Business leaders are already bracing themselves for the second wave of panic. We’ve already seen updates on:
- Mass unemployment
- Firms and individual contractors filing for bankruptcy
- Mental health concerns
Now technology experts/leaders will navigate another business challenge. Leading teams amidst this change. Xperti provides resources that help build the leadership potential of technocrats. Today, we discuss why technology experts need to build empathy to lead in the COVID-19 age.
Encourage (Yourself) First
In some ways, not being a leader was better. Easier. Your obligations were limited to targets and output. Defined by other people. You followed a direction. Set by other people. As a technology expert turned leader, your responsibilities expand. Findings suggest taking on a leadership role is akin to a career change.
When confronted with business turbulence, losing motivation is easy. And fast. It’s the norm rather than the rule. Leaders who can still see the bright side of things earn appreciation.
But motivation doesn’t come in infinite supply.
Reminding yourself of that bright side is important. You won’t succeed in encouraging your team if you don’t believe in the calm after the storm first.
The Bright Side For Technology Experts (aka “The Big Picture”)
We are entering an age of uncertainty. And difficult, painful decisions will be the most consuming part of our day in the future. At least in the short term. Technology experts used to:
- Getting things done and
- Meeting project milestones
May not be as comfortable worrying about the human cost of results. The toll can be high. Surprising?
How do you not let this get in the way?
The first rule is to visualize the outcome. For yourself and your team. Be as concrete in the specifics as possible. This will give emotional and rational clarity to your perspective. Anxiety achieves nothing and blurs the path. Rise above it by asking yourself:
- What survival looks like in numbers.
- What Plan B, C, and D look like. (You will need them)!
- The intangible benefits of this experience for your team.
- How do you see your team using these benefits in the future?
For technology experts, software projects can become too absorbing. And in retrospect, the release date appears to be a good-enough finish line. (For some, even passing the Q/A test will do). But as a leader, your responsibility is to “out” see that finish line. Visualize the impact of your effort on the client. What is the next stage in problem-solving that you can take on? Instead of letting bugs wear you down, consider how:
- The next upgrades will work either work around them
- Persist despite them
This sounds easy. But implementation is hard. The closer you are to the action, the harder it is to stand back and think about the big picture. All technology experts know this.
Cultivate Empathy Too
This is the true talent crucible. As a technology expert, you’ve seen tough times. You’ve volunteered to take some load off your leaders’ shoulders. (We assume). And you worked hard to get everyone past the storm.
In times like these, see who does this within your team. Tough times need bravery. But your team also needs to understand the pressures you operate within. Keep a close eye on who comes up with new ideas. The person who volunteers to take on extra work. And the person who’s looking out for new solutions. In difficult times, that’s more than a demonstration of:
- Initiative and
It also indicates how well your team members understand your point of view. As a leader, your job is to nurture your team. But doing all the emotional hard work for them is not the right way to go about it. You’re within your rights to expect the same from them.
Tolerate Failure, Not Incompetence
A recent article explains how innovation is a product of creativity and discipline. Maintaining team orientation can be hard in times of crisis. Technology experts, with their worries, can get distracted. The sheer volume of decisions that come their way is enough to ensure that.
But monitoring is no less important during a crisis than it was before it.
Monitoring for signs of underperformance is a leadership responsibility. Your approach doesn’t have to be punitive. It must be diagnostic. Identifying the source of slack will preemptively solve many other problems, like:
- Identifying freeloaders in the team
- Discovering the hidden heroes—the team members who take on more than their share of work
- Shortening turnaround cycles
- Are redundant processes consuming the best energies of your team? Discover where they are and get rid of them.
This sounds harder than it is. The difficult decisions that follow are the best, fairest way to reward your team. Accountability creates a level playing field, sets expectations, and reinvests trust in leadership. Everything that’s needed in a crisis. You can make it happen.
Give Yourself A Break
What distinguishes “technology expertise” from “leadership” is the ability to recognize human limitations. Your own included. With a project mindset, we depend on stamina. Because we foresee a deadline. In crises (like COVID-19), one cannot specify deadlines, nor predict their aftermath. So your dependence needs to shift from stamina to flexibility. (This is where Plan B, C, and D come in). Instead of stressing over failure, focus on the next opportunity. These are hard times, and our best efforts will not guarantee continual success. Don’t let it weigh you down.
Flexibility also means allocating normal routines back into a time of crises. You may not have the budget for the team’s monthly happy hour. But a virtual equivalent will keep the spirit (and culture) alive.
The Post-COVID World Will Be Different. We May Like It Better.
The technology workspace is changing as we speak. Remote work is a staple. New technology talent is being hired into remote roles. It’s also changing how we seek and manage talent. Many industries, including:
Are having their most basic assumptions questioned. Some will experience a resurgence. Many will not. All of this will imply how future leaders will steer their teams.
As a technology expert turned leader, you cannot predict the post-COVID world. But you can design a future for yourself and your team based on the values that make the COVID-19 era survivable:
- Human resilience
- Transparency and
- Carpe diem
All the best in the journey forward!