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Harness the Current

Access Continuum’s Leadership Model for leading through novel unknowns

Continuum Consulting Services LLC

We are living and working in what we at Continuum refer to as the COVID Era, inclusive of the global pandemic restrictions and economic impacts as well as issues that reflect the unprecedented levels of division and polarization across the globe.

The year of crisis that has been 2020 inspired us to create the COVID Leadership Model, designed to equip leaders with a map and insights for navigating crisis. We have been interviewing leaders since June around the model to collect themes, trends, and best practices of the COVID Era so that we can share them with other leaders like you.

The Leadership Lessons from the Field series is one way we are sharing our learnings. To delve deeper into the series, you can find Report #1 here. If you would like to contribute your insights to this collection of valuable and interesting conversations, please contact us at info@continuumcs.com

A Taste of Our Findings

A key question we ask leaders is “What phase of the COVID Leadership Model are you, your team and your organization in at this time?”

The most common response has been, “It depends, because different people, teams, departments and businesses may be in different phases at the same time.” But generally, most leaders and teams, as of November 2020, locate their groups in Phases 3 – 5, which we define as Phase 3: Later New Normal; Phase 4: Reconstruction; and Phase 5: Regeneration. Tap on the COVID Model image above to get full definitions.

We have also confirmed that the COVID Leadership Model is not linear; it is cyclical. Just as people begin to settle into a sense of normalcy with how to get on with life under the current circumstances, we are influenced by new data, new guidelines, new restrictions, new events, or another crisis landing us right back in what we call Phase 1: Oh Sh*t!; the place of being hit with the unexpected.

Top Challenges for Leaders Now

What are we hearing?

Since our first report, one prevailing theme, expressed in multiple ways, stands out from twelve recent interviews with business leaders working in multiple sectors. The level of intensity is increasing, resulting in unintended consequences.

We are finding breakdowns and innovations in these three key areas as a result of that increased intensity:  

  1. Working and schooling at home is intense for most families. The strain is tough on the whole family and impacts women more than men. We investigated further into what we were hearing, and according to a recent article published by the Center for American Progress, four times as many women as men are dropping out of the labor force or reducing their work hours in the U.S. This past September, 865,000 women compared with 216,000 men, left their jobs to assume caretaking responsibilities. This amounts to $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity. The long-term unintended consequences on gender equality in the workplace and family economics are still unknown.
  2. The old fear of decreased productivity when people work from home has been laid to rest for most businesses. If anything, the intensity of the workload and productivity has increased, along with the length of the workday. People we interviewed are working harder and longer hours. They are also realizing how much business was conducted on the sidelines in the office between meetings and in the hallways. Those information-sharing and decision-making moments in the office have now become 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM virtual meetings. Our interviewees suggested long hours are to be expected in Phases 1 and 2 of the COVID Leadership Model, yet looser work time boundaries have emerged unchecked and are becoming the norm. Some leaders are concerned about the shadow they are casting on their families because they are so sapped from work.
  3. The pandemic has provided a windfall for some businesses. We interviewed manufacturing leaders who quickly pivoted their businesses to produce new products, such as hand sanitizer or COVID tests. They were amazed by how much change they could accomplish in a short time; change they had not been able to achieve pre-COVID. Crisis performance is intense and productive, even exciting for some. One leader said, “if only I can get my team to perform like this in regular times.” Yet the intensity and financial good fortune can distract attention away from the day-to-day, non-billable maintenance of infrastructures, processes and hard-working teams. Leaders must pay attention to the danger signs.

What are leaders doing about it?

  1. Structured Flexibility.One size does not fit all. Many businesses are living true to their mantra that their people are their greatest asset. They are implementing new company-wide policies and guidelines yet are being flexible because each person has different needs. There is more acceptance of varying family needs and a willingness to create new employee benefits to accommodate.
  2. Virtual Social Interactions. Businesses are socially constructed systems. Culture is created in every interaction, including gossip to rehash meetings and process relational conflict. These opportunities are gone without the watercooler and hallway conversations. To restore the cultural fabric created during face-to-face interactions, leaders are hosting virtual social hours, game nights, wine-tastings, cooking classes and other activities for co-workers to socialize “outside” of work, from the comfort of their homes. There are endless varieties and innovations of activities being tried.
  3. Regenerate! Staying physically, mentally and emotionally healthy is paramount to our happiness and wellbeing. Team leaders are encouraging nature breaks for people to back away from their computers and step outside for fresh air. Some companies are providing extra computer monitors for dual screens, ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and blue-light protection glasses to enhance wellbeing while their teams are spending so many hours in front of the computer at home. Participation in virtual stress management, mindfulness, yoga and meditation classes are also on the rise.

We’d like to hear from you, too!

Invitation

Email us at Info@continuumcs.com to contribute your insights, best practices or articles you find useful. Let us know if you would like to be interviewed about your leadership experiences during the COVID era.

Over the next few months, we will continue to share the best practices we discover in ways we hope will be of service to you. We believe that the free sharing of information around new innovations in the field is essential for us all to survive and thrive moving forward.

Stay tuned and keep up with COVID Leadership Lessons from the Field – sign up for Continuum’s Insights, our monthly leadership blog digest here.

Lisa Marie Main, co-founder and partner for Continuum Consulting Services, is an accomplished leader, trainer, consultant, executive coach and facilitator of interactions that lead to alignment and results-based action for business and organizational leaders around the world.