Before the COVID-19 pandemic, if the employee had a question or was unsure about what he or she was supposed to do, the employee could simply walk into the manager’s office and discuss it in person with him or her. Likewise, if the manager wanted to talk with an employee, the manager could call the employee into his or her office, or depending upon the nature of the subject, the manager could stop by the employee’s desk to discuss it.
But the pandemic changed all that. Offices once full and busy, teeming with activity became vacant, as employees were sent home to work remotely. Personal interaction became a thing of the past. No longer could the manager and an employee have a face-to-face discussion in the manager’s office or at the employee’s desk. The nature and type of leadership changed drastically and managers and supervisors struggled to meet the new challenges resulting from the pandemic.
Yet some elements of leadership are so crucial to the successful operation and growth of a business that they must be retained and adapted to current times. The following is a discussion of some of those leadership skills that must always be implemented, and how they have changed from the pre-pandemic era to the time of the pandemic and its restrictions.
- Pre-Pandemic. Good communication with employees, clients and potential clients, suppliers and others has always been crucial to the success of any business, including law firms. Prior to the pandemic, communication was frequently best done face-to-face, whether it be in the office, in a client’s home, or even while having lunch, dinner or drinks with a team member or other person. Body language, eye contact and a firm handshake were integral parts of establishing the foundation for good communication and forming a solid working relationship.
- During the Pandemic. Then came the pandemic and everyone was ordered to stay at home as much as possible. In person, face-to-face communication became a thing of the past. Employers, managers and leaders were relegated to using other means of communication, especially the computer. Emails and text messages became the preferred mode of communication for many if not most businesses. Some occasionally used the phone, whose value in today’s time is often discounted. But hearing the boss’s voice can seem a lot more personal than reading his or her latest email on a computer monitor.
- Some form of personal connection is required to prevent the employee from feeling detached from the firm, no longer part of the team. This is especially true in more uncertain or challenging circumstances, which make it all the more important for the manager and other leaders to be visible. So instead of relying solely or mainly on the keyboard to compose and send emails and text messages, the employer or manager should seriously consider the use of making himself or herself more visible to employees and colleagues through video calls.
- Managers and other leaders can and should communicate important messages about the team’s work, progress toward shared goals, required changes and such visually, via livestream, video-conference platforms or even a video file attached to a text or email that can be viewed on mobile devices.
DELEGATION AND MANAGEMENT
- Pre-Pandemic. Before the pandemic, employers, managers, other leaders and even key employees were reluctant to delegate tasks to others because they felt a loss of control in doing so. They felt that only they could do a good enough job on a task or project, and quite often they ended up with an unruly stack of papers, evidence, and other materials on their desks. In fact, they frequently got behind in their work, having bitten off more than they could chew. Smart managers and leaders learned to delegate some of their work to other employees or even outside sources, freeing them up to concentrate on more complex or lucrative projects and giving them the opportunity to manage their time more effectively and efficiently.
- During the Pandemic. Now with the pandemic, there is often no choice but to delegate a task to a remote worker. Not only does this result in a loss of control, it requires that the manager or other leader empower the remote employee and place considerable trust in the remote employee that he or she will do the work you’ve asked him or her to do in a competent and timely manner, without supervision.
- Most remote employees want to do well as they still feel part of the team; they want the business to succeed as well as themselves. By doing a good job, the remote employee ensures the retention of his or her job, as well as the chances for an increase in salary or a promotion. In fact, many remote workers are more productive overall than they were when they were physically present in the office. Consequently, a number of employers, managers and employees are seriously considering retaining the remote worker model even after the pandemic restrictions are over.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND PLANNING
- Pre-Pandemic. Before the pandemic, the manager could personally manage a number of projects, develop multiple policies, oversee the workers’ performance, and effectively manage resources, such as time, money and staff. Now the manager does not have personal day-to-day supervision over the remote employees’ work and may feel that he or she has lost control and is no longer able to do his or her job properly.
- During the Pandemic. Enter the proliferation of software programs that let business managers do even more than they could do before exercising project management and planning. Software programs can let the manager or leader plan and project manage across a wide-range of teams. With the software programs, the manager or leader can inform the remote employees of the details of the project, what is expected of each employee, keep track of the progress of the project and deadlines that must be met, and other vital information. The manager can use other programs to keep track of each employee’s progress and hold the remote employee accountable for his or her work.
- Pre-Pandemic. Networking has long been an important part of growing a successful business. Before the pandemic, that meant such things as attending relevant business meetings and conferences, becoming a board or section member of your local business organization, volunteering at or financially supporting charitable events, joining a golf or tennis country club; in other words getting involved in business and community activities. Letting others get to know you and what your business was all about -- in other words, schmoozing -- was one of the best ways to increase business and make connections with others who could be of benefit to you.
- During the Pandemic. The pandemic has relegated most networking to online communication, mainly through email and messaging, LinkedIn profiles and posts, as well as the occasional telephone call. Although networking may be much more impersonal now than it was in the pre-pandemic era, it is critical that you keep up your networking efforts, especially to your existing contacts whom you don’t want to lose or make feel that you’ve forgotten about them. Additionally, you must continue to make efforts to expand your network with new people and businesses, as challenging as that may be in current times.