Managing Up During COVID-19

September 2020
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The school year will look different this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic. What was considered a trial period this spring with students taking classes from home will continue this fall and likely beyond.

Parents will wear multiple hats 24 hours per day taking care of their children and checking on their parents and extended family, all the while continuing to be influential business leaders.

This is a significant test of our mental health.

The silver lining with living in the era of COVID-19 is that we will be forced to learn new techniques to communicate with each other, give more grace, and ultimately learn how to live a more balanced life while still thriving in our career.

If you work with colleagues or clients who are parents or taking care of others during COVID, then here’s how you can effectively manage up so you can be there for them while giving yourself a chance to flourish.

• Be proactive. Your clients and managers want to hear from you. In to- day’s era, however, showing up virtually means thinking multiple steps ahead. Unfortunately, “out of sight, out of mind” is a common human trait. Pandemics won’t immediately change this, so make sure you are showing up.

Recommendation: Interject and lean in on email threads, virtual calls and other opportunities to engage strategically and consistently. Share trends and recommendations that are timely and to-the-point that illustrate the critical thinking trait that got you hired in the first place! Your clients and bosses are managing multiple deadlines, not just the ones you’re leading. Need more time on that deadline? Have active discussions on key priorities so you know what’s truly important and when. Ask for extensions early, not late in the process.

• Be prepared in case of an emergency. Does your boss or client constantly postpone or cancel your meetings? Suggest alternative options to the meeting so that decisions can still be made, and projects don’t stay stuck.

Recommendation: Always have a Plan B if your 1:1 or group call needs to be postponed or canceled. Create and send short pre-reads to those you’re meeting with that address agenda topics and points of discussion. In case the meeting doesn’t happen, there’s a record available so you can continue to advance the conversation via email, text or other forms of communication.

• Keep your communication tight, solution- and action-oriented. Your manager or client does not have all the answers. That’s why you’re there in the first place! Have you uncovered a problem? Great! What is your recommended solution? And how quickly and effectively can it be communicated?

Recommendation: One way to do this is to analyze your email structure. One example: Are you using subject lines effectively? Use a consistent approach for subject lines in sending emails. Examples include:

• FYI, only — no action needed: “There’s a great case study in PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics this month”

• Response needed by 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET: agenda topics for Tuesday’s planning discussion

• Jane, I welcome your thoughts: PR recommendation for the upcoming launch

Installing these techniques will help build confidence with clients and bosses, giving them the flexibility to manage their family and job, and ultimately show your value as a trusted advisor.

Finally, always show grace. We are being challenged mentally every day. People will remember how they were treated during these times, and — as people move to other jobs — focusing on the relationship and those you’re working with long-term will pay dividends throughout your career.

Be safe. Be kind. Be well

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