Managing People During the Pandemic

I have recently attended a webinar discussing the impact of COVID-19 on what it means to be an effective manager. Titled Managing Employees in Uncertain Times, the webinar was centred on a presentation by Rensia Melles. Melles is a certified Psychological Health and Safety advisor and founder of Integral Workplace Health. Her slides can be accessed here.

As a new manager with a growing team of people reporting to me, I chose to attend the event in order to learn to recognize the signs of and cope with stress, anxiety and other mental health issues linked to or made worse by the pandemic. The webinar was hosted by CharityVillage, a great career resource and knowledge hub for non-profits.

Presentation summary

Here is a brief summary Melles’s presentation. COVID-19 has had a major impact on all aspects of our lives by disrupting them, making our normal coping mechanisms unavailable, and leaving us uncertain about how the new normal is going to look like.

Stress and anxiety are a normal mental health reaction to these disruptions. In the times of the pandemic, we should know how to recognize stress symptoms in ourselves and the people reporting to us.

Screenshot from the presentation Managing Employees in Uncertain Times by Rensia Melles, August 13, 2020.

The pandemic has redefined what it means to be an effective leader. Today, effective leadership requires self-awareness, self-regulation and self-care.

My takeaways

My main takeaway from the event is that effective leadership during the pandemic and in its aftermath requires three things. First, good leaders should trust their employees or people reporting to them to do their work, even when “normal” processes or procedures are disrupted. Second, effective leaders focus on deliverables rather than counting the hours that employees spend on tasks. Finally, good leaders serve as role models for people reporting to them when it comes to self-care.

Here is a quote from the event which I thought I should remember:

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

As the event consisted of a presentation, followed by a short questions and answers session, I did not have much opportunity to interact with the presenter or other participants. I asked Melles after the presentation whether she had any tips for managers on building trust and relationships with remote teams. She outlined two guiding principles for managers in charge of remote teams in the aftermath of the pandemic: showing people that you genuinely trust them and giving them the autonomy to do their work the way they see fit.

I will definitely attend similar events in the future, particularly the professional development webinars that CharityVillage organizes for non-profits. These events are a convenient way to learn new skills and force yourself to rethink the way you do things. Besides, these events provide a great opportunity for professional networking.