There’s no question that COVID-19 changed the world overnight, and it’s sure to continue changing the world in the future—particularly in business and within companies that rely on technology. Strong IT leaders and managers helped many of these companies transition into using a successful work-from-home format by being adaptable, employing quick thinking, and making the most of the situation.
As we begin to transition out of the most intense aspects of the pandemic and look forward to returning to in-office work, it’s a good time to reflect on what was learned during this tumultuous time and how it can help us now and in the future. Here, we’d like to share what we’ve learned due to COVID-19 and how IT leaders can become stronger—and be prepared for turbulent times.
IT leaders are used to working with complex systems most of the time. But when entire workforces had to transition to a home work environment in record time with little notice, those leaders were challenged by how much people relied on them. COVID-19 showed how IT leaders are the linchpins of their organizations and how valued they are by the highly trained professionals they work with. As such, they need to be ready to take on a prominent role in emergency situations and complicated events.
To prepare as much as possible for unexpected, high-stress events that may see IT professionals called into action, we recommend that IT leaders, such as yourself, consider these tenets:
- Prioritize. Stressful events and high-pressure environments require prioritization to ensure organizational success. Using an approach such as Agile Project Management is a good example of how to prioritize, as it uses a strong methodology that’s designed to get everyone on the same page and working toward the same goal with efficiency and clarity. This approach can be used company-wide, or within departments to streamline efforts and remain goal oriented. It’s important to have strong priorities and to know which projects or tasks can fall lower on the list in favor of urgent needs.
- Communicate Openly. It’s human nature to want to find some manner of balance or equilibrium when things are chaotic, and oftentimes, that need is placed with IT leaders. Employees will be looking for answers, so the more transparent and open you can be, the higher your employee’s morale will be—and that will translate into stellar work performance.
- Listen to Everyone. Every good IT leader knows that great ideas can come from anywhere, and direction doesn’t only come from the top down. The more you’re able to talk with employees and encourage communication, the more you’ll learn about different ways of doing things, hear great ideas, and receive help. Being flexible and willing to listen will also help employees feel calm about their work situations, even in tumultuous times.
- Value the Health of Your Employees. During unprecedented life events, it can be tempting to try and lose yourself in work—and expect everyone else to do the same. The problem is, you’re setting everyone up for burnout. Without your employees, your company won’t function properly, which is why it’s so important to remember that the health of the company isn’t more important than the health of your employees. Recognize when you need to focus on people instead of just performance and support your employees with the time and space they need to recharge their batteries when their spirits are running low.
- Focus on Purpose. Having a strong purpose is key when everything is in chaos, as it acts like a map, telling you which direction to go even in choppy seas. And when everyone is aligned to this purpose and has the vision to carry it out, it gives them a strong and steady connection to the work that they’re doing, offering them a constant to focus on when times are tough.
- Collaborate. But don’t forget to get the support and guidance you need, too. Make sure you connect and work with your peers and other IT leaders to engage in important conversations about how to impact the IT field during these times, and how to be of the best support to the company—and the people who are leaning on you for support.
COVID-19 isn’t the only time IT leaders should be looking at ways to improve their leadership approaches. In fact, now is a great time to consider new ways to lead your team and strengthen your skills as a leader. We recommend:
- Getting additional training and experience through a degree program
- Listening to podcasts that discuss the IT industry and the changes that affect personnel
- Reading articles from both the industry standpoint and a general business leadership focus
- Subscribing to thought leadership content that can elevate your thinking
- Networking with other IT professionals to learn more about their leadership approaches and what worked for them
- Getting feedback from those around you about what works, what doesn’t, and how things can improve
- Conducting regular self-evaluations to discern where you’re meeting your own standards for leadership and what you need to learn to help you excel
- Working with a mentor that can help you strengthen your leadership capabilities
- Attending leadership workshops or intensives that can offer “real-life” scenarios to put your skills to the test