A test of digital leadership.
That’s how retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal described the challenge of managing an enterprise during the coronavirus pandemic.
And that was a comment that struck home as we imagine dozens of business owners, used to holding court or huddling with employees now hunkered down in their home offices trying to navigate through a steep decline in business activity.
It’s a difficult challenge that requires adaptation to new technology, reorientation of your emotional intelligence skills and in some cases a return to old fashioned phone conversations.
For information and day to day checking in, text messages and emails are OK – and most of us by now are checking in regularly with our teams. But it’s hard to grasp the nuance of a conversation. Is somebody late with a project because they have hit a roadblock or just the need to take the dog out for another walk. It’s hard to tell.
Picking up the phone is also complicated. Are you interrupting the person and in that case is it really urgent? A two-step of text and phone call is helpful because it signals that you want their undivided attention and need something important.
Part of the problem with digital leadership is that you simply cannot walk over to the water cooler or the kitchen and bump into someone and brainstorm the solution to a problem in a random way. Digital leadership cries out for more structure, for establishing regular lines of communication and working out a way to interact with each team member. That’s hard work.
Various forms of video conferencing, from FaceTime and Facebook widgets to more complex technology are starting to fill the void. But it is still hard to gauge nuance and to feel comfortable knowing that you may be wearing a dress shirt for TV purposes but you still have on your sweat pants and slippers.
Millennials have a better knack for digital communication and conveying emotion and context, but that may or may not make them natural leaders. Leadership is something earned and not always learned, so it is the experience of digital leadership in the coronavirus crisis that will shape many careers.
The 20th anniversary of Pacific Coast Business Times took place quietly on March 17 with virtually all of our team working from home — a proper celebration will have to wait until it is safe once again to get everyone together for a delayed St. Patrick’s Day toast.
But we’ll take a few minutes to recognize another company born on March 17, Montecito Bank & Trust, the region’s largest independent bank, which was established in 1975 and celebrated 45 years in 2020. The bank grew slowly at first, but that growth accelerated after 2000 and it emerged from the 2008 financial crisis as one of the strongest banks in the region.
Under the leadership of the late Mike Towbes, the bank’s co-founder and later sole owner, the bank also became a leader in corporate philanthropy and typically celebrated its anniversary with a number of grants to nonprofits. The celebration part of the program was suspended this year but the bank’s legacy of philanthropy continues. Happy 45th and many more to come.