AMA’s New Management Series Ask The Experts Debuts with Tonya Echols

Published: Jun 09, 2020
Modified: Jun 11, 2020


By AMA Staff

Creating a Virtual Motivational Environment, AMA’s initial discussion in its new Ask the Experts Online Management Series, recently premiered on May 20th. It was moderated by Dorothy Deming, Director of Education, Content and Operations at AMA, and the guest expert was Tonya Echols, Executive Coach and Leadership Consultant of Vigere.

AMA’s innovative (and free) weekly thought leadership series spotlights business experts from AMA’s celebrated faculty of business practitioners. The series focuses on vital topics, strategies, and skills to help professionals embrace the new, often undefined realities of doing business, overcome COVID-19 challenges, and respond effectively to momentous change.

In this kick-off webcast, Ms. Deming explained the first topic and its timing by saying,

“We’re talking about virtual motivation because it’s something everyone needs. We need it now for engagement, for productivity, and to get results when we have more lean organizations.”

Deming introduced Ms. Echols to listeners and asked for her perspective on working virtually. “This is an opportunity to reset,” Echols said. “This is a time to learn about your teams, to ask ‘What gets you excited?’ We may have to redefine what motivation looks like. This isn’t just a change or disruption in our work.”

Echols further explained that leaders need to know what their values are, because they’re going to be challenged. “This is where we really all need to step into a new level of leadership,” she said. “We have to make sure we’re being present and intentional, and providing a lot of clarity for how we want our teams to function.”

Since traditional employee break rooms are largely on hold for now, Echols suggested leaders “create time for people to connect. There aren’t these natural social interactions anymore, so we need to be human.”

When asked what she’s hearing most often from organizations now, Echols replied, “Just this overall uncertainty about ‘How do we move forward?’” Along with that is the uncertainty about job security and furloughs, as well as the need for a new level of strategy.

Offering some strategies for managing the unknown, Echols said, “The first area is mindset, understanding this is an unusual time and it’s happening to everyone. This is a time to build community and connections. Try to innovate based on how things are now, as opposed to how they were. Think about how we can engage our teams in different ways.”

Some of the ways she suggested doing this include setting time aside to just “sit online” and encourage your team to “drop by” virtually and talk about anything. She also recommended switching up technology and connecting in different ways, not having everything done on camera, and letting some interactions be more like a natural business encounter, such as messaging via Slack, an alternative email platform.

“Many people are also concerned about what their careers will now look like,” Echols observed. “We also need to give people the opportunity to train—especially with employees who are high-potential, or need to grow and develop. Give them access to people and meetings and assignments they might not normally be doing. Find out what gets them excited.”

“Everyone has different motivators, and it’s okay,” concluded Deming. “That’s what we love as managers and leaders—we love the diversity of talent that we have because that’s what makes a great organization.”

Echols summed up by saying, “Don’t forget the human factor. Different people are managing this crisis in very different ways. Make sure you model the behavior to help them find what works best for them.”

Learn more about AMA’s Ask the Experts Online Management Series, and explore a wide range of development opportunities for your team.