How to Lead During a Crisis: Transparency, Communication and Time

Sponsored by Lumen

Lindy Puttkammer

Photo courtesy of Lumen.

Profile Picture
Fairygodboss
April 19, 2024 at 2:28AM UTC

Lindy Puttkammer serves as the vice president of human resources at Lumen, a global technology company that integrates adaptive networking, edge computing, connected security and collaboration services.

Puttkammer leads the people strategies for Lumen’s customer success, wholesale, and international organizations. She’s responsible for leading the international HR function, supporting teams across 37 countries. Lindy also leads Lumen’s global response to COVID-19 and the company’s return-to-office strategies, working with a cross-functional team.

“Be flexible,” she tells Fairygodboss about her advice for leading through tough times. “During a time of crisis and uncertainty, the reality is you will not have all the answers, and you need to adapt and react to the dynamic situation. Your peers, broader network and the employees you lead will need different levels of support.”

Lindy adds that transparency and communicating early and often are key. It’s okay to not have the answers, she explains, but focus on bringing people along the journey with you. 

We caught up with Puttkammer to learn more about her role with Lumen — and how she’s had to adapt her leadership style throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paint a picture of a typical day for me. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up and the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

I would love to say I don’t check my email first thing in the morning and checking email is not the last thing I do before I go to sleep, but unfortunately, it is what I do. BUT I always make room for family time with the kids. I believe it is vital to stay grounded in why we do what we do.

Given the overall nature of the pandemic and the environment we’re in, the volume of work is often high and requires many of us to do more than our “typical” day job. We need to be flexible enough to adapt.

How have you had to adjust your leadership style during the pandemic?

The pandemic has forced most leaders to adjust their style to a greater degree than we have ever done in the past, not only with the teams we lead but with our broader internal and external networks. 

Leading with empathy is even more critical when you have employees with vast differences in their experiences. This is true not only at work but at home. It’s important to give people a little more grace, to take the time to truly hear what is going on and lean in more than you may have in the past. Sometimes that one simple phone call, personal thank you note or offer to help has a much broader impact than you may think. 

What strategies have you used that have been most effective in promoting connectivity across your team?

I’m very fortunate to work with a great group of people across the globe. Like many teams, we focus on a regular cadence of all-hands meetings, readouts, skip-level meetings and 1:1 sessions. Consistency, connectivity, and cameras have been key.

Leveraging technology has helped us stay connected through some difficult times. We’ve also taken time to care for ourselves and learn more about the different cultures on our team. My entire team continues to work from home, and I’ve often heard it feels like the playing field has been leveled for those who may be remote from our main office locations.

Across industries, reports show that women are experiencing increasing levels of burnout. How do you keep your employees motivated?

I do believe burnout is a real problem and will continue to be a challenge for companies to address. I’ve leveraged several techniques with my team and have seen other leaders implement a wide array of ideas that have been received very positively, such as:

  • Blocking out time for meetings and giving it back to employees as “me” time in the middle of the day

  • Additional time off

  • Remote yoga and mindfulness sessions

  • Comedy and live music sessions

  • Pet and kid days

  • No-meeting days

  • Talent shows

These ideas can give a lift to employees, but some of the best things a leader can do are to help employees prioritize and focus on the work that has the biggest impact (which means it’s okay to stop some work). It’s also important to provide flexibility as needed and help support employees through this dynamic environment (and know that one approach doesn’t work for all). 

Managing people — especially remotely— is not easy. How has Lumen helped set you up for success? 

Lumen has always had a very dispersed workforce with very few teams that are all co-located, so managing remotely isn’t a new thing for all leaders at Lumen. With that said, there is an appreciation for the additional challenges leaders are facing, so we’ve intentionally focused on leadership enablement and ensuring we are bringing leaders along with us as we continue to navigate the pandemic and our new normal. 

We implemented a manager pop-up call very early on in the pandemic to support leaders in managing their teams; provide timely and critical information and resources; and create a forum for managers to engage directly with senior leaders to address topics that are top of mind for them.

Additionally, what resources or support has your company offered employees during the pandemic? 

Our No. 1 priority throughout the pandemic has been the safety of our employees, which includes their overall well-being. We implemented programs very quickly to address the challenges employees faced, including:

  • The Navigate Together Program, which:

    • promotes employee well-being, support mechanisms and resources for mental and physical health 

    • provides resources for employees to help them thrive, achieve goals and be productive 

    • is focused on engagement and how to navigate during difficult times

  • Lumen’s Employee Well-Being ERG, which focuses on the emotional, physical and financial wellness of Lumen people globally

  • Education forums; including on vaccines

  • Emergency paid time off

  • Enhanced employee assistance program (EAP) benefits

  • A workplace safety guide

  • Vaccine incentives

In addition, the needs of our employees vary from region to region, so we took a localized approach as needed. For example, with the outbreak in India in 2021, we implemented Home Care Treatment coverage for COVID-19, formed a critical care group to assist in finding 24/7 hospital and ambulance services, and established an India COVID-19 resource. 

We’ve also provided our people additional education sessions on prevention, vaccinations, and mental health.

How is this kind of support reflective of the overall culture at Lumen? 

Lumen embraces a culture of inclusion, which includes empowering our employees to be good neighbors and a positive influence in the world. At the onset of the pandemic, the passions of our Lumen team were also supported through the formation of the COVID-19 Relief Campaign, which matched employee donations to several community-based organizations. These included global United Way Worldwide, United Nations Foundation and Action Against Hunger, which serve communities globally, as well as Feeding America, the CDC Foundation, and the American Red Cross. 

What is your favorite way to destress outside of work? 

My family and I love to travel, which has obviously been a challenge during the last few years. Living in the Denver, Colorado area, we try to get to the mountains and enjoy skiing when we can. I also love attending my kids’ sporting and school events.  

--

Fairygodboss is proud to partner with Lumen. Find a job there today!

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always