The events of the past few weeks have been unsteady for all of us. The unknown of Covid-19 has impacted each of us on different levels. It does not matter if you are a child, student, parent , leader, employee or just you. While I was concerned with the events in other countries I kept one eye closed to this virus. I voiced concern to my boss about the what ifs before 90% of our staff was to travel to the yearly show. His response was we can discuss it when we get back. Hold down the fort while we are gone. I stay behind with about 55 other staff members.
They all leave Wayne, Pa for a week (longer for some) and return to the office on Monday morning. They return with 6 cases of the flu and a few colds. Wonderful! Now Covid-19 is in full force in the US. My thoughts are that those that traveled should be working remotely rather than exposing the ones that were not traveling. They are the majority that have the ability to work remotely. They all just worked remotely at the Show. This suggestion fell in deaf ears. My teams are all hourly employees and have never been able to “work from home”.
Now the closed door meetings have started and I am not in there. I am getting updates from my boss but I am not liking what I am hearing. First and foremost is the office will remain open. I am ok with that but what if? More meetings that I must wait to hear the cliff notes. This time the meeting is about the work of my teams. My head explodes in his office!!! What ? You have this wrong, you have that wrong and are you serious??? I explain that if we do what those behind the doors are suggesting there will be no sales registered, no service fee collected and no AR invoice sent out. Now his head explodes!
It took almost 3 days testing between myself and some of the IT team to see if we could pull this off. I am 99% sure we can do this with lots of extra equipment. Now I am invited to a meeting. Again they begin to say that things can be done, it is easy , just process the invoices. OK this all sounds good but then I started asking questions. My questions were how they felt about information and sales not being available to them. What do you mean we won’t see things?? I begin to explain all the steps required by my team to accomplish what they are asking/assuming we can do. More head explosions.
The communications between Senior Management and the rest of the company is horrible. I am a manager and I was not included in these discussions. I would consider myself a front-line manager. A front-line manager makes short term operating decisions, directing the daily tasks of non managerial personnel (Kinicki and Williams 2012). What does that say ? I am open with my teams all the time. They started to worry that something bad was happening from all the closed door meetings. I tried to settle them explaining what I could without getting them excited that they MAY be working remotely in a few days. The next thing I know we order all this equipment, laptops for everyone and a crash course in training everyone on what and how we are going to do.
Now my head is spinning and I am doing my best to keep my head in the chaos. I need to keep my own emotional intelligence in check if I am going to keep them in check. I started to test as much as could. Think of what bumps may occur at home. Who can handle this intense new working environment. Who will need the most guidance? I really needed to dissect my team one by one on who would be strong enough to start on their own. The team leader in me breaks out. Team leader is a manager who is responsible for facilitating team activities towards achieving key results (Kinicki and Williams 2012). The key result this week was to get everyone confidently working remotely. This would require team effectiveness. Team effectiveness had two critical functions: performance and the development (Northouse, 2016). The performance is the accomplishment of the task at hand and the development is the team maintenance (Northouse, 2016).
I know my team the best. I know who the strong performers are and the ones that will need extra help. I also know that they will do their best to show that our teams are capable of working through the chaos and to be able to work remotely. Team leaders need to be strong to rally the troops. The task is to keep the company functioning as best we can. We had some bumps and bruises for the first three days but Monday is a new day. Monday both of my teams will be 100 functional remotely and business will run as usual.
The Senior Management team had the same team leader goals to get the rest of the teams on board; they just missed some really important pieces. In the end they were able to approve, order and receive all the required equipment that would be needed to work remotely. The goal is to keep the business running and that we are. Team leaders are on different levels and with different styles. While I may not agree with how they handled it they did achieve the goal. They were able to tell me what was needed of my teams and they depended on me to get that task completed.
I hope that everyone is safe and stays healthy during these uncertain times in the world.
Northouse, Peter G. 2016. Leadership: Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications.