Finding Focus When Communications Soar

13 NOV 2020

A recent Harvard Business School study on digital communication during the pandemic reports that their days included more communications and meetings than before. Respondents reported attending more meetings, writing more e-mails, and working longer—in fact, a whopping 48.5 minutes more. With these increased communications, how is it possible to truly stay focused on any given task?

We asked our six Crain’s Rising Stars in Banking & Finance honorees how they keep themselves and their teams motivated and focused, and whether this new working environment has changed how they manage or communicate.


Cosmo

Managing Director, Investment Banking Division
Mergers & Acquisitions, Consumer and Technology sectors 

“The increased velocity and frequency of client conversations over the last few months have been great. I’ve found that with my team there is a real sense of being in this together whether we are working at home, in the office, or some combination of the two.”

 


Darren
Managing Director, Global Markets Division
Head of EMEA and LatAm Structured Financing, Investing and Lending

“The biggest challenge I’ve found has been on the management side, as you start to appreciate the impromptu conversations you can have with people in the office from time to time. With the change in the work environment, special attention has to be paid to make sure you’re making yourself available for non-transactional or task-oriented conversations with team members, that you’re maintaining appropriate coordination with team members as well as up the chain, and that you’re checking in proactively with team members so people continue to feel engaged in the broader group strategy.”

 


Jemma

Vice President, Firmwide Strategy
Head of Launch With GS

“You’d have to ask my team, but I actually think that this new working environment hasn’t changed how I communicate or manage – it has just changed the medium by which we all communicate. I’ve found hosting “office hours,” where I leave my Zoom open during a designated hour each week for the team to pop in and out, to be an effective way to touch base with people. Sometimes it’s work-related, but more often than not, the drop-ins are for general conversations or for brainstorming ideas.”

 


Jerry

Managing Director, Investment Banking Division
Global Healthcare Group, global biotechnology and pharmaceuticals landscape

“We’re living and working through an unprecedented time in modern society, and many of the ways in which we’ve changed our management and communication styles may be here to stay. It’s incredibly important to stay even closer to your teams – and despite how over-Zoomed we might feel with client obligations, the human aspects of connecting with your teammates over video is critical – even more often than before. Take the time outside of that internal prep session or external client call to reach out unexpectedly just to say hello and connect – these days, when you ask “how are you?”, you’re actually likely to get a substantive response that brings you closer together.”
 


Moran

Managing Director, Global Markets Division
Manager of the Index Derivatives Trading desk in New York

“Communicating with the team is critical – we have an all-day Zoom to make sure our traders are aligned, and we use Symphony to communicate with our stakeholders. We are seeing more scale from our client connectivity, as virtual meetings can increase efficiency. The silver lining of this difficult period is it has accelerated the adoption of technology, even in the most traditional Sales and Trading functions. The time formerly spent commuting and travelling now allows the flexibility to re-prioritize family and wellness. Our ability to be productive from home and satellite offices may have positive long-term ramifications for work/life balance for everyone.”
 


Rebecca

Managing Director, Investment Banking Division
Investment Banking Services (IBS) representative in the Natural Resources sector

“Finding new ways to keep the team connected has been key. In this world where none of us are together in person, and especially as we integrate new people into the firm, phone calls are better than email, and Zoom is better than phone calls. Zoom calls have been a great way to maintain connectivity and in some ways deepen connections with people – getting a glimpse into how people work from home and all the uniqueness that brings can personalize things quickly! We’re continually finding new best practices – frequent check-ins, group bonding activities – that I’m looking forward to maintaining when we’re all in the office together again soon.”


Finally, we asked our colleagues for their best productivity hack.  Here’s what they said:

 

Cosmo
"Don’t let your calendar own you! Make sure to block off time during the day to step back, think, and prioritize."

Jemma
“Take walking meetings. I think the conversation changes when you break out of a formal setting and make the dialogue more natural. I’ve suggested to colleagues and to entrepreneurs that rather than contribute to the everlasting Zoom fatigue, we change our catch ups to walking phone calls so that we can catch up while getting some exercise. In many cases, people have told me that I’m the only reason they got outside that day!”

Jerry
“Not necessarily a productivity hack, but I go back to trying to listen more than talk. This may sound simple, but really being present and tuning into what clients are expressing can be more challenging than just thinking about your next line or rebuttal. With nearly all interactions being virtual these days, really listening in - sometimes between the lines - helps me to better understand the challenges that clients are facing, and how we can help.”

Rebecca
“If you’re having trouble getting motivated, start with an easy task to cross off your to-do list, and let the momentum build from there. Focus on what really matters, and put trust in your team.”