Mind Gym in Crain’s New York Business

Our U.S. President Wei-Li Chong wrote in Crain’s New York Business on how to find hope in a hybrid world....

Why management is malfunctioning amid the pandemic—and how to fix it

Our U.S. President Wei-Li Chong wrote in Crain’s New York Business on how the shift to remote and hybrid work has created a management crisis and shared his tips and tools to successfully lead in this new hybrid world. Check out the link here: https://www.crainsnewyork.com/op-ed/why-management-malfunctioning-amid-pandemic-and-how-fix-it


I miss the daily grind. I miss feeling the energy in an office. Most of all, I miss my team.

I’ve led teams for most of my career. There’s something very special (and challenging) about galvanizing a group of people to achieve audacious goals. But against a backdrop of Zoom fatigue and more emails than ever, I find myself challenging so many things I’ve learned about being an effective manager.

If this resonates with you, you’re not alone. Approximately 40% of managers have expressed low self-confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely.

This is a call to action. The pandemic has created a permanent shift in how we work, but the role of the manager will mostly remain the same. What needs to change is how managers work.

Why is management malfunctioning?

There is a decreasing sense of hope, a strong predictor of adverse health outcomes, reduced coping, increased avoidance and anxiety, and a pessimistic view of future career opportunities.

Employees are also shifting priorities because of greater uncertainty—which leads to more challenging requests to management.

The typical best practices of transformational leaders don’t work as well in remote and hybrid environments. Enthusiasm can ring hollow, personal connections are diminished, and people feel they have less in common.

Build a shared vision

Managers must shift from relying on charismatic personalities to building a shared vision. Fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose. Even fewer can distill their purpose into a concrete statement. But research shows that when we’re better connected to our purpose, we perform better.

Managers should bring teams together through shared reference points and experiences. In remote meetings, managers can call out moments of nostalgia (“Remember when?”), show social support (“I’m here for you”), add levity (“Bring your favorite pet/child/book”) and recognize team members (“I’d like to thank …”).

A feeling of progress also supports a sense of shared identity. In a recent analysis, 76% of what employees considered their “best days” had a sense of progress.

Build a shared context

A shared context exists when team members have access to the same information and share the same tools, work processes and work cultures. Managers need to work to create shared context more intentionally with dispersed teams. Managers must be precise when interacting with their teams while allowing free flow. They must set intentions, balance emotional and operational needs and prioritize inclusion.

To help employees combat procrastination, for example, research suggests having workers set aside time for important work, rather than just focusing on what’s urgent. Giving teams the time and space to develop what psychologists call “flow” can lead to a higher sense of empowerment, motivation and productivity.

Keep perspective

Sometimes people who face major crises feel that new opportunities have emerged from thestruggle. This sense of post-traumatic growth is not universal, but studies show it can been encouraged by finding positive ways of looking at a challenging situation and people who share perspectives and practical ways to solve challenges.

These management adjustments will take practice and conscious adaptation to effectively implement. But by adapting the tools strategically, managers can build new muscles that will help sharpen performance, protect team well-being, hold people to account and bring back hope in this new hybrid world.

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