Where we work, how we work, and how we lead were all changed drastically by Covid-19. How did we manage and how do we manage moving forward?
We’re doing something a bit different today by kicking off a series of podcast episodes that dig into the subject of leading through the Covid-19 pandemic. I have a lot of great guests lined up from many high profile global organizations and I’m thrilled to have Tim Humphrey joining us today.
Tim Humphrey is the VP of the Chief Data Office at IBM in North Carolina. Like other leaders, he was faced with making huge changes to the way his team works. How do you move an organization the size of IBM to shift quickly to working from home? How did Tim manage the logistical issues this caused, especially with managing team members with varying situations at home? We also get insight on what Tim learned about himself as a leader and what he sees the future of the workplace looking like.
[2:51] – Tim discusses how fortunate he was when the pandemic became a problem that he was in North Carolina. He and his team were able to watch things unfold in China and prepare a crisis management team. [3:56] – IBM already had a crisis management team in place because of North Carolina’s tendency to have hurricanes coming through. This time they had time to prepare and they took the opportunity to prepare early. [4:48] – John asks about preparing his people for this huge change and Tim’s struggle with this was the uncertainty. [5:33] – Tim admits that at the beginning, leaders were trying to have all the answers, but as time went on it was clear that it was impossible to know what would happen. Leaders at IBM then shifted to trying to put their teams’ minds at ease and take it a step at a time.
[6:07] – Every individual is different. For example, Tim does not have children and is able to work from home without interruption. [6:25] – IBM leaders were making sure to check in on team members to make sure their health and stress levels were okay. [7:04] – Tim was surprised to see increased productivity with his team working from home and gives examples of how this happened. [8:31] – Leaders had to make changes in how they approached their leadership. Tim is a very interactive and visual leader, so this shift was a big change. [9:18] – Tim made the change by making time for more one-on-one virtual interactions and checking in on his team members well-being much more often. [9:43] – It is important to acknowledge that we are in uncertain times and that it is okay to not know what is happening. [10:35] – It made things a lot easier that his team is really solid and was able to make adjustments. [11:29] – Tim said for himself it wasn’t too difficult to walk the fine line between checking in with his team members and micromanaging.
[12:14] – Instead of placing work conversations in with his checking on his team members, he separated them. If Tim asked how a team member was faring, that was the conversation and he wouldn’t ask about work during that interaction. [14:00] – Visualizing the logistics on getting to the outcome of fewer people in the building and keeping teams safe from the spread of Covid was a huge challenge for Tim. [15:01] – Being comfortable with the uncertain is a mental hurdle Tim had to make. [16:15] – One thing that was impacted for Tim was his physical health. When he transitioned to working from home, he gained weight due to lack of walking around his buildings. He had to make some changes at home. [17:40] – Tim purchased a gaming chair after doing research on the most comfortable long-term use chair to use. He also had to make changes with his eating habits as he was working from and surrounded by food. [19:07] – Recognition goes a long way. Tim and his managers made the pledge that they would be understanding and flexible, especially for team members who might not want to be on camera for a meeting for when a child ran into the room during a meeting.
[20:25] – IBM also implemented some new programs to help working parents, such as paid time off, if they needed it. [21:20] – John asks Tim what he would do differently and Tim admits he didn’t initially think about telling his team members to take essentials from the office home with them to work more efficiently. This caused employees to have to go back into the office for files, monitors, etc. [23:45] – During this experience, Tim learned much about his team, the main being how resilient his team has been. They stepped up to the challenge of shifting to a new normal with almost no notice. [24:55] – Through this, Tim was impressed by his team and learned that giving his team challenges is okay because they can handle it. [25:27] – Tim learned some things about himself as well, including the fact that he was able to overcome the mental block of dealing with uncertainty. [26:21] – In the right atmosphere and team culture, people are highly adaptable. [27:20] – This pandemic has made us focus more on people and has caused team members to work together and build relationships. [28:47] – Tim posed the question of what his team members would prefer in the future: working from home full time, working from the office full time, or some sort of hybrid. The hybrid approach was chosen by the overwhelming majority. [30:46] – The workplace will be forever altered due to reimagining the work space. [31:40] – We have proven to ourselves that frequent traveling for job related tasks is not necessary in excess. Tim says that traveling for work will come back but will certainly not be the same as it was prior to the virus. [32:40] – Conferences can be very successful virtually and makes it more accessible to everyone.
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