Three months ago, technology leaders around globe responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting large portions of a workforce that was sent home— a situation whose magnitude had not been seen before in their lifetimes. Emerging from the fog, they have found new ways to communicate to their teams, serve their organizations as humble leaders and set their scope on the future of business. 

“A crisis reveals leaders more than it creates them,” said Harold Knutson, Strategic Consultant, Bayside Associates, at the HMG Live! Minneapolis CIO Virtual Summit on May 8. 

During the broadcast, industry luminaries including Marc Carlson, CIO, Land O’ Lakes; Anne Finch, CEO, Logistics Health; Tim Peterson, SVP & CIO, Xcel Energy and Tarek Tomes, CIO of the State of Minnesota assembled to discuss their respective transitions to the digital world, how they have enabled employee success in the new normal and what the future of work looks like.

 The Pivot to Digital

In the ensuing weeks after a myriad of organizations shifted their operations into the hands of the remote workforce, the pivot to digital business models changed the world for many. That evolution did not happen at the snap of a finger, and leaders faced a number of difficult decisions.

"We were in complete 're-plan' mode,” Carlson said.

He and his team were asking questions like “Will restaurants come back?” and “What does shopping behavior look like in the future? 

Finch said her team at Logistics Health had to alter their perspective, stand up and focus on a new set of goals.

“We had to create a plan of attack for global collaboration, both internally and externally,” she said. “We not only had to enable remote work for our teams, we also had to ensure productivity and effectiveness.” 

Communicating clearly and openly was key to sorting out the mechanics of such a big change.

“Listen to the words that team members share,” Finch said. “Listen to understand.”

Protecting Your People

Technology executives who take this opportunity to employ a servant leadership approach will promote engagement and productivity within their teams— ultimately fostering a culture of growth and development - even through these uncertain times. Now is the time to recognize that everyone is facing a tremendous amount of stress, according to Peterson, and leaders can serve their organization by being sensitive to that. 

"It’s a very personal crisis, and we're all looking for ways to make ourselves, our teams, our companies and our communities better,” Peterson said.

In an effort to protect his colleagues and employees, Carlson says he encourages team members to pace themselves and be aware of the broader scale of this lockdown.

"The adrenaline rush is gone, and people are tired and fatigued now,” he said. “We have to focus on everybody's mental health and well-being.” 

One way to do this is by leaving time during the day to get away from the screen, says Finch.

"Stop, go outside and take a walk,” she said. “Think about the things we can be grateful for in this moment."

A More Effective Workforce

When the world was still in shock, Tomes found himself asking, "what role does technology play in changing outcomes and letting us live as best a new normal as possible? 

Now that the digital pivot has been made, companies across the world are now operating in that new normal and leaders are beginning to understand the crucial differences in management that come with such a significant adjustment.

For example, tracking employee activity alone is not likely to ensure productivity, according to Peterson.

"The key is to not focus on activity metrics. We need to strengthen the performance management process to see better outcomes,” he said.

In other words, do not fixate on the number of hours worked each day, but focus on the efficacy of those hours. Encourage team members to measure their work in quality, rather than quantity.

“Use this opportunity to make your organizations more effective,” Peterson said. “Diamonds are formed under pressure.”

Industry leaders around the world who foster these principles are ensuring that life goes on and the new approach to work is sustainable.

"The supply chain is in good shape,” Carlson said. “We're starting to see stores get back to normal level.”

Tomes said up to 80 percent of businesses in the state of Minnesota are operating through this crisis, largely thanks to the advancements in technology that allow a work-from-home environment.

Revealing the Future State

Soon enough, a new future will emerge. The new normal is a transitionary phase to a hybrid-digital world ahead. Tomes said getting to that place is the highest priority in his office. 

“The goal of resuming full economic activity is really important in Minnesota,” Tomes said. “The governor is really focused on three broad dials: business, social and education.” 

Technology plays such a crucial role in driving the enterprise forward into that future state, that the CIOs and CISOs of tomorrow are going to be more highly valued and respected.

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! Minneapolis CIO Virtual Summit on HMG Strategy’s YouTube channel.

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