As a bonafide member of the boomer generation, I tend to, shall we say, “press-though” the COVID-19 malaise.
It seems like daily, we are faced with economic headwinds, job loss, divisiveness, freedom restrictions, misinformation, and fear — all of which affect our personal and professional psyche. At home and work, I find myself taking every conceivable action to engage in routines familiar to me, all to refute the so-called “new normal.”
Last week, I saw my new favorite t-shirt, which read, very simply, in large bold caps: OVER IT. If only we all were. So, as leaders in our companies and despite the prevailing noise, what working attitude will lead us through 2020 and on to blissful social interaction, productivity, and contentment?
Working from Home is Probably Not the Answer
With some merited exceptions, I don’t think work from home (WFH) is the end-all answer.
Cushman & Wakefield surveyed 40,000 people worldwide across all industries, collecting more than 2 million new data points during COVID-19 about their experiences working from home. While collaboration, productivity, and the ability to focus were initially up, the survey revealed that people generally are feeling detached from their companies and coworkers.
Gen Z and Millennial workers, which make up the bulk of the workforce, reported greater challenges in working from home than Baby Boomers due to sub-par connectivity, lack of dedicated workspace, and caregiver responsibilities.
You may have been productive initially, but will that change age well? Do you feel better connected to your team and the pulse of the market? Do you feel a step ahead of your competition? Are you developing new relationships to further your business and your career? Are you learning at the same rate you were last year? Is it easy to exchange personal experiences or ideas on a Zoom call?
Some CEOs say that it is almost impossible to spark learning, innovation, and find creativity in a WFH environment.
Finding a Groove
If WFH is not the answer, how can we, as leaders, provide a workplace that gets us back on track?
My career now spans more than four decades, and I have seen many ups and downs. From experience, several leadership skills represent a working attitude which can transcend the noise:
- Accessibility – This is the easiest one. I returned to the office in early June. Being present and available for employees when they need comfort or counsel has been key.
- Reliability – Demonstrate your willingness to dive in on details, problem solve, listen and empathize.
- Consistency – It is tempting to relax standards when under stress, but daily engagement with employees promote good behaviors and provide shelter during the chaos. This doesn’t mean being inflexible.
- Motivate – An encouraging word goes very far today. Sharing, celebrating successes, and giving credit where credit is due is a powerful lure for most.
- Teamwork – I know…sounds cliché, but it is not. Teams built on relationships are the highest performing teams. No.12 taught me that. Win together, lose together.
- Truth – There is no trust without truth. In a day where disinformation is as common as ants at a picnic, your honesty, candor, and open discussion about the good and bad is oxygen for your team. Being generous and inclusive with your knowledge, experience, and wisdom is a sought-after attribute.
- Vision – Just beyond the valleys are the mountain tops. Charting a course to the peak that you know is just over the horizon is what every teammate wants to hear from you.
As you can imagine, most of these attributes would be difficult to model while working remotely. Leadership is an ever-present effort, not a part-time gig. Without being mutually exclusive, if we take personal responsibility for ourselves and others’ safety and adopt a solid working attitude, you, me, and our teams will recover and ascend the peak before the others realize we departed.
Brad Blankenship is the Sr. Managing Director, Texas Area Lead at Cushman & Wakefield.