Understand how the work is done and lead flexibly

These challenging times demand more from leaders at all levels to keep the business going and achieve its goals, but we also need to notice and address how we are responding at the moment. While I knew the past few weeks had been demanding, looking at my work habits cast a new light on things: I attended more than 55 meetings a week, and spent more than seven hours a week in meetings outside of my favorite work at midnight. , and had an average of less than an hour a day of intentional focus time. And I would be naive to think that my way of working wouldn’t affect the work habits of others either.

What’s interesting is that I only stopped to look at my own data when I was running a demo for a client, but once I did, I really stopped and realized I needed to think about how I – and our teams – getting the job done, and how it could be done better.

Understand how time is spent, then experiment

Before we can adapt our work practices, we need to understand how the work is done, and technology can help us do that. These personal insights, such as time spent in meetings, concentrated work time, off-hours meetings and more, are embedded in our Webex platform and enable employees to understand how they are spending their most valuable asset: their time.

But insights alone cannot solve the problem. After recognizing the ways in which we work, we must experiment. Put this into practice by encouraging your people to understand how they spend their time, then providing the flexibility to experiment with creative solutions, such as Wednesdays without meetings, Monday mornings to focus, or every 10 minutes shorten meeting.

Set the tone from above

Any successful corporate culture shift must be built on a strong foundation, and that starts with the highest level of leadership. At a time when organizations are taking on additional work to address global issues, from COVID-19 and social justice to the war in Ukraine, leadership needs to be transparent in their thinking about what the critical business priorities are and what can wait. Breaking off halfway through a project goes against ingrained instincts and can feel counterintuitive or demoralizing. But we’re used to setting annual goals and priorities, and we can also use this muscle to prioritize and de-prioritize.

I recently asked my team leaders to discuss with their teams where work can be interrupted or stopped altogether so that we can support critical areas of work. Establishing business-critical priorities becomes a lens for every leader to apply to the work of their teams, and a decision-making tool to direct resources. Put this into practice by encouraging the leaders reporting to you to set aside time for their teams to monitor emerging projects and ongoing work. Together they can determine what is moving forward and what is not.

At Cisco, we also believe that wellness should be a measure of success, so we are working to build wellness into our organization’s strategy and planning. This helps our employees have a more predictable workload and more choice in how they get their work done, helping them achieve their goals while enabling self-care. Put this into practice by working to quantify and build wellness into your future long-term strategy planning process.

Fostering a culture of trust and transparency

Building new muscles and reflexes in an organization takes practice, focus, collaboration and communication. Operating in a new way requires adaptation, and it’s important for leaders to recognize that. Our people need more of us in times of change and challenge, and we build their trust as we respond. Put this into practice by protecting every opportunity to connect, share and collect feedback from your people, from meetings to surveys.

From our internal research data, we know that 81% of Cisco employees agree that their team leader knows them well, and this kind of connection is fundamental to building trust between our people and our leaders. Now is not the time to push weekly check-ins off the calendar or postpone meetings with everyone. Leaders need to stay in close touch with their people and listen more, not less. With closer communication, leaders can better understand their people’s pain points and take action to respond. This trust builds a transparent culture where people feel safe to voice their opinion if there is too much on their plate.

As a company, this work must be ambitious and intentional, just as I must intentionally review my personal insights and reflect on my work habits. This requires building new muscle, but with focused attention and shifts in the way we work, our people and businesses can thrive. We may not be able to control the events of our world and the difficult times we face, but we do have agency and options in how we stand up to face them.

Fran Katsoudas is the chief people, policy & purpose officer at Cisco.

This post Understand how the work is done and lead flexibly was original published at “https://www.fastcompany.com/90741321/how-to-lead-teams-effectively?partner=rss&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=rss+fastcompany&utm_content=rss”

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