Staying connected through COVID

Gavin Jackson, Head of BASF Agricultural Solutions – Australia & New Zealand 

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means that many of us are working in new ways. While social distancing restrictions may prevent regular business interactions, it is important to stay connected to both colleagues and customers during this challenging time. Here Gavin Jackson, Head of BASF Agricultural Solutions Australia and New Zealand, shares how he and his team are communicating through COVID.

Lead with honesty and authenticity
“With so much uncertainty in the world, it’s more important than ever to lead with honesty, transparency and authenticity,” begins Gavin. As an agricultural veteran with over 30 years’ experience in the industry, Gavin is no stranger to challenging circumstances, however he says the current COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything he’s experienced before.

“In my working life I’ve faced droughts, bushfires, floods and financial crises but never anything like what we’re going through at the moment. While we’re currently in the fortunate position where our people are considered essential workers and are able to continue to work, it’s important to remember that many are still facing significant challenges with family members out of work, health concerns and difficulties working from home,” he continues.

“As a leader, it’s really important to have frequent and honest conversations with your people to understand their individual circumstances and provide as much transparency around the business context as is possible.”

Email effectively
No stranger to an overflowing inbox, Gavin says physical separation can lead to email overdrive. “One of the biggest complaints I’m hearing from my team at the moment is ‘I’m getting bogged down with emails,’” he explains. “Now is the time to brush up on your email etiquette.”

When emailing, Gavin encourages his team to always include a clear and relevant subject line, ensure that the content of the email is concise, and if the message is getting too long to stop typing and pick up the phone. Gavin also suggests placing the main points at the start of the email, cc’ing in as few people as necessary and only hitting ‘reply all’ when it is essential.

Don’t stop communicating
Just because you may not be able to physically meet with customers or team members, Gavin says it is important that you continue to communicate regularly and get creative with how you do this.

When it comes to internal meetings, Gavin suggests virtual meetings are most effective when a clear agenda is set at the start of the meeting, participants join before the meeting starts to iron out technology issues and the host pauses between comments to allow everyone to contribute. When bandwidth allows, Gavin also suggests using video can help build rapport and limit participants speaking over each other.

Finally, Gavin stresses that informal catch ups and sessions should not be overlooked. “At BASF we’re staying connected and socialising through virtual coffee breaks, Microsoft Teams pages, weekly trivia and online wellbeing sessions. These activities are a great way to stay connected outside of business needs and help instil a touch of normality to our days,” he concludes.