NAEM EHS & Sustainability Management Forum: Session Summary – Virtual Leadership

NAEM Kelvin Photo

This year’s virtual NAEM EHS & Sustainability Forum is going off without a hitch—well, after we all remember to mute our phones in the breakout sessions and roundtables. The agenda was carefully crafted, and each session delivers best practices to keep EHS professionals moving forward. Here are some takeaways from the session “Maintaining Leadership Presence When You’re Not Present.”

The session was moderated by Nicole Wilkinson, Director of Environmental Management, CVS Health Corp, and presented by Kelvin Roth, Vice President, EHS & Quality, CF Industries, and Lara Malatesta, Director of Quality and Management Systems, Aramark. They provided tips about how to effectively lead in a virtual setting and continue to engage and collaborate with team members.

Here are the top ten takeaways:

  1. Maintain personal interaction
  • Lara: Try to get to know each team member as an individual. The more vulnerable I am, the more they talk.
  • Kelvin: Understand how people feel. Some people aren’t comfortable being on video, for example, so don’t call them out. Schedule time to meet with them one-on-one.
  • Book suggestion: To get people to connect, read Now, Discover Your Strengths.
  1. Provide a clear path
  • Lara: The RACI model reminds team members who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed, which keeps us on track.
  • Kelvin: Communicate the “why.” This ensures people know why we’re doing what we’re doing.
  1. Focus on engagement
  • Lara: Engagement drives productivity. If employees feel valued, they will be more passionate about what they do.
  • Kelvin: Be more appreciative and say, “good job.” Providing recognition creates the team environment.
  1. Listen
  • Lara: Ask how you can remove the roadblocks that prohibit their success.
  • Kelvin: Schedule meetings to listen and learn, not just to drive the process or program forward.
  1. Encourage collaboration
  • Lara: Provide opportunities for emerging leaders to lead and coach them behind the scenes. If I don’t get out of the way, people will continue to come to me and not them.
  • Kelvin: People interact differently at home than they do at work. Learn what their comfort zone is; once you know, you can build a trusting team.
  1. Make the rubber meet the road
  • Lara: Establish a visibility planning strategy. No plan means no action.
  • Kelvin: Have a plan, but be agile and flexible if things go awry.
  • Book suggestion: The New Strategic Selling
  1. Keep teams visible to leadership
  • Lara: Share the right content with the right audience and at the right cadence. Today, leadership is inundated with challenges; make sure it’s relevant.
  • Kelvin: Share the good news. Our team has contributed great things during the pandemic, and we’ve shared them on LinkedIn. Knowing that leaders see their contributions charges them up to do more.
  1. Manage up
  • Lara: Be a good partner; lean on your reputation. If you are working on meaningful things, the rest will come.
  • Kelvin: Stay connected to senior leadership; they’re people too. Drop them a note or share your story. They’ll appreciate the feedback.
  1. Provide the right tools
  • Lara: Ask if they have what they need (chair, monitor, phone).
  • Kelvin: The ergonomics issues has hit people hard. In addition to having the right tools, we learned to better balance life and work.
  1. Have fun
  • Lara: Don’t take yourself too seriously. I use silly props to engage my team and keep things light.
  • Kelvin: Host a social event. We did a virtual escape room and cheered each other on.