What is COVID-19 Teaching Us

Two major lessons we have learnt in the last 4 months; we as humans do not have total control and dominion over our environment and that we need to look after each other. Are there some, if any, trying to go back the pseudo-comfortable, non-sustainable, non-agile pre-covid era?

Yes, business will return as it always has, some will have been in the right place and the right mindset, with the right product/service to make the most of a catastrophe, for the rest of us it is not so good. The question is, what has been learnt and are we putting these learnings into practice. Are we evolving as people, as businesses and societies to manage this return to business.

There will be a huge number of specific lessons for businesses but with a broad brush I propose that we should, as businesses, have learnt some generic, wide reaching lessons and be taking actions to update our processes and policies to reflect the new normal. The obvious ones that comes to mind:

  • How do we keep velocity up in the decision-to-implementation process? We had a LOT of noise and extended project time within business, with the discussions, budgeting, planning and execution. Yet when time was seen as critical because of the situation we got things over the line in months instead of years.
  • Have all the contracts been reviewed and updated for new, realistic and versatile SLAs/KPIs, termination triggers and with flexibility to cover unexpected events.
  • Have alternative sourcing protocols been instigated. Have supply lines been reviewed for potential outages and solutions agreed with suppliers.
  • BCP (Business Continuity Plans) – this is the document that for so long was only given lip-service. So… has a BCP been drafted and in place, covering many, broad scenarios.
  • Have HR and WHS policies and systems been put in place that will ensure the safety and welfare yet effectiveness of all employees. Is WFH a new paradigm within the business? Has the working “space” been reviewed?
  • Cyber-tech. Any lessons here? Was software and hardware adequate (also the current trend for security breaches must be included). Did you manage without issues? Is this area a major part of your new BCP – what happens if there was a software COVID, a major, self-propagating virus that had no “vaccine” yet far more contagious than we have seen to date (rest assured, someone will be working on designing one). Most could recover but the outcome for too many could be fatal.
  • Psychological impacts and fallout from a major incident how are they going to be handled and addressed. People will be anxious and more focused on self-preservation (jobs and lives). Will there be an avoidance of risk, will this add value or limit the ability of your business to survive. Plus, the fallout will not just included employees, there will be multiple stresses placed on everyone within society, including suppliers, customer and investors. All will now have their own priorities.

Those are some of the lessons that I can quickly think of to date, there will be more as the economy improves for as history shows, the economy will not return like the slow turning of a tap, it will come in surges and waves.

So you survived the initial downturn, do you have systems and people in place who can work with agility and velocity to keep up with a variable, unknown return.

There will be changes in all areas of life, especially now as we have a second wave of COVID-19 rolling through many countries, reinforcing the fact that we are not as invincible as we thought and yet we are capable of stepping up when we have too.

Overall lesson: do we now know HOW and WHEN to step up.

That “Problem” employee

In the past I have written articles on how to engage, motivate and mentor your staff and you may say that’s great, but what about those who are not open to change or improvement, even with authentic help and intention.

If you are in a large corporation you have probably got a lot of resource behind you so you may/should know this. On the other hand, if you are a new manager or in a small company this may be of interest.

Problem staff – Yes, there are those who just don’t work out, who seem to suck the life out of the you (the Manager) and/or their team mates. So you if have done all the things I mentioned in my earlier articles; you dug deeper, gave them feedback, encouraged them, explained the consequences and yet whatever their (real) reason, they are not sharing them with you or don’t want to change and remain having a negative affect on you, the team, the outcomes or all of the above.

1.     Firstly – accept that this person probably won’t change – they might surprise you though. Research by Christine Porath shows that up to 4% of people engaging in this sort of behaviour do so because they “like getting away with it” yes, to them it’s a game.

2.     Now things get serious. Serious as in everything must be documented, if it gets awkward you will need to prove you have followed protocols and always considered their situation. So, when they do something wrong, diarize it and advise HR (or whoever ‘looks after” HR in your organisation), do the same for each of the discussions after you brought the incidents up with them.

3.     Don’t ignore the problem. Do not make excuses for them or hide what they are doing. Always bring the incident to their attention and work through it as per the company’s documented processes. But also, don’t keep harping on forever, it can be seen as bullying, stick to the process, call it out then make a final decision when needed.

4.     If possible, don’t let the toxicity of this person influence the others. Try to keep them away from others as much as possible during work. You won’t/can’t stop them outside work hours so do not try. But during work, it lets the rest of your team get on with it.

5.     Don’t let them distract you into spending all your time managing them. Remember, these people really are high maintenance, they will suck up your time very quickly if you let them. Keep control of your ego and dont make it personal, learn the official process and use it.

6.     Be consistent – make sure you treat them the same way every time, all the time. This goes for all your staff, do not treat any individual better or worse than the others. If it is proven you have done this, you may find your problems have grown. And, don’t change the rules or requirements, don’t give them a moving target as this will be to your detriment – they might be taking notes about you!

7.     Stay on track – Work through the official company processes to manage these people. It helps you stay focused and minimises the effect of personalities and egos.

8.     Do not trash them to others – Always talk to HR, but not others. This is not information for discussion with the general populace or others who have an opinion – maintain your integrity. There is no issue getting advice, but the first port of call should be HR.

9.     Be strong – it is not easy firing someone. If it is the right thing to do, as a manager it is your role to do it. Do not pass the buck onto HR or another Manager/Supervisor, remember this person worked for you. It also shows that you respect yourself and your role, and when done properly and ethically, your team will respect you.

10.   Learn from the experience. This is a must, you want to repeat this at little as possible, but if you must so be it.