Like most businesses combating the disruption caused by COVID-19, EBI has taken extensive measures to safeguard our employees, clients, and business operations. Some of these steps were previously outlined in our Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) and were able to be immediately implemented. Others were made on the fly, in response to an event or as necessary pivot from a previous strategy.
In either approach, we learned something.
And in the spirit of one of our core values, “We embrace transparency, honesty, and integrity in everything we do,” we want to share with you what we’ve learned, what went well, and where we could improve.
Our goal at EBI is to always advocate for your business goals. We understand what worked for us, may not work for you. Not all businesses are the same. We hope that by showing you our process of learning, you will be empowered to take the information and develop your own policies, protocols, and procedures that will propel you forward in our new economy.
This first installment features insight from EBI’s Sales and Client Relations, Human Resources, and Customer Care departments. You’ll find that each department had its own unique set of challenges to work through.
Sean Kolarik – Vice President of Sales and Client Operations
“Our survival as a species depends on our ability to recognize that our well-being, and the well-being of others, are in fact one and the same.” - Marshall B. Rosenberg
Communication is Key
I’ve always felt that communication and transparency were critical to being an effective leader, but I’ve found the frequency and depth of information that needs to be shared has changed. I’ve gone from weekly to daily team meetings, where we share daily trends and discuss not only business information, but personal trials and tribulations of navigating the current world. We use video calls for everything now. Previously, that was a rarity.
The quarantine by design creates isolation, but my goal is to ensure my team never feels that way, at least from a work point of view. It’s made me realize the true importance of these attributes and it’s something that will surely carry over into my future “normal”.
With respect to working remote, I’ve come to understand the need to be flexible with schedules based on individual circumstances. For example, being isolated alone versus being isolated with kids both have their unique sets of challenges and managing with a broad brush would be inappropriate.
I’ve personally learned that setting aside time for ones’ own well-being is critical. It’s easy to get sucked into the chaos of uncertainty but taking even 20 minutes to go for a walk can be very impactful for mentally and physically recharging. This is important for me as an individual to understand and adopt, and I feel a responsibility of leaders to ensure their teams are encouraged and supported to take the same time for themselves.
Julie Mulhern – Director of Human Resources
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
– Alan Watts, British writer
Engage Your Employees
Employee engagement and communication became a fast priority during this pandemic. Our HR team had to develop strategies to keep employees engaged while working remotely and physically apart. We held regular All Staff Huddles, whether we had much to report or not. This was key in keeping employees informed and comfortable about how our company was doing and sharing what was occupying leadership’s time and where we were focusing our energies.
We also added a COVID-19 employee resource page on our intranet and we update that on a regular basis to include things like family entertainment options, financial support, health and wellness ideas, and recipes. And we established an internal email address for employees to submit ideas, tips, client leads, and engagement strategies. This opened the door for all employees, regardless of title or position, to put a personal stake into the success of our company.
Another thing I learned is something I already knew to a certain extent… change is inevitable. I literally learn something every day because things are changing and moving fast each day, so being agile is very important.
Because of this pace, we’ve had to make sure we are being empathetic and even more flexible than we were prior to COVID-19. Learning how to balance the needs of the business with the needs of our families has been key.
Jamel Smith – Customer Care Manager
“He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” - Nelson Mandela
Lean Into Culture
Over the course of my career, in various leadership roles, I have always done my best to avoid perpetuating some common, and sometimes overly used, leadership clichés (Actions speak louder than words.; There’s no ‘I’ in team.; Think outside the box.). I take pride in being an authentic and charismatic leader who just happens to be a manager. I care about the well-being of my teams and want the best for everyone, professionally and personally.
Yet, what has been the most surprising to me during this moment in history, which I presume will probably never manifest itself again in my lifetime, is how much I have had to fully embrace some of these leadership clichés not just for the sake of my team members' mental and emotional health, but to protect and sustain the culture on which EBI was founded. The latter is a challenge of paramount proportions – on any given day – for any member of a management team, but in my opinion, none more so than now. Without a sustainable culture an organization has no soul and its purpose is nothing other than an empty cliché.
Lead With Trust
One leadership cliché in particular, “Leading from the back”, has become a lifeline for me and one that I’ve become intentional about learning how to execute daily. Leading from behind has meant trusting the team understands the mission, trusts and believes in the vision, and will continue on despite the circumstances. Leading from the back has meant becoming part of the team to better understand its objectives, so that I can truly appreciate each person’s value to the team, and how they contribute individually and collectively to the organization’s mission and purpose. Leading from the back has meant I don’t have to be the proverbial “out in front” leader, but instead a positive force giving a nudge when the team needs it most.
Our hope is to update these “What Have We Learned?” installments with new insights and best practices from new departments in the coming weeks. So, if you’re not already signed up to receive our blog, now is a terrific time to do so.