We were speaking with a client a few days ago about COVID-19 and his business. Without giving away too many details (to protect client confidentiality we’ll call him “Paul”), he is a senior manager in an essential service business and has several hundred people in his care, consisting of middle and branch managers and frontline staff.

We faced each other with grainy, buffering Skype videos and had our “new” regular catch up. Our normal routine (pre-Covid-19) was a monthly two-hour face-to-face session spent discussing the business, his team, any issues, successes and aspirations. Early on, when the COVID-19 crisis began to disturb Paul’s sleep, we reset our conversations to two short catchups weekly. Paul confided in us that the regularity of these conversations and downloads have helped him to stay grounded for, not only his team, but also his family. All of whom are looking to him for calm and considered leadership at this time.

In addition to coaching Paul, we have worked extensively in Paul’s business over the last few years with his senior leadership, middle management and frontline teams. This work is part of a significant change programme helping the organisation adjust the way its people interact with stakeholders and each other.  One of the tools we have used with Paul’s business is the TRACOM® Social Styles and Versatility material and specifically the Improving Personal Effectiveness with Versatility (IPEV) workshop.

All of Paul’s people work extensively with stakeholders within and outside of the business. One of the great limitations they were facing was around their people’s ability to manage the tension in working relationships and to prevent and address conflict. The IPEV workshops, combined with integrating coaching with Style and Versatility within the business, proved to be an effective solution that not only addressed their issues, but also enhanced personal development, productivity outcomes and individual fulfilment.

We asked Paul this morning how he was and how his staff were coping with the COVID-19 crisis, 14 days into the lockdown. Paul looked tired, but the corner of his mouth twitched upwards as he relayed a tale to us of two staff who did not normally work together but were now on the same shift due to a regional staff shortage. Both were under some pressure as a result of this shift change and additionally dealing with a difficult stakeholder in a sensitive situation. Historically – these two members of staff had had a “falling out”. “It was like a perfect storm” chuckled Paul, “but do you know what. After the first night of getting in each other’s way and winding everybody up, they sat down (2 meters apart of course!), worked out a plan using Social Styles and their Versatility Planners of how to better interact with each other and the difficult stakeholder. They rang their manager for an online coaching session (at 9pm!) and by the end of last week had resolved the situation with the stakeholder. Plus – the previous “falling out” has been resolved”.

 Paul continued. “It’s been surprisingly beneficial having the managers at home and calling in. They are spending more quality time with their staff and really listening to them far more than they normally do when they are rushing around sticking their oars in”. He went on to describe several instances of how the staff have stepped up as a result and how they are using the Social Styles and Versatility skills to overcome the gaps created by distance and remote contact – such as the loss of non-verbal communication and the human tendency to “make up stuff” in the absence of information. “Everyone is being deliberate about using Social Styles. I’ve seen it in action and experienced it myself. Their self-awareness, awareness of others and how to respond to others has improved leaps and bounds!”

He leaned forward towards his screen and said intently. “The investment we made in developing and training our people over the last couple of years is paying off in ways we never anticipated, particularly during this COVID-19 crisis”.