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We asked our technology leadership networks to share with us - and with the rest of you - the effect that COVID-19 has had on them as leaders. How has it changed their roles and leadership style? What changes will become permanent? Here are the responses we have received. Thank you for your participation!

 

Rob Zelinka round

Rob Zelinka
CIO, Jack Henry & Associates

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

I am more empathetic now. I recognize that the challenges my team faces are real, as I too experience much of what they experience. I want them to know we are all feeling similar things as we balance work and life. In a recent town hall meeting for thousands of attendees, which was streamed, I started the meeting with my five-year-old son and I wearing super hero costumes! This illustrated a day in our lives. I have also been hyper-focused on picking up visual cues from body language and facial expressions seen on camera. This is different than when you meet in person. It has helped me to better understand what someone may be feeling.

How will your business be stronger?

2020 has reinforced our values – we believe in taking care of our people so they can take care of our customers. Often times, that's just a bunch of words or a slogan, but we have continually reinforced that it is okay to have a dog barking, a door bell ringing, or a child crying in the background. While 2020 has brought many challenges, it has also brought appreciation for the other roles we all play in life, like mother, father, significant other, care giver, etc. Seeing people perform in these roles has been heartwarming. When people know you support them in these roles, that empowers them to be their best in their company roles.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

We'll continue to invest in the lessons learned, and support our people in their pursuit of integrating work and life. We'll permit them to work in the place they're most comfortable.

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Anthony Mustoe round

Anthony Mustoe
Vice President of IT, ABC Fitness Solutions

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

With the shift to virtual interactions over in-office or in-person interactions, it has brought forward a more conscious recognition of my leadership style and nuances. Since I am frequently reminded through a video feed mirror on my screen, I am much more perceptive at how I look, my mannerisms, and how I sound. Most importantly, it has allowed me to smile more, grimace less, and better support those around me through important non-verbal signaling, before at a subconscious level, now very present and real.

How will your business be stronger?

COVID has created a window and forced greater recognition into the balance that each employee must maintain between their personal life persona and responsibilities versus their work persona and responsibilities. Additionally, a blending of those personas has created stronger teams that are outperforming their previous baselines because of better acceptance of the balance, higher transparency into the "give and take" that each employee is experiencing, and greater trust born out of team member vulnerability. I believe that greater vulnerability and trust amongst teams makes them much stronger, and in turn, our businesses much stronger.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

We all recognize that the operating platform has shifted dramatically enough that much of where we are now has and will become the new normal. For example, there will be less emphasis on in-office activities, allowing greater flexibility for employees to continue the blending of personal and work schedules. Use of email as a heavy communication vehicle will continue to diminish, replaced by messaging and chat tools that are much more effective. To maintain these changes and more, there must be a continued effort to support and embrace them in the operating model … in an out loud fashion. To that aim, I will be taking what is working well in the model today and not just assuming those behaviors will continue, but purposely and proactivity embracing and upholding them.

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david leuci round

David Leuci
CIO, Energy Federation

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

You have to trust your new ways of working (WOW) being fully remote. Your commitment is to the enterprise as a leader and to your team members, who expect flexibility and personalization. It's not so much about the focus on the end result as it is about the empathy for others in these changing times. We are all faced with working from home, home schooling our children, etc., and must be empathetic to those attempting to strike a balance in the new normal. It is joyful seeing children interrupt meetings as we are a culture of family first.

How will your business be stronger?

Leveraging a full remote workforce opens opportunities that would not have presented themselves were we still in an office environment. For example, we geographically expanded our development, call center and account management functions, which had been office positions before.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

I will certainly maintain flexibility as a core cultural value and not stress that folks need to be in the office. We have proven that we are highly capable in a work-from-home model.

As a key executive of the company, helping lead in the COVID era demands a fast decision-making acumen and you must also embrace change. Positivity and virtual town hall meetings or happy hours are great ways to show that we are all humans, with families, and that we all are in the same boat, together. And together, we will prevail.

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Eduard de vries round

Eduard de Vries
VP IT Business & Consultancy, SSM Health

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

With many employees working from home, I am much more intentional about connecting with people so we don't lose employee engagement and alignment to our strategy. This focus, in combination with our frequent communication cadence with the entire IT group, has resulted in increased employee engagement compared to pre-COVID times.

How will your business be stronger?

COVID made the mission of our organization to deliver healthcare even more necessary in our communities. COVID has challenged our IT organization and the teams have responded, enabling our clinical and operational staff to deliver on our mission during these challenging times.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

The communication cadence we put in place for COVID will be my part of my leadership model going forward. The ability to share the vision and updates with the entire team on a weekly basis ensures consistency of messaging and allows for any team members to ask questions directly.

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Pat Caine round

Patrick Caine
CIO, Virginia Farm Bureau

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

  • I am making a more conscious effort to communicate proactively.
    • communicating more frequently with business leader peers.
    • talking more about effective communications
    • knowing when and how to use various mediums.
  • I’m becoming more "results" focused vs. "time spent".
  • I’m leading more by empowering and trusting employees to find best way to achieve results.

How will your business be stronger?

  • Business continuity plans are stronger and refined.
  • Productivity will be higher with emphasis on results vs. time allocated.
  • More customers trusting and expecting a positive digital experience
  • Our partners in the business are recognizing how to maximize value in technical capabilities and how to better apply them to achieve desired results.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

  • Stronger emphasis on customer-focused results
  • More employee accountability
  • Flexible work schedules to give employees enhanced work/life balance

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karan dhawal round

Karan Dhawal
Technical Leader - Transformation Office, Rockwell Automation

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

Working from home has allowed me as a leader to identify team members who have passion, dedication and willingness towards the job. This means coming up with innovative ways to manage work-life balance, engaging internal and external customers, and being honest about day-to-day challenges.

How will your business be stronger?

A business that has customers at the center of its strategy and has core quality products will always be strong. Having an agile and high performing team makes it stronger.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

The work-from-anywhere culture has made conversations more important than presentations. 

Success lies always in a great team. A team that has trust in each other's strengths and learns each other's opportunities will always strive to be the best, even under the worst of conditions. If we hire the right talent, nurture them and always keep them motivated, they support the company in challenging times.

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Carl Katzeff round

Carl Katzeff
Outsourced IT leader
Past CIO/CTO roles at The Kraft Group, INgageHub and Brooks Automation

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

Before COVID, much of my interaction and leadership processes were remote, which required lots of travel to meet face-to-face during key project cycles. So while "remote" is normal for me, it has expanded even more. Instead of having to be face to face for important meetings or to gain momentum, people on the team(s) are more engaged with others from a remote perspective too.

How will your business be stronger?

We have a diverse team in terms of business backgrounds, skills and geographies. Some people use to require a personal touch for things to be real, but now they are more accepting of geographic diversity and the skills of others. They recognize the strength that this diversity provides the team, without always having to be local. People are playing stronger together, even when they are not in the same region.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

Not only because of COVID, but also due to high demand and a competitive resource market, we will continue to leverage geographic diversity when needed or as a matter of practice.

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Abe Hong round

Abe Hong
EVP and COO, Technologent

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

COVID-19 has forced greater emphasis on a servant leadership style. There is much more reliance on setting the proper framework for your people to work, and allowing them to work empowered within that framework with a clear definition of what “being successful” means.

How will your business be stronger?

Greater maturity on true performance management. Likewise, our leaders are learning new skills to empower and create truly great teams.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

We will continue to focus on what a person contributes, not where the person contributes from. The leaders that have survived this COVID-19 period will truly be our best of the best leaders of people.

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Jim blackwood round

Jim Blackwood
Director of IT, RecordTrak

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

I became a better listener, and this is still an ongoing activity for me. Also, I worked on developing more trust in my team. They have risen mightily to challenges of COVID-19. Lastly, I made some hard staffing decisions that were necessary because of the heightened reliance on IT.

How will your business be stronger?

COVID-19 has created sudden changes in IT delivery, and we have all been all by how quickly we could adapt to broad scale working from home.

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woody nicolas round

Woody Nicolas
Former Director of IT, Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

Nothing. Thanks to the DR plan that was put in place, IT was ready.

How will your business be stronger?

In healthcare,  the ability to implement and utilize telemedicine was a huge success, allowing us to stay open and help patients.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

I will always be looking to do better by maintaining and obtaining technology to enhance processes.

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anonymous round

Anonymous

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

I need to be more connected with all my team -- not just my direct reports, but with all of IT and the Analytics team. I have daily stand ups with direct reports, and weekly meetings with the entire IT department, where they present new projects, research, even give cooking classes.

How will your business be stronger?

We have a stronger IT team, able to respond quickly to business needs, and adjust fast to the unexpected. We can build resilient solutions in the cloud, and cloud is a common language in the organization now.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

This situation allowed us to pivot with our services. We expanded our digital offerings beyond only supporting our users to include teaching them new skills and increasing their digital knowledge and literacy. This helped considerably during our rebranding campaign.

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anonymous female round

Anonymous

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

I am more contemplative, and more prepared.

How will your business be stronger?

COVID has brought lot of optimization and has made our business more lean.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

We will regularly ask the question, "What if another COVID hits? How does the business need to be ready?"

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anonymous round

Anonymous

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

The easy answer is increased flexibility. However, I believe what’s changed the most is purposeful questioning of the value of those “traditional” things that were done. Meeting cadence is one example, but it goes well beyond that. It’s the things I ask of my people... do those things add the right value? They’re under stress from everything, so the more purposeful their time and energy is focused, the easier it is to ensure they’re staying connected.

How will your business be stronger?

We’ve broken many longstanding beliefs about how things can get done. This includes the pros and cons of working from home. I’m confident we’ll operate with much greater flexibility by employing a hybrid work-from-home model. More importantly, we’ve realized the importance of focusing more on how we create value for the customer.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

We will continue to ask the question, “Is this the right thing to do?” And, “Right for whom?”

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anonymous female round

Anonymous

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

Now I am far more compassionate and open to employee needs, thoughts and fears.

How will your business be stronger?

Employees who are more caring means stronger relationships internally and externally, and therefore, customer commitment is higher.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

I do not subscribe to the idea that it will one day be behind us. This will have a meaningful and lasting impact to our daily lives for years, if not forever. Therefore, continuing the learned behaviors is a natural evolution as we continue to adapt to new ways of operating.

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anonymous round

Anonymous

What has changed about your leadership style as a result of COVID-19?

I am more empathetic as a leader than I was before.

How will your business be stronger?

We have become more agile and more flexible. We are working in sprints rather than the traditional business operating models.

What will you do to maintain these improvements when the COVID “burning platform” is behind us? 

We'll keep innovating on production, and investing in new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML).

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