Managing through unique circumstances

Marilena Ceobanu, director of finance for UF Facilities Services, has been singled outĀ for her exceptional leadership amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We reached out to Marilena to learn more about how she and her team are adapting to a new reality.

How have you stayed connected with your team amidst the changes brought about by COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected our lives, including work. In adapting to the new reality, my goal has been to keep everyone feeling connected and up-to-speed. As such, I strive to have regular video check-ins via Zoom with all my staff.

My one-to-one and team meetings have also transitioned to videoconferences. For instance, every morning, there is a 30-min ute check-in session with the finance team of 10, so that all can see and greet each other. Everyone takes turns to share what they have been working on. The session’s other purpose is to serve as a forum for asking questions and exchanging ideas on projects and technology tips. Maintaining a team spirit is instrumental in keeping up with job tasks, especially when working remotely.

We also make use of Microsoft Teams, which is the go-to hub for communication and collaboration. In this respect, I created a “workspace” for team projects and discussions in each area. Together, we set up projects with clear deadlines, as well as channels, file sharing, and notes. Building a functional team workspace not only brings talented people together, but it also enables quick access to critical documents and updates, thereby helping us achieve our goals.

Do you have any tips or best practices that have worked exceptionally well during this time?

My tip is to try to communicate via Zoom or Skype as often as possible. Live, visual communication goes a very long way, as it enables an experiential situation that only direct, personal contact can offer.

Seeing someone permits building a level of rapport that is very hard (if not altogether impossible) to replicate through audio communication only. (This goes without even mentioning email.) The combination of screen sharing and video calling enables the recreation of our team huddling up in our cozy conference room. I often remind my team of my availability for impromptu virtual meetings, chats or even re-prioritizing tasks, and that we are all in this together.

What advice would you give to managers who are having difficulties keeping their team members engaged?

Be positive: Remain supportive and reassuring; stay connected with your team now more than ever.

Be flexible: As we practice social distancing, we are all adjusting to the challenges of the new way of life, including working remotely.

Be empathetic: Recognize that employees are likely feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the circumstances related to this pandemic.

Be available: We all need help sometimes, so make yourself available to your staff, and answer questions about work and any other issues that might show up.

Together, we will come out of this stronger and more compassionate through team camaraderie and engagement.