Project Management

3 Expert Lessons On Leading During A Pandemic

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3 Expert Lessons On Leading During A Pandemic

Categories: Disruption

by Dave Wakeman

As we’ve moved through the pandemic, I’ve learned more and more about leadership—what good leadership looks like and what bad leadership looks like. 

Since early July, the first question I pose to guests on my podcast, The Business of Fun, zeroes in on how they’ve have been leading their teams during the pandemic. Here are some of the lessons learned that can help you level up your leadership game no matter what industry you work in: 

Put People First

This actually came out of several conversations I had, but Mark Fowlie and Harold Hughes, a pair of tech CEOs, really put the best exclamation point on this directive. 

Mark is the CEO of Audience View and has a team distributed around the world. He said he helped his team adapt to the new normal by communicating consistently and clearly, and helping people get the space to operate, think and work in an environment where no one had a playbook. 

Harold is the CEO of Bandwagon FanClub and his approach is to have daily stand-ups. This provides some consistency with the in-office experience and offers teams a place—albeit virtual—to come and talk. It also gives folks some structure to their day, so they don’t feel alone in their work. On top of that, Harold and his team emphasized socialization with baking classes, happy hours and other fun meetings to ensure the team got a chance to know their co-workers both personally and professionally. 

Be Honest In Your Communications

Richard Howle is director of ticketing at The Ticket Factory in the United Kingdom and the biggest lesson learned he shared with me was: It’s totally fine to say that you don’t know something.

No one has the definitive playbook for how to deal with unexpected situations. So expecting we’re going to have all of the answers at a moment’s notice isn’t doing our team any favors—and sets us up to fail as leaders in the process. 

Change Is Difficult, But We Have To Deal With It 

Zoe Scaman from Bodacious shared her philosophy on communicating change, especially to an audience that may not be comfortable with change or might not want to change. Securing their buy-in goes beyond simply telling them why they need to change. You must show the exciting things possible when people create change and embrace the process. 

As project managers, change is a constant and it can be disruptive in the best of cases. In my own experience, I find the need to sell change to my team a bit frustrating. But when I chatted with Zoe, her point of talking about selling the benefits and the vision of a better future helped recalibrate my thinking about what change is really about and why it matters so much. 

Change is really about improvement and making the environment and world around you a bit better. In times like these, that’s actually a pretty refreshing perspective to maintain. 

How have you been leading your teams during the pandemic? Let me know in the comments. 


Posted by David Wakeman on: September 07, 2020 01:17 PM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Good article, David. Communication is always important, but becomes essential in these particular circumstances. Put people first should always apply, WE and not I.

That is very excellent points. Thanks.

Your first point is great - putting people first. People are anxious at the moment - for themselves, for their job security, for their family and so on. A leader can be a convenient target for anger - particularly when only virtual meetings are possible. Take the concerns of your colleagues seriously. Give them some slack in these times. If you gave them certain flexibilities and responsibilities when all were in the office then continue with those even though they are at home. Show them that you also have concerns and are a real person - look at the way the PM of New Zealand presented during their lockdown.
Thanks for the timely article and kind regards from Switzerland.

Thanks for the points. I fully agree that adapting the "People First approach" and "Being honest in communication" are the key factors. I will also like to add that there are some people whom you cannot trust (they have lost trust because of their wrongdoings over a period). They say something and act differently - there is no synchronization between what they say and what they do/act. In face to face communication, one relies on body language and gauge the genuineness. However, while working in a virtual environment, it becomes a little more difficult to align with such persons, especially these days when the communication when everything is virtual including e-meetings. How does one deal with such people??

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