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This is how the general manager of Bridge is staying connected to his remote team during the pandemic.

How the GM of Bridge is staying connected with his remote team

As the head of a business unit at a SaaS company, you would think I made a smooth transition to working from home. But it actually took some time. Today, I am convinced the fundamentals that make workplaces thrive—namely, connection, alignment, and growth—are more important than ever.  

How I’m staying connected with employees

As it became apparent that we would be working from home for the foreseeable future, the word “connection” kept coming to mind. I wondered how I, as a new leader at my company, could help people remain connected to each other and to our mission and goals while working from home.

As with many challenges, communication can be the issue or the solution―and it’s often both. I have changed my communication routine by supplementing more traditional forms of business communication with less-formal video check-ins. These videos take just a few minutes, but people have shared that seeing and hearing updates, challenges, and wins has helped them feel more connected to their work. 

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Another adjustment we’ve made is intentionally and consistently celebrating the positive. For example, we are increasingly mindful of celebrating customer kudos, work anniversaries, and other teams wins as a broader group.

Connections in the workplace have certainly changed this year, but changing my routine with increased communication, collaboration, and the power of good HR technology has helped us stay focused and move forward. 

How I’m staying aligned with our employees’ circumstances

In order to remain focused, I believe it’s important to set the right expectations to help people get to where they need to go. I’ve been inspired by leaders around the state who have used their platforms to communicate a clear vision, share human concern, and remind people that we will get through this and be stronger for it.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had in March with an employee. Normally, this person is laser focused and dependable. When we began to work from home, I noticed a shift in this person’s work and checked in. They shared that they were working from home with a toddler whose daycare was closed and a spouse who continued to work outside the home. This caused difficulty as they tried to work their typical nine-to-five jobs. 

It’s too much to expect work and family not to collide when working from home, especially when outside childcare is not possible. In that moment, I realized the importance of communicating with the team. I realized that while our company goals were the same, our expectations of how we would attain them would shift. 

Acknowledging our humanity and how we can all support each other helped the team focus on what’s important. By now, we’ve figured out the best places to work for privacy, best times to have team meetings, and which team hosts the best virtual happy hour. None of that would be possible without being clear about where we are heading and how we navigate our way through.    

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How I’m growing as a leader now that I have more time

We all have a friend who has managed to lose weight or is working on learning a new language in the middle of downtime right now. While that is not me, this time has been one of profound growth. I’d only recently started with Bridge when we began to work from home. By working to share goals clearly with my team and remain consistently connected, I saw us thrive in new ways. 

Observing this, I see several important factors. When we are starting something new, we tend to ask a lot of questions and listen. When we practice listening to each other people feel heard, and a new focus and energy enters the team dynamic. When we know where we are all heading and feel supported on that journey, that again raises the energy and we begin to see new possibilities. 

While I wish it were under different circumstances, outside changes have shifted my routine and impacted how I lead. I find myself listening more, communicating clearly and frequently, and connecting with intention. This enhanced routine has helped bring my team together despite being apart.

John Knotwell serves as the General Manager of Bridge by Instructure. As GM, he is responsible for the people, customers, and operations of the Global Bridge business. He is the champion of Bridge’s mission to help people transform their organizations through connection, alignment, and growth.

Comments (2)

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    Manny Chavez

    John great insight on staying focused with your team and the fundamentals to achieve your team’s objectives.

    Your vision is clear and you communicate with good intentions to keep your team connected and moving opportunities forward.

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    Paul Hill

    Thank you for sharing your experience John. I think leading at a distance is the ultimate test of leadership, and takes incredible emotional intelligence and sincerity.

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