Roughly six weeks have passed since the world changed. Under the pressure of a global emergency, top-tier technology leaders have stepped up to bring forward a positive outlook, focused vision and connected culture for their organizations.
Keeping the HMG Strategy community tightly connected during the global crisis, the company hosted an HMG Live! San Francisco CIO Virtual Summit on April 23. This fourth installment of the Virtual Summit series featured a variety of technology rock stars who shared their key insights on what to focus on now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the future, as we emerge from the crisis.
The HMG Live! audience heard from Sheila Jordan, Chief Digital Technology Officer, Honeywell; Larry Quinlan, Global CIO, Deloitte and Sylvie Veilleux, CIO, Dropbox.
It’s All About People
Courageous leadership is built on a foundation of empathy, compassion and humility. To prove his or her mettle in these unprecedented times, a humble leader will focus on how to better serve their team, their clients and their partners.
“For me, leadership is really about people,” Quinlan said. “It’s about demonstrating that you care for the people you lead and taking responsibility for their well-being.”
Another step to establishing and maintaining that sense of normalcy is a heightened commitment to open communication, and authenticity when approaching your team.
“Everyone is a little nervous and scared right now,” Jordan pointed out. “Continued communication is what we need to instill calm and focus to our team, to retain the status quo.”
It is impossible to over-communicate in these unusual times. Interacting with team members is not as simple as passing by a colleague’s desk and striking up a discussion anymore. As Jordan noted, a huge portion of communication is visual and non-verbal, though, so running a business over the phone will not cut it.
“On eighty percent of calls that are audio only, people are multitasking, meaning they’re not engaged. Video conferencing is important,” Jordan said.
The global, at-home workforce is not only focused on their companies, they are also focused on their families, health and well-being.
“I’ve been incredibly proud of how our employees continue to show up even with the many challenges of working at home. This is an opportunity to establish balance, and support work-life balance for our employees so they can focus on taking care of themselves, their families, and the community,” Veilleux said.
Leaders can demonstrate authentic leadership by understanding that many team members are fighting the same battle. Meanwhile, openness and transparency is more important now than ever before because “being empathetic is about showing up as yourself, not the person you're trying to be,” said Veilleux.
Extending genuineness to clients and partners will also help steer the enterprise in the right direction during this crisis.
In the end, the goal is accelerating through this difficult period to deliver the best possible experience from a customer perspective. Veilleux said that her priority remains to support Dropbox customers and employees, and the panel unanimously agreed.
“We pride ourselves on being a client-centric business that puts people first,” Quinlan said. “That's why we exist and that's why people trust us.”
What Matters Now
The multinational pandemic is bigger than anything Quinlan has seen before in terms of scope and its impact on business. Great leaders have to keep their team focused on the “now,” and how to adjust.
Working from home for an extended period prompts the Deloitte team to closely look at all of their existing processes and how they can improve those virtually.
“The digital pivot doesn’t come with abandoning what we used to do,” Quinlan said. “The pivot comes with thinking carefully and executing on how we can do things faster and better.”
Instead of being absorbed with the adversity being faced worldwide, true innovators learn to see the opportunity for rapid development and increased productivity in this new level of the digital era. As Jordan pointed out, it is best to focus on what can be controlled, rather than the negativity in the world.
“The silver lining is seeing how we continue to adapt, maintain our culture, and rapidly innovate through this,” Veilleux said.
That outlook and the culture fostered among peers and colleagues can not only help keep a business afloat – it can create new opportunities for success. In some instances organizations are seeing an improvement in the current environment, credited to higher customer engagement.
As leaders, technology executives need to be able to think past the current state, said Jordan. Otherwise, short-term decisions may be executed on that do not make sense in the long term.
“It's a fine balance to decide what needs to be paused... But staying true to your vision is as important as the crisis at hand,” Jordan added.
Now is the opportunity to take a step back and help shape an enterprise more prepared for the future— in a crisis or not. Driving value for when this ends is pertinent to coming out of the other side intact.
As for when that might be, Quinlan shared a positive outlook, saying the permanent effects of this pandemic may not be as traceable as we predict.
“Human beings need contact,” Quinlan said. “Human beings will be getting together again soon.”
Citing the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 as an example, Quinlan reminded us that a resilient community, country and world will mean a full operational and psychological recovery down the road.
“For me to personally stay motivated and to motivate my team, I've got to know that at some point this will pass” Jordan said. “You've got to make sure as a leader that you're seeing beyond the crisis.”
Listen to more of the incisive strategies and cutting-edge leadership tactics these rock stars shared by watching the archived recording of the HMG Live! San Francisco CIO Virtual Summit on HMG Strategy’s YouTube channel.