Year 2: How business leaders can rally their team for success

August 05, 2021 08:51
Photo: Reuters

One step forward, two steps back. A rollercoaster. Peaks and troughs.

There are a hundred and one ways to describe the global pandemic. It has affected us each differently however, first on the productivity level which is still being determined as some companies report higher levels of output, while many have stated a clear drop. According to the Harvard Business Review, indications so far are the best-performing companies have done better, while less efficient and productive organizations have seen productivity fall – leading to a widening productivity gap.

For Veeam Hong Kong, having well-tested practices and policies in place to manage virtual teams, the biggest change was the reduction in face-to-face meetings with colleagues and customers. This was overcome to a degree with smaller in-person gatherings, occasional one-to-ones to break the monotony of Zoom calls and maintain interaction, morale and momentum. It’s not human nature to operate completely remotely in a virtual vacuum so for the sake of cohesiveness and team spirit, we still had to find ways to meet in person, even if only in small groups.

This leads to the one aspect of all our lives, where Covid-19 has clearly had an impact on lives here and around the world.

You guessed it: Our mental health, especially from a professional perspective. Covid-19 has placed an unprecedented amount of stress on the workforce, with Hongkongers across various industries more exhausted, anxious, and stressed than ever before. Hong Kong’s mental health slumped to a record low in 2020, according to an annual survey by the Mental Health Month Organising Committee. Started in 2012, the latest study released in September 2020, showed the average mental health index for Hongkongers this year was 45.12, lower than the 46.41 recorded in 2019. Covid-19 pandemic and the social unrest during 2019 were cited as the key factors.

As we face more of the same in 2021, there’s an onus on business leaders to sustain business momentum and keep team morale high. It’s a trying time for leaders to not only raise the spirits of their teams but to maintain and strengthen their own. However, this is a challenge that can’t be ignored and must be taken head on. Here are a few of my top tips.
Reduce unnecessary stress

Find ways to relieve and reduce individual stress. As an organization that is driven to meet targets, there is inherent pressure to perform. So as managers we need be conscious of time demands on staff. Find and develop natural and open ways to communicate so each staff member finds their own best way of operating. Take time to understand personal preferences of staff and as managers really pinpoint where staff need support.

Prioritise training opportunities to upskill staff so they are armed with the tools and knowledge on how to adapt to rapidly changing conditions. This is more a need than a want, as all companies – in some respect – have had to adjust their business model. Therefore, leaders need to make sure that their employees have the skills that correspond with this.
Focus on productivity, not time

If there’s one thing Covid-19 taught us, it’s that flexible working is here to stay. Our working cadence was already well-geared to working as a virtual team. The lessons we’ve learned over the years are:

• Only hold meetings when really essential, be action-driven and have clear agendas for all meetings
• Leverage informal channels like chat/IM/Whatsapp groups for informal exchange, answering simple questions – we don’t need a call or a meeting for every issue
• Have regular check-ins with staff but don’t overdo the formal reviews and check-in meetings – people need time to execute and respond to previous feedback and to progress
• One key thing at Veeam is we hire with the mindset of working virtually and independently. So staff need to be self-sufficient, disciplined and proactive to work effectively without daily or prescriptive guidance

Businesses must go one step further than simply providing flexible working options and support employee productivity as best as possible. Should you cut down on the number of internal meetings during the week? Is a buddy system needed to better onboard new recruits? What incentives can you provide to celebrate great work?
Lead by character, not control

Focus on harnessing the power you have as a leader through character, as opposed to control. With limited facetime opportunities, this has become all the more important. Lean into your values and make your personal ideals and standards known. These inform your leadership style and the more your team can understand you as a person, the better chance you’ll have at cultivating relationships in the workplace.

To truly embrace 2021 and ensure it will be big and bold, we must not dwell or reflect too much on last year. It is time to move on, reset and activate the power and possibilities that 2021 holds and business leaders must lead the charge.

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Vice President, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan at Veeam