or their dog starts barking in the background. Or we have a conversation about the art on the wall. This has meant that I have been able to meet my clients in a much more personal way. People now know their colleagues in a very different way than they did before. And I’m wondering what’s going to happen to that. I’m hoping it’s going to stay because honestly, for five days a week, we work eight, nine, 10 hours with these people. This difference between work and private life is really a construct. It’s not true in real life. So I’m hoping that some of this relational intimacy will stay. We may have had physical distancing, but hopefully we’ll keep the social intimacy.

 

Onboarding people who have been through trauma

 

In some countries we’ve had people who have had the illness, who have had loved ones who have been ill, or people who have died. In Holland most people know someone who’s been ill or who has died. So people have been through traumatic times where they’ve had loved ones being sick, or die in isolation and they’ve not been able to say goodbye. So what does this mean when you try to reintegrate these people into your workforce? 

All of us in some way or other, even people who haven’t been ill or who haven’t had people who’ve died, have been through traumatic times. All of us have had to decide who’s part of our clan. We’ve all had income loss, except the people who were bounty hunters in war. So how do you reintegrate people who have been through trauma? 

We have to pay much more attention as coaches to: teaching leaders to deal with people, deal with working virtually to trust, and to deal with people with trauma.

So I’ve got the questions. I’m going to think about it and I’ll come back with answers in my next blog.