Teeing Up For The Leadership Challenges Of A COVID World
Leaders and their teams around the world have stepped up to think on their feet to ably manage challenges.
Enough has been said about the many changes each of us, as individuals, businesses and societies, has had to make in the course of the last 18-plus months. Businesses, especially, have had to reimagine how to seamlessly continue the work we have been doing – especially since just about everything shifted online -- while keeping in mind customers, employees and stakeholders.
Leaders and their teams around the world have stepped up to think on their feet to ably manage challenges. As a bank, Wells Fargo’s challenges were two-fold – it was imperative that changes did not disrupt our customers’ lives, and trust, while we continued to keep employee well-being front and center. At Wells Fargo India & Philippines, where high-value teams, such as technology and operations, make up the biggest portion of what we do here, it was clear to us that we had to not only reimagine how we worked and led, but actually reinvent how we could best deliver.
Enabling our technology and operations teams to work from home was priority once we ensured all our employees were safe. An almost overnight transition in technology infrastructure was put into place. I am an avid golfer and I find the more I play the game, the more lessons it has for me, not just for play, but for life and work itself. First, get your set-up, or your address position, right – grip, aim, stance and posture. Work wise, this meant getting the barebones of remote working in place in the face of the unknown – no one knew when things were going to return to normal. If we had to continue to deliver our best, we had to prepare for the long run.
Direction, not distance
Keeping the business running also meant continuing to stay on course with the goals we started out the year with. One of the biggest were our hiring goals. As in golf, where hitting the ball straighter will eventually lead to hitting it farther, we decided to stay on track with our hiring goals. Today, many of our employees are what we affectionately call pandemic hires. Most of them have never seen the offices they will be working in or met the teams they work with. Our stellar leadership team looked at hiring remotely in a granular way, breaking it down into several components so as to give new hires the optimal experience. I am proud to say that the processes we put into place have been successful, and continue to stay robust even after a year. Of course, interviews and other pre-onboarding activity shifted online, but we also refashioned how mentorship would occur remotely, placing great emphasis on connecting and engaging with new hires.
Learning to soften
Whether it is ideal or not, the concern and empathy we feel for each other increased manifold in the past 18 months as we continued looking out for all those we worked with and those we led. An insight I gained through this time was no matter how experienced a professional you might be, it doesn’t prepare you for the kind of challenges this working-from-home situation threw up. Many seasoned professionals were dealing with the loss of boundaries between personal and professional time, just like those who had just stepped into their careers were. I found that while leaders were addressing concerns across experiences and ages, sharing their own challenges and how they overcame them helped ease stresses for many others.
Get better than yesterday
Many of our teams own highly-specialized niche skills that need constant development. Upskilling without interruption, then, was also a priority that we locked into, as we realised our customers’ needs had changed, with most activities shifting online. We looked ahead and saw the evolution of how to best suit customer needs and aligned our employees’ skills development to it.
I keep going back to golf, in this article as well as in my life – I began to play more often to relax and unwind once the golf courses reopened – because there I find all the metaphors I need. While hiring and training new employees was an important area of focus, another aspect we stayed focused on was to keep existing employees engaged and connected. Team connects, AMA (ask me anything) sessions with leaders, town halls conducted regularly where employees can directly interact with leaders, and many more such actions were taken at every step. Our focus was consistently on the fact that we needed to keep our employees reassured, taken care of and connected.
Golf is unique in that you can play alone or against an opponent, and even in a team. However, its biggest lesson is that no matter how you play, it is the balance of the relationships that matter, whether it is with yourself or with others.
About the author -
EVP & MD, Wells Fargo India and Philippines
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