Management Lessons from the Pandemic

One of the many work-related challenges presented by the pandemic has been learning to effectively manage teams during a time of uncertainty. My management style is low-key; my role is often simply being available, listening, and providing guidance, support, and feedback. This works well when everyone is in the office, but it can be less effective in a remote environment. So I have had to adjust. In particular, the past year has been a valuable reminder of the importance of the following:

  • Communication. When we transitioned to remote work, it was immediately clear that more frequent and more candid communication was needed—in part to share information but also to foster engagement. I tried various approaches—conference calls, email check-ins, and virtual happy hours. Not everything worked, and at times the interactions seemed awkward or forced (the co-leader of my group and I moderated so many Zoom calls that we had a running joke that we were co-hosts of a morning show). But we soon realized that the mode of communication didn’t matter. Calls, Zoom meetings, texts, and emails were all fine; the key was keeping in touch. We’ve become accustomed to more frequent, proactive contact and intend to keep it up, even as we plan a broader return to the office.
  • Empathy. We’ve learned that remote work and virtual collaboration are possible without diminishing quality or efficiency (which is wonderful). But remote work also tends to blur the boundaries between work and home. As many have noted, there seems to be no clear end to the work day, and some colleagues have struggled with balancing the demands of the job with family responsibilities. I now spend more time listening and asking questions to better understand colleagues’ concerns, as well as sharing my own experiences dealing with personal challenges during this time. One goal is to make it easier for people to ask for advice or help. We all worry about rising burnout rates and want to help our lawyers find a reasonable balance.
  • Never taking your teams for granted. The professionalism of our lawyers, and the way they have adapted to the challenges posed by the pandemic, has been astonishing. In the best of times, with every resource at our disposal, practicing law at a large firm can be incredibly demanding. Yet our lawyers shifted to remote work without missing a beat. This has given me not only a renewed appreciation for the strength of our firm’s culture, but also a resolve to ensure that our team members are rewarded for their contributions and that they know that they are valued.