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Work | Leading Your (Suddenly Virtual) Team Through the COVID-19 Storm

by Jacke Tan

It has been an unpredictable 2020 and such uncertainty during these times bring forth a new challenge to all leaders. How can we best lead our teams through the COVID-19 storm and emerge well and winning on the other side?

As a business owner and leader, I find myself entrenched in this abyss of unknowns. There is immense pressure to respond with the most sound and adequate answer to the mounting uncertainties the company is facing.

Nonetheless, here are some lessons I gleaned through managing this crisis thus far, and though we may still be figuring things out along the way, I hope these lessons may be useful for all business owners, team leaders and management alike with regards to responding to unfolding events, communicating better, and adapting to changing business landscapes.

1. Be Updated on a Daily Basis

Everything is changing at an astounding speed daily. What seemed like a situation that was happening only in China a few months back has erupted into a global pandemic. Our need to be up-to-date with the latest progression of the COVID-19 situation is essential to helping us reframe our overall perspective. For the team at Whitewords, we have been keeping up with daily virtual meetings to keep everyone informed on the latest happenings both in our Malaysia and Singapore offices.

2. Overcommunicate, Overcommunicate, Overcommunicate!

As a leader, one of the first things that I felt needed to be done was to articulate as clearly as possible to the team, the challenges the company is facing, or may potentially face. And at the same time, taking the opportunity to share what steps the company is taking to navigate the crisis.

With this, now more than ever is the time to overcommunicate and assure your team that communication channels are always open to help with anything difficulty they might face while working. This is also the time to initiate discussions with your team on the different projects they are working on and how they should be re-prioritised if necessary. You will need to explain the organisation’s new path forward to your teams – some of whom may be in different time zones or working at off-hours to accommodate caregiving responsibilities.

Your overcommunication efforts should focus on being exceptionally clear on the most mission-critical items you have identified. Overcommunicate but do not confuse.

3. Know When to Micromanage and When to Entrust

These are extraordinary times, and there will be critical business functions that you will be required to micromanage because, without your attention, there might not be a business to lead after. At the same time, there will be some functions that you absolutely need to trust your team to execute on their own.

Be clear with your team about who has responsibility on what areas/projects, as well as on how (or if) you would like to be involved in any decisions.

4. Ensure That Your Team Is (Physically) Set Up for Success

Everyone is making significant adjustments to their daily lives, so it is critical that you make sure that your team is physically and mentally prepared to work remotely. This means ensuring your team has the tools they need to do their job as well as possible given their circumstances.

5. Take Care of Your Team

Perhaps what strong leadership looks like during the COVID-19 pandemic is liken to an image of a shepherd. We need to really recognise the people who are supporting us along the way and making things happen despite their respective situations. Understand that team members are also making personal sacrifices to ‘get to work’.

These are trying times and everyone is seeking some form of direction. Direction that employees are looking to leaders of the company to provide. How the company leads and supports their team members through this time will definitely impact whether greater resilience is built within and clients are more assured of our ability to deliver or the company’s progress regresses. That said, I think no one wishes for the latter and would hope for the company to emerge stronger and wiser.


Whitewords is a fully integrated creative agency with MedCom capabilities focused on developing branding and advertising solutions for healthcare and medical industries.

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