A look at women motivating their teams and communities through change.
As we look into the covid-unknown that characterizes the months ahead, transformational leaders adept at adapting and thinking out of the box will help shape our businesses and our community. We took an intentional look at how women leaders are managing through change, and asked members of our Women Inspiring Women group to share how they are coping with massive disruption and working with their teams. Following are excerpts from their interviews.
Abby has been on fire with brainstorming ways to keep the city of Zeeland inspired, and to help local businesses during the pandemic. Her focus has been a little less on Feeling the Zeel and more about Healing the Zeel. “One of our recent initiatives involved sending the Zeeland Police Department out to deliver Feel the Zeel kickballs to local families with the message ‘Zeeland Will Bounce Back. Heal the Zeel.’ We distributed them throughout the community so families would have a new and fun activity to do together while at home.”
That positive energy can be felt throughout the City of Zeeland team. While working from home has made this a season of “multi-tasking at its best,” the experience has encouraged more inter-departmental collaboration than ever before, and Abby feels it is making the team stronger.
The United Way teams have been adapting to the constantly changing needs of both Ottawa and Allegan counties, working closely with community partners, to meet the most pressing issues in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Amanda has spent time working both on site, supervising a donation center at United Way’s Allegan building to supply quarantined food items to local pantries, and at home.
While she may have been anxious about the possibility of infection while at work, she worked hard to keep her team positive and focused remotely. “We have been doing fun activities and exercises at the start of zoom staff meetings, as well as sharing informative and inspirational articles, texts, and social media posts with each other.”
Angela has found that her team adapted very quickly to Zoom meetings and chats as a way to stay connected, and that the virtual meeting is probably something that is here to stay. She’s found that staying positive is a driving force that is keeping her team energized.
“Our team has focused on the bright spots during this crisis. It’s allowed us to celebrate the way our community has responded in the midst of chaos and anxiety. We believe that staying positive is not about ignoring what’s going on, it’s about choosing to see the good in the midst of the hard stuff.”
The team at CFHZ fully transitioned to work remotely, but it did not interrupt daily operations due to a clear focus on setting priorities and staying connected. Colleen pointed out how business relationships have changed throughout the pandemic, in that we are now regularly seeing into each other’s lives in a new way.
Building relationships in this community is a top priority at CFHZ. “The driving motivation for our team right now, keeping us connected and focused, is that we know we are doing good and important work. We often say that we can’t predict the future needs of our community, but we can prepare for them.”
Since Mandi is uber organized, her team jumped on to updating systems and procedures as quickly as possible when the stay at home order went into place, and rapidly had everyone set up with full technology at home. She places an emphasis on team development and says that staying engaged with each member of the team is the number one priority. “Sometimes we would just put each other on the phone while we were researching or typing just to have conversation. "Like working meetings."”
For Mandi, regular Zoom calls help her team get started for the day. Sometimes the topics are nothing to do with work at all, just a positive start connecting in the morning. “Every week I have sent, gifts, gift cards, note cards, letters, etc. to our office team members. Just something fun to get out of the mailbox and be a light in their day.”
Meagan has been working tirelessly on the Community Action House #stayhomefighthunger and Family Food Boxes efforts, and notes that so many families are finding themselves in a position of need for the first time. But the community has stepped up in a big way.
She says that the campaign has felt very personal to her, and she also feels the personal investment coming from the community at large. People who may not have looked outside of their own situations before are committing to caring for their neighbors. “We’re seeing notes included in food boxes that say ‘I love you,’ ‘We are with you,’ ‘You’ll get through this.’ It’s been amazing.”
While technology and zoom calls may have taken the business world by storm over the months, Stacy says that good old-fashioned phone calls are the way they are staying connected with their clients and the community. This seems fitting for a team with incredible positive energy and a focus on making sure that every insurance plan is discussed carefully, leaving nothing to chance with an email.
That said, they are missing the face-to-face experience that characterizes their business. “Our clients expect a friendly voice to answer the phone, not a machine. They have come to expect someone greeting them waiting for them. Not a locked door. We’re ready to be back.”
Full interviews can be read in the June 2020 issue of Connect Magazine.