Manager Minute – Managing teams in challenging times

What are best practices for managing in challenging times?

Higher education is facing a unique set of challenges and opportunities as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Gallup, 70% of how team members feel is influenced by their local manager. How these leaders respond is critical; managers should have engaging and continuous conversations with their teams focusing on meeting basic emotional needs.

The Gallup Q12 Survey focuses on measuring 12 core items linking strongly to key institutional outcomes. While in the early stages of dealing with a disruptive event, there are four elements in particular that team members need to feel have been met in order for them to perform well:

Focus me: Do team members know what is expected of them right now to keep the organization focused on the top priorities?
Free me from unnecessary stress: Do team members have the materials and equipment they need to be free of unnecessary stress during this time?
Know me: Do team members feel like managers know them, understand any unique challenges they might face at home right now and are supporting them to do what they do best during this challenging time?
Help me see my importance: Do our faculty and staff feel personally connected to the ways they are helping the organization navigate the crisis to emerge strong?

Utilize these points as a simple, research-based yes/no needs checklist to make sure team members are set up to succeed during this challenging time.

Managers are at their best when acting as coaches.

Employees everywhere want someone to coach them through this challenging time – staff and faculty are no different.

Coaching means frequent conversations that continue even as teams become more geographically distributed and affected by factors like childcare challenges.

In Gallup’s article, “How Managers Can Excel by Really Coaching Their Employees” (see link at end of post), the following three actions exemplify proper manager-as-a-coach technique:

Establish expectations that are clear, collaborative and aligned with the organization’s goals
• Have frequent, focused and future-oriented conversations
Create accountability that is fair, accurate, developmental- and achievement-oriented

Once parameters concerning these topics are introduced team-wide, one-on-one time should be devoted to understanding what team members can individually contribute through their talent.

Gallup knows people are uniquely wired to respond to challenging times through their own talents and strengths. Consider how you process change personally and how your team members do it. Candidly discuss the following topics:

• What talent do you bring to navigating this challenge? For example, a team member may have a talent to help the team develop a contingency plan to meet a specific student or internal/external partner need.
• What do you need from the team to navigate this challenge well? For example, a team member may need regular touchpoints in a certain format to feel they are in the loop.

After facilitating such conversations, managers can feel confident to then empower their team members to assume responsibility for their own engagement – not forgetting to consistently have supportive conversations.

To read the article “How Managers Can Excel by Really Coaching Their Employees,” go to:

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For additional virtual professional development opportunities, please visit the Organizational Development & Engagement page at: