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Managing Through Disruption: Leadership in a Pandemic

The term “managing through disruption” typically refers to managers having the plan and skill to navigate employees through changes in technology, the state of the market in which their companies compete or the condition of the overall economy. In recent days, managers - at all levels in all sorts of organizations - are contending with a disruption of another type; the COVID-19 pandemic.

By: Gal Rimon, Founder & CEO, Centrical

Managing Through Disruption: Leadership in a Pandemic

The term “managing through disruption” typically refers to managers having the plan and skill to navigate employees through changes in technology, the state of the market in which their companies compete or the condition of the overall economy. In recent days, managers – at all levels in all sorts of organizations – are contending with a disruption of another type; the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just the word – pandemic – causes understandable anxiety among employees. It’s largely driven by not knowing what’s next, and certainly, what to do (or not do). Much of that can be addressed reasonably well by communicating clearly, frequently, and as personalized as possible to employees.

Relevant, one-on-one communications is extremely important at this time – using phone, video and text messaging platforms. While most companies develop and swiftly implement business continuity plans, the human element often gets overlooked.

Your employees are dealing with massive change in virtually every aspect of their lives. Everything has figuratively been tossed into the air. The balance and predictability in their lives have been shaken. And it runs the gamut from the seemingly mundane, like whether they adequately washed their hands, to matters of greater complexity and import, such as lining up child care because their kids’ schools have been closed “for the foreseeable future” or that grandpa’s nursing home is on lockdown.

This is where leadership comes into play. And it’s leadership that involves all managers in an organization. Not just the CEO, although, to be sure, what that person says and does is important. I’m talking about managers on the lower tiers of an organization chart. Team leaders. Individuals who may oversee as few as a dozen people who look to those individuals for guidance and, importantly, reassurance. The significance of the abilities of low- and mid-level managers in keeping an organization moving forward – in the midst of a health crisis, for example – cannot be understated.

Interestingly, for many people in such positions, it’s their first managerial assignment. Oftentimes, they’re new to the company or newly promoted because they demonstrated strengths as an individual performer. Those further up in the organization hope they can share that ability to make those they’re now managing as able as they were before the promotion.

The challenge – made all the more formidable a task during the public health emergency we’re experiencing – is to help the company’s new managers quickly become good people managers. For example, grasping the right way to explain a just-instituted work-from-home policy to members of their teams. Obviously, communicating something like that must be done with care. However, it may not be something that comes naturally to these newly-minted managers.

Enter personalized microlearning, a component of a SaaS platform that aids companies’ efforts to engage and train employees – including lower level managers. It’s a way to present bite-sized learning in the flow of work. No stepping away from the workplace – be it at a company facility or the team leader’s home. The microlearning occurs in the flow of work. That’s one thing that doesn’t need to be disrupted.

Research has shown that companies that invest in helping their managers develop their people management skills see the employees under their leadership be more engaged in their work and contribute to higher organizational performance.

Managers with good people management skills are individuals able to build relationships, develop people, lead change, inspire others, think critically, communicate clearly, and create accountability. Those characteristics are much needed now. And, when the next crisis-fueled disruption occurs, they’ll be needed then.

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