Project Management

Effective communication in COVID-19 crisis needs responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty.

From the Ethics Bistro Blog
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We all tackle ethical dilemmas. Wrong decisions can break careers. Which are the key challenges faced? What are some likely solutions? Where can we find effective tools? Who can apply these and why? Dry, theoretical discussions don't help. Join us for lively, light conversations to learn, share and grow!

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Karun’s Charismatic Leadership & Caring Communication in Chaotic, Changing Conditions.

Effective communication in COVID-19 crisis needs responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty.

Enrique Cappella, PMP.


Organizations and people are struggling to adapt to the new “normal” work environment and obtain high performance and quality. Working from home in a remote fashion using technology is becoming a powerful tool for business continuity. New concepts of teamwork and social interaction are emerging and the role of the Project manager as a Team Leader is changing. The challenge is to reduce the impact on the new policies (remote meetings, home working, etc.) to handle the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on performance and operations, however it is also an opportunity for preparing the teams to work on hybrid contexts (remote and face to face). The Hybrid Teams bring isolation of the members in remote environments at home or at a work location away from their social support and means a change for people and not all accepts such change. I assist organizations on Strategic Management and one of the Key Success Factors is building and maintain high performance teams that help the organization to achieve their expected results and contribute to the business strategy. Strategic management is already a challenge itself and it is now increased due to the need to protect people and obtain productivity from hybrid teams. It is a change for which not all leaders in the organization are ready for and this gap might impact negatively on team performance and achievement of targets and goals.

I experienced recently the breaking down of a team in a global company. The team was built during the last 3 years, because its leader did not have the skills to communicate effectively the new way of working and to satisfy the team members expectations and needs. A global team of 5 people, running a critical role for the company, lost 3 members and the remaining 2 members are demotivated and their targets are not being achieved.

Leaders need to be aware about their role in this new challenge brought by the global Corona Virus COVD 19. They need to prepare their teams to use new technologies, to adapt to the new reality, and to run meetings and control performance in a virtual fashion. The leader will not have the visual clues of motivation or conflict and need to be available to answer new questions from the team. The new leader needs to learn how to provide for constructive feedback and motivate people using a set of new tools provided by technology different from traditional face to face work schemes. Workers will feel that they are losing connections with the persons that help them during work hours and many will need to adjust their habits and discipline along with keeping self - motivated and work at home where distractions are permanent.

The leader in my example above is not trained or skilled on interpersonal relationships and was not prepared to help the team members to become self-aware of their motivations and strengths needed to understand the change and how to prevent and manage their interpersonal conflict. And nothing was said in preparation to understand other member´s motivations and to learn a communication style for virtual high team performance. The result was that 3 members preferred to leave the company.

Leaders need to develop a new set of values and behaviors and also they need to be honest to recognize that a new set of skills and competences are needed to help teams to overcome uncertainty and build trust and motivation to perform on the hybrid context. I had the opportunity to talk to the team members that left the company and the three of them decided to leave mainly because their manager (supposedly their leader) was not able to keep them connected to the organization. I remember the book “It’s the manager” I recently read by Clifton and Harter[i] which I recommend because it stresses the importance of the role that the manager plays to connect people.

PMI Ethical Values  helps leaders to remember that our team members are people that perceive threatens that will drive them into conflict if they don´t understand their leaders and the new challenges; and once they are in conflict, they will forget about the organization and might get to the point to think only about surviving. Leaders must keep in mind that people need to be Respected and treated Fairly to keep their well-being and also they need to become aware of the Responsibility to develop a new set of behaviors that will motivate and connect their team members. Leaders should be Honest with themselves and their teams about his/her strengths and weaknesses and develop team agreements that help them to build high performance teams.



[1] Clifton, Jim and Harter Jim, It´s the manager, Gallup Press, 2019.

Posted by Enrique Cappella on: April 02, 2020 01:26 PM | Permalink

Comments (20)

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An interesting discussion with some very good insights. Change seem to have been accelerating faster every year and this this event have kicked it into overdrive.
Thanks for sharing

Yes indeed. The COVID-19 is really changing the way we do things, hence new skills are required from the leaders. Maybe in before COVID-19 the need was not so tangible. Thank you for your feedback.

Thank you Eduin. I hope my ideas can help leaders to handle the new experience with Hybrid Teams.

What useful and eye opening insights over the new way of working with the Hybrid team. Thank you for sharing!

Thank you @Enrique. Covid-19 introduces a level of uncertainty that unveils our abilities to transform threats into opportunities and hone on our leadership style via adapting and adopting the digital world. However, it's not only the digital collaboration tools that will enable to connect, it's out human interaction that uses these channels in a responsible, respectful, fair and honest approach.

Thanks to Nooriah and to Amany.
we are facing new challenges and the traditional ways of leadership (if used) are no longer effective. The truth is that the human interaction is difficult for most of us and it is becoming more difficult when it happens virtually. We must learn new skills and competences to manage well being of others and prevent and anticipate conflict. Even more we need to learn how to identify conflict in others even if we don´t have eye contact. And we must have to learn how to manage conflict virtually. During the last weeks when working with my teams vitually or doing remote coaching I experienced the needs of those new skills. In my experience, having the framework provided by PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is helping me tremendously. I have the code cards in front of my PC to remmber those 4 values always when meeting with my teams and stakeholders.

Enrique, Thank you for this timely blog about the new normal. This virus has challenged many is a variety of different ways beyond the obvious health implications. I firmly believe that one of the strengths any project manager is the ability to overcome, despite the obstacles. In this virtual environment, the PMI ethics core values are more important than ever.

Valerie: I agree with your comments and furthermore, with as PMs are obliged to be the example for our teams, for functional teams, for management, for contributors and stakeholders. We have the skills to manage risks, perform project recovery, produce lessons learned and many other skills that become very useful during times of uncertainty. But none of those will work if we forget that bottom line, we are working with people that have different filters, different perceptions, show different behaviors in conflict and that people is constantly looking for their well being. To bring effective teams to help overcome the crisis leaders need to understand those differences and lead with intelligence.
In the example given above in my blog introduction, once the manager unsderstood that she is the connector between the team members and the corporation, she started gaining commitment from the remaining team members and they are performing better than before.
Thank you for your feedback.

Enrique, thank you for sharing this. Covid-19 has called the people world over to access communication regardless of the source. This can be hazardous if the communication is inconsistent and untrustworthy as it may demotivate teams and people.

I agree that the communication must be timely, fair, and consistent.


Dear Deepa:
Thank you for your contribution.

Thanks for sharing and recognizing the need of the skilled leader in these testing time!

Alankar, thank you for your comment.

Thank you Enrique for reminding us about the essence of being a leader. I was triggered by "people need to be Respected and treated Fairly to keep their well-being ", I think this is niche of the issue, in a remote environment, some aspects related to respect and fairness are lost or not expressed or understood in a timely manner. Leaders are asked to remain conscious about those aspects and keep on ensuring to their followers those essential feelings to keep them engaged and highly performing.

Dear Grettta: thank you for reinforcing the concepts. I trully believe that 80% of our success as leaders depends on the behaviors we make visible to others and they need to see Respect, Fairness, Responsability and Honesty to believe in us. Hence the PMI COE si a great framework to start or reinforce our road mapas to learn to build strong relationaships. In the virtual team work the gaps are perceived more.

Thanks for sharing this thoughtful piece Enrique!

These unprecedented times certainly are a test of effective and ethical leadership.

It has been heartening for me to see some positive qualities on this front in my own organisation, including:
1. Prompt, frequent and transparent communication from leadership as the situation has unfolded and changed
2. Frequent, proactive and one-on-one communication with subordinates being mandated across all leadership positions.
This has been ensuring any compromises to team well-being are remediated swiftly.
3. Concerted effort from leadership to maintain team spirit, moral and fun through informal catch-ups

Another factor that prepared us well for the transition to home-based work was that our organisation already actively supported flexible working arrangements. As a result, many were somewhat accustomed to the practice already.

There have been surprises and curve-balls along the way, but there certainly is a lot we can learn from this experience!

Zeina: great thoughts and thank you for sharing your experience. In my organization we are trying to change the leadership mindset to help teams to live a new reality while performing their work and keep the spirit up. The behaviors you highlighted above are very welcome and I will promote them. Hopefully other readers might do the same. I am convinced that we are building a new society and the secret is to go back to our values and PMI ethics is a robust foundation and framework to which we can trust to help us. Again thank you for your contribution.

Great insights there Enrique.

Changing times requires leaders and all stakeholders to change their mindsets. Leadership is birthed through challenging situations of change and COVID-19 is no exception, therefore the need to change in mindsets and the way we do things. I agree with you that to be able to go through this change of mindsets requires responsibility, respect, fairness and honesty.

The fourth industrial revolution (industry 4.0) kickstarted the need for this change in mindsets but however, COVID-19 just came to fast-track that process.

Well written Enrique! Your reference to PMIs code of Ethics is an honest reminder to all managers and, especially professionals in the PM world. We should remember that this is precisely why we take such professional certifications; to exhibit our knowledge and understanding in the fields of communication and ethics and apply them practically in the workplace. Sadly not all professionals practice what they learn.

Thanks for sharing Enrique

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