Disruptive, stressful events are often chances for development. According to research, crises may help lift the "if it ain't broke, don't repair it" mindset that permeates many businesses by providing fresh chances for individuals to express their thoughts on how to do things better.
For example, when a pandemic required one of our recommended insurance companies to become completely remote, the issue of remote work spurred numerous teams to investigate new methods of measuring progress. Field staff submitted new metrics for monitoring sales encounters with clients, as well as new methods to combine these measures with the Salesforce platform's current key performance indicators. The new method was so well received by leadership that it is now being implemented on a national basis.
Similarly, basketball and hockey teams often improve after losing important players to injury because the surviving players are able to find new methods to collaborate. As teams in the Covid-19 period are pushed to take on new tasks, confront new uncertainties, and recover from errors, they learn to understand that both their own and their peers' talents are not fixed, but rather may be improved.
This development mentality will be beneficial to us — and our teams — throughout this crisis. Below are five recommendations for managers who want to use the shift to remote work to foster a development attitude in themselves and their employees.
1. Have patienceWhile it may seem like a long time, the general move to entirely remote work is still just a few months old, and we are continuously learning. Most people now understand how to share a screen or host a Zoom breakout session, but it may take longer to change deeply established work behaviors for a remote context. Be patient with yourself and others. Remember to acknowledge effort, even if the results do not yet meet your expectations.
While discussing the advantages of a growth mindset is good, learning a new discipline is difficult, and the absence of rapid, visible improvement may be depressing. Forgive yourself and be kind to others; instead of focusing on the lack of immediate results, try to concentrate on the work being put in and the vital insights you're getting from that effort.
2. Instill the development mentality in others while also reinforcing it in yourselfSatya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, spent his first months on the job teaching staff the importance of a "learn it all" mentality rather than a "know it all" one. He set a good example by posting monthly videos in which he discussed his top learnings and encouraged groups around the firm to share theirs. Consider doing something similar with your team, but on a lesser scale. For example, you might devote a portion of a weekly or monthly team meeting to a discussion of what team members have learned so far throughout the crisis.
3. Send the appropriate signalsWhat you say and how you behave both transmit important signals to others. For example, in recent research, leaders asked recently promoted executives, "What have you done since we last met, and what if anything have you learned from it?" every two weeks. They began to pay more attention to their own progress fairly soon because they knew he would ask, and they were amazed by how much they were learning.
You, too, can communicate with your colleagues. You may inquire about learning or, more casually, praise progress, lessons learned, and recovery from errors as much as star performance. You may share not just your ultimate victorious strategy, but also the obstacles and potholes along the route, to demonstrate what a development mindset looks like in action.
4. Revisit existing processes and reset expectationsThe transition to remote work is an excellent opportunity to reset your team's expectations for providing and receiving constructive criticism. If you're a team leader, ask your team members, "What three things would you attempt to alter if you were in my position?" Modeling openness to feedback can help your colleagues receive feedback more easily.
This crisis is also an excellent opportunity to motivate your team to evaluate and enhance existing processes. Because online work is less tolerant of coordination and leadership mistakes, it's an excellent chance to include others in executing quick course adjustments. Starting meetings by conveying what you know, noting that much is still unknown, and allowing colleagues to contribute not just their expertise, but also their worries and questions, might be part of this. More concerns may be addressed by putting them on the table.
For example, a team leader we counseled said that an open disagreement erupted between two of her colleagues after just a few weeks of remote work. As it turned out, the tension had been building for months. As the team leader began to assess the issue, she understood that the source of the conflict was one of the workers' terse and direct communication styles, which the other employee found insulting. When their job became remote, the tonal inconsistencies in their emails, along with the pre-existing strain in their relationship, caused the situation to swiftly grow, ending in a significant confrontation.
In order to learn from this episode and improve team practices, the team leader led a brainstorming session with the whole team to discuss how to interact effectively in a virtual setting. The "two email rule" was a new practice adopted by the team: if two emails addressed to a colleague are inadequate to settle a problem or reach an agreement, you are required to phone or video conference with that colleague. Following the implementation of this rule, the team had fewer misconceptions among workers and was able to handle complicated work challenges more rapidly.
5. Spend more time getting to know your colleaguesWorking remotely allows us to get to know our coworkers in new ways. We can see their workstations, children, and pets. Before Covid, if a cat hopped into a teammate's laptop during a (rare) virtual conference, the customary reaction was humiliation, apologies, and a swiftly disconnected video stream. People now simply laugh it off, he claims. According to research, being less concerned about social judgment and shame encourages exploration and creativity, all of which are essential for progress. Furthermore, additional studies indicate that personal identity expression at work might improve employee innovation.
While the Covid-19 problem brings a number of new obstacles, it also gives new opportunities for leaders to instill a more broad development mentality in their teams and themselves. Though it will not be easy, the correct mentality may help teams better cooperate, innovate, and control their own destinies, allowing them to not just weather the crisis, but emerge stronger.