Those astute in market research and data analytics understand that it’s not what a team knows but how they leverage insight for business action. As our way of work changes, perhaps we need to rethink how we as insights leaders can evolve our leadership models to strengthen the advantage we bring to the business.

Let’s first acknowledge where we are right now.

Team members are under different, and perhaps more, types of stress than ever before. Many workers were forced to become remote workers without any real training or experience.

In a study by Kate Lister’s Global Workplace Analytics, 88% of global employees are working from home, with 67% of those doing so for the first time. These numbers have some rather profound implications. Working remotely requires different skills than working in an office.

This goes beyond learning the basics of Zoom calls and screen sharing. What are the longer-term implications that we need to address?

First, there are some universal needs that employees crave from their leaders – trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

How would your work team rate your leadership skills? Do they feel a sense of trust, compassion, stability, and hope?

Today’s virtual work environment brings all of these into question from time-to-time, no matter what. How might that impact your abilities as a team, and what can we do about it?

WHY AND HOW LEADERS SHOULD ADAPT

Some work done by Joseph Folkman, a behavioral statistician, highlights the importance of strong leadership for engagement. Two data points in particular show that an employee’s connection with their leader directly effects 1) overall engagement, and 2) satisfaction working from home.

The graph below shows the initial results from 312 people in the study. Each person was asked if they "felt a strong positive connection to their supervisor while working at home.” Note that those who strongly disagreed—(e.g., their supervisor was not supportive)—responded positively to only 42% of the engagement items. Those who strongly agreed responded positively to 90% of the items.

There is a similar story for satisfaction working from home, where satisfaction is composed of three measures:

-  I enjoy working from home.

-  I feel less stressed and anxious while working from home.

-  I feel I am more productive working from home.

As leaders, we have the obligation of supporting our team. Here are four simple considerations for providing the most cohesive team landscape:

  1. Have a plan of action. You may not have all the answers, but do you have a plan that you have communicated to your team? Create a plan. Update it as things change, and make sure your team stays up-to-date.
  2. Individual connection. Are you taking time to connect with individual team members, and more importantly, do they have a strong sense for the role they play in the bigger picture? Be clear about how they create impact on the plan.
  3. Care for their well-being. The weight can be heavy on many right now. Normal productivity, thinking, and outcomes may be ‘off.’ Ask about the person, not the employee. Ask about the family, not just the work. Doing so genuinely will enhance and stimulate the work.
  4. Team connection. Create opportunities outside of work meetings to foster relationship among your team. Share new projects, new discoveries. Talk about and celebrate personal events.

Some teams might feel overworked while others may feel anxious about their lack of work. The approach to each of the above must be customized to each team and organization.

THREE DISTINCT ISSUES INSIGHTS LEADERS MUST OVERCOME.

It’s important that our discussion go beyond the basics and into how the insights function is different from others.

Insights is typically a dynamic team of data junkies, strategists, and internal consultants tasked with:

  1. Knowledge management
  2. Bringing the consumer voice to life
  3. Predicting and driving future-looking perspectives
  4. Enabling innovation through testing and iteration

Could you imagine doing any of this without full trust, compassion, stability, and hope?

Earlier we brought up the criticality of taking actions on insights. Haven’t we all noticed that engagement on Zoom calls is waning? Sure, at first it was novel and we enjoyed seeing everyone’s pets, kids, and unmade beds. Now, there’s multi-tasking galore, and it is painfully obvious.

If we thought we had an attention problem before, it’s even more an issue now. People work and check emails while we share findings, ideas, and insights. Trust, compassion, and hope destabilize.

When this happens, our work is at risk of feeling less impactful and our team less engaged.

Pre-COVID, we were in our work ‘environments.’ Intentionally designed spaces, hallways, and artwork. Sure, some offices are designed better than others; but, nonetheless, the work environment helped put us in the right frame of mind and drove a sense of collective purpose.

An environment reminds us why we’re doing what we’re doing, and who we’re doing it for – our customer. We see reminders of the work in process, interact with teammates at a personal level, and feel the social connection.

Outside of this environment, the collective spirit and mindset is at risk. How do we maintain a sense of drive when people hop in front of their Zoom cameras half in pajamas and half business attire?

Lastly, beyond the importance of insights and storytelling, we also see the accelerated shift in the way those insights are acquired. The toolbox has shifted away from person to person, and toward technology-enhanced methods. As a leader, are you comfortable with those tools, and providing your team members with the training they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability? Having a poor understanding of the tools, or how the data generated from those tools turns into actionable insights leads to stress and poor performance.

FINAL QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR INSIGHTS LEADERS, PLUS A CALL TO ADVANCE YOUR TEAM FORWARD.

As leaders of this new age, how can we ensure the business is taking the right actions; building on the insights delivered through our work?

It’s an accelerated movement for an already important transition that we have been going through. We need to tell better stories using the tools that we have at our disposal. How can we do better as an insights team – with video, design, copy, etc.?

How can vendors and partners support you as a leader? Perhaps you can rely on them to train your team on new methods and outcomes.

This is the unique opportunity for you as an insights leader right now. Unleash the creativity of your team. Task them with this unique challenge as well. Merely sharing information is a thing of the past. Do the hard work of preparing your clients for action, and your team will be brimming with trust, compassion, stability, and hope.