WE TEND to be creatures of habit.
When forced to work under unnatural conditions, the mind behaves in a different mode and the dynamic that is in place in the normal office environment is displaced when the team is split up. Especially when they are working from home and all the inherent distractions.
But even as we are forced to get used to it, there is never a perfect solution. But here are some points to help leaders communicate.
1. Be Decisive
Data tells us that the speed with which governments took action was more important that the completeness of the restrictions imposed. Therefore, what was important was that governments made decisions quickly and communicated them swiftly. So, businesses had to comply and leave their own preferences behind and go with the national programme.
2. Admitting To Mistakes
Being able to make the case that the decisions were based on the best information available has been a serious shortcoming but not as significant as the inability to admit mistakes and explain the need for policy shifts. This inability to admit when they “got it wrong” has been a serious impediment to trust.
Consistency of communication and congruency between science and policy (imposed on constituents) has been disastrous in most jurisdictions around the world and when people feel that governments lack consistency and congruence, panic has ensued, trust has been eroded and compliance has fallen away.
For organisations, the same principles apply — make a decision boldly and then be ready to explain the need to change and ensure it is based on data. Swiftly moving to “work from home” for example was critical and more important than having all the details worked out.
Make the decision, then work out how to make it work
For most organisations, technology (software and platforms) have not been as big an impediment as staff having the hardware or physical space to effectively do their work from home
3. Dealing With Uncertainty
The biggest obstacle to productivity is not the lack of technology or space but our physiology — the fact is that humans cannot effectively deal with a threat and uncertainty at the same time as undertaking complex cerebral thinking. While the limbic brain is processing the threat and marshalling resources to respond, the higher order functioning of our rational, learning, thinking brain is compromised
Interacting with colleagues and customers via video conferencing is far more exhausting than face to face interaction as the brain works much harder to read subtle cues and gather feedback
Communication has been more effective when leaders accept that productivity will take a hit. Most organisations are not very good at connecting with their people and often the communication has lacked any significance
Dom Meli is the founder of boutique consultancy People At Their Best.
If you have a point of view on COVID-19, or think someone you know could present a thought-provoking perspective on the subject, please email [email protected] with your details and a short summary.