As the international community continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, many IT leaders are finding it challenging to effectively lead and motivate their teams. Esther Shein spoke with numerous such executives for a recent CIO article and culled their feedback into actionable tips for leadership in a crisis.

Among her recommendations:

  • Recognize the humanity of all involved. This is an unprecedented situation, and the key to leading throughout it is recognizing that employees’ health, well-being, and safety are more important than ever. In addition to checking in on these factors, it’s also important that executives be supportive of schedule adjustments as people balance work responsibilities and caring for children at home.
  • Commit quickly—and provide ongoing support. Many industries have had to implement new technologies in light of the pandemic. In this environment, there is no time for a drawn-out procurement process. It’s important that leaders commit to a vendor as quickly as possible and focus efforts on supporting employees and training them on using the new technology.
  • Find champions for co-creation. When evaluating new technologies, the leaders Shein interviewed stressed the importance of getting buy-in early from other members of the leadership team.
  • Ramp up communications. Communicating frequently with employees is critical, but it’s also important that companies find new avenues for engaging with partners, customers, and other stakeholders. For example, YouTube videos of product overviews, user guides, or eBooks can all be effective means of replicating an in-person session.
  • Prioritize speed over perfection. Shein writes that many leaders may need to “…rethink your organizational structure for speed.” Depending upon the company, this could involve reassigning project managers to focus on pandemic-related deployments or temporarily eliminating a participatory leadership approach so that decisions can be made more efficiently.
  • Meet frequently. Usage of Zoom and other teleconferencing software is exploding, and for good reason. With everyone working remotely, it’s important to hold meetings more frequently both to ensure that business-critical work is happening and also to boost morale. As Shein puts it, “It can be lonely and isolating for people who are used to being in an office every day to suddenly be home and not seeing their peers’ faces.”
  • Consider what you can control. With the shift to remote work comes countless challenges, some of which are entirely out of leadership’s control. Focus on those that impact security, business continuity, and other critical functions, and let other less pressing concerns fall by the wayside.
  • Embrace the adrenalin rush. According to Shein, “For some CIOs, leading in a crisis is an opportunity to rise to the occasion.” View it as a chance to position IT in a positive light and demonstrate how technology can support the business even in the most taxing of times.

Ultimately, one of the most critical factors for effective leadership in times of crisis is to remain calm. You can see more tips from IT leaders navigating the pandemic in Shein’s piece here.