The age of COVID-19 has presented a unique set of leadership and management challenges in the information economy. Many of us went home in March and are still awaiting an opportunity to safely and confidently return to work. Some of us are moving have recently returned or are making plans to return to our offices but none of us are likely to have all of our team members, collaborators and colleagues in the office with us at the same time.

Managers and leaders continue to struggle to maintain a sense of normalcy in this new work environment. How do we balance the need to remain productive and empathetic to the current circumstances? It is no easy task.

The current work environment has revealed challenges for both introverted and extroverted leaders. An August 2020 JDSupra article, Communication Advice for Introverted Leaders in Law Firms, explores the challenge with inputs form William Washington III, CFO – Americas of Hogan Lovells and Dr. Larry Richard, founder of LawyerBrain.

The article hits on a reality of the legal industry that existed prior to the WFH move prompted by a global pandemic – distributed work. Managers with teams spread across multiple locations strive to stay in-tune with their remote team members. Video calls and instant messaging is not the same as in person interactions. For introverted leaders this need to consciously make the connection requires planning.

Dr. Richard refers to 30 years of research that indicate that the legal profession has a tendency to have “Thinkers.” In the current environment Richard encourages leaders to be aware of their pre-disposition of extroversion or introversion and make necessary adjustments to change communication styles to meet the necessary conditions for good results he makes an extra effort to connect.

Each day, instead of my normal routine of taking a break to decompress, I use that time to call 3-4 employees just to check-in to see how they are balancing life/work and the complexities of today‚Äôs realities. 

William Washington III

Good leaders make an effort to understand what their teams need and adjusts their own needs to help meet those needs. In my own team, I try to connect with a quick check-in in the morning and a final message to say “Have good evening.” I don’t meet that goal every day but with the team trust and communications we have built, I am confident my team feel comfortable reaching out to me when they need some individual attention.

I follow that with a once-a-month one-to-one check-in. While the primary focus is to talk through current projects, there is time and space for a personal connection. I ask a few questions to open the door to let the team share at a level comfortable for them.

  1. How are things going?
  2. What are you most proud of since we last spoke?
  3. What are you struggling with?

These three key questions pivot nicely into three things we cover in our weekly team meetings: Challenge/Success and Goof Awards. The Challenge and Success gives each team member a chance to reflect on something that was particularly challenging and something they are proud of having accomplished. Often these are one and the same. Sometimes the challenge turns into a team coaching moment.

The “Goofy Award” offers the team to share something unique that can be humourous and offers a bonding moment. These three “segments” of our team meetings gives everyone a chance to learn from each other and have a shared experienced with the “Goofy Award.”

No matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, the current information economy work environment is challenging for leaders. Perhaps the best thing a good leader can do to progress is to pause and take stock of their self, reflect on the goals they want to achieve with their teams and adjust their preferences to meet the reality.

Constance Ard
27 September 2020