2020 was a watershed year in so many ways: the coronavirus pandemic has upset so many aspects of our work and lives. We have experienced personal financial crises, bailouts, domestic, and relationship issues, travel restrictions, and myriad other forms of personal hardship. And it is not over yet.
We are living through record unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, and shuttered businesses. This will continue to affect us, resulting in future uncertainty for individuals, families, and businesses.
A significant question is how and where will we be working in the future? In the past, most employers were reluctant to allow employees to work from home – how could we trust they are really working when we cannot see them? Now COVID has caused a whole new relationship of trust to happen between employers and employees.
Many managers are looking forward to the time when things will all get back to normal and we can see that our employees are really working. But that is not the “new normal.” We are all experiencing different modalities about how people should be managed and the organizational culture in which they will work. What will emerge are totally different forms of loyalties, and most employees will not tolerate the autocratic structures of the past.
This new normal will require new thinking for managers. The workplace and how we perform the work has continued to evolve to meet the demands and restrictions of the pandemic. We do know that what has worked before will not work going forward.
The rules have changed in this new normal. The economy has changed. The way we do business and purchase products have completely changed. Expectations of how people want to work have changed. Managers are quickly discovering that their former behaviors and decisions which led to past successes, promotions, and recognition, are less likely to be effective in this new normal. Managers must be open to doing things differently to achieve better results.
Managers with the most collaborative styles and who exhibit high levels of trust will have the most productive employees. Teams that are encouraged to work together by using collaborative tools, available technologies, and their creative skills will make organizations successful going forward.
It is human nature to hold on to what has worked before. No one likes to “fail,” so we grasp at past achievements – the proven strategies and techniques that we expect to make us successful in this new normal. But now this will not guarantee success, and managers must be open to trying new and different approaches to adapt to the changed and still changing environment.
Who knows the secret to the right approach? Organizational success will depend on a team of diverse people developing new ideas and even taking some risks. Some will work, some will fail. The important thing will be to trust the people, be open to different ideas, and be willing to accept, and learn from, a few failures along the way.
To encourage this mindset, organizations will need a special kind of culture – a culture where people are naturally trusted to just do the right thing, without direct supervision. In this new normal, employees will not tolerate being micromanaged.
In fact, most will be working on their own, likely from home, which will make old-style supervision impossible. It is the organization’s fundamental ethics, values, and culture that will guide their decisions and behaviors.
Working strategically to build and maintain a great culture means teaching employees how to build those values into every decision they make. Focusing on this will build your reputation today and result in better decisions and success for years to come. Managers and employees must be consistently promoting and behaving the organization’s values even though it will be remote.
My question for managers: How can you orient, communicate, and reinforce your company values and performance expectations to remote employees?
For more information about how to lead your team in the virtual environment, use these resources.
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 27 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action. Her latest book, 123 Ways to Add Pizazz to a Panel Discussion was published in January 2021.