You didn’t ask for it, you didn’t have time to plan for it, but here you are, trying to keep the team going in the middle of the pandemic.
Switching to 100% remote work requires a major adjustment to how work is managed, but without any prior experience, it can be difficult to anticipate the challenges that your team will face. Things that work in an office don’t always translate exactly to remote employees. The game has changed and the rules need to follow.
One way to adjust your leadership approach to the new reality is by focusing on the 4 Cs: Clarity, Communication, Connection, and Compassion.
Gone are the days where we could just turn around and ask a question, or catch someone in a hallway for a quick update. As the employees are physically separated, lack of clarity equals wasted time and frustration.
Create new rules for remote collaboration:
One of the fastest ways to create clarity is to create new rules for working, TOGETHER with your team, as early as possible.
Using a video conferencing tool with a whiteboard feature is a great way to brainstorm together, and align on a simple set of shared rules and expectations for the team.
Some areas that can be helpful to discuss:
- Best time and frequency for team check-ins
- Use of video during the check-ins
- Different types of support available (Ex: “office hours” for pop-ins, pre-scheduled “1:1s, webinars)
- Expectations around task flow and response times (ex: email must be responded to within 24 hours)
- What to do if is there is an urgent issue? (ex: email for non-urgent, text or call for urgent issues)
- How can team members provide feedback and ask questions.
- Expectations around the availability of team members
Clarify performance expectations:
We all have different ideas of what doing something “well” or “fast” means, or what is “urgent” vs “what can wait”. Working with your team on establishing daily priorities and providing clear examples of what you expect to be done and by when can help your team manage their own time and resources more effectively.
Using video conferencing can help provide instant feedback on whether you are being clear and can help you address any concerns and fill in the blanks and save time and frustration.
As the teams move to remote work, the communication flow changes significantly and that often leads to two issues: lack of communication and miscommunication.
As the hallway conversation and quick in-office chats are replaced by text-based communication, it can become difficult to sense the intent of the message, especially when you are talking to someone you don’t know very well.
Some research shows that as we communicate only 7% of the meaning comes from words, which means that without observing a body language, tone of voice and other non-verbal clues of the sender, it leaves us with over 90% of the message to be open for interpretation. And as many of us are dealing with stress, uncertainty, anxiety, our emotional state can affect how we interpret a message and create communication issues.
Imagine trying to make an important decision with only 7% of the information and 93% of “assumed” information, yet this is what happens when we rely on text-based communication alone.
Using video conferencing as much as possible is one way to address it, however, if it is not an option, picking up the phone can be the next best thing.
If you need to use text-based communication, make an effort to be as clear as possible. For shorter messages, gifs or emojis can help you communicate emotional context and breathe life into “hellos”, “Great jobs” and “thank yous”.
Creating an intentional and consistent communication flow:
As humans, we have a natural desire to fill in the blank and as many are seeing their family members and friends losing jobs or dealing with health issues, natural fears of unknown rise up: “will I lose my job? What happens if I get sick?”
These fears can become a huge energy drainer for employees if they are not addressed proactively. Not everyone is comfortable asking questions, and yet, many share the same concerns.
Do not wait for the employees to bring up their fears, address them proactively. Lack of information about what the leaders are doing means that the employees will fill in the blanks based on assumptions, gut feelings, rumors, and logic.
Yes, the answer may not be perfect or permanent, but there is no better time to overcommunicate to your team any efforts being made by the management to keep the company afloat and save jobs.
Maybe the leaders are looking at cutting costs somewhere else, remortgaging the office, or refocusing sales efforts. Share that with the employees.
Working from home full time can quickly lead to a feeling of loneliness and isolation. Positive social interaction is key to our mental and physical health and prolonged isolation can lead to disengagement, and even anxiety and depression.
It’s an opportunity to become an intentional connector for your teams by proactively creating positive daily interactions.
These interactions can take many forms:
- Interactive team check-ins: preferably where everyone has a camera and a mic on, mimic a natural flow of conversation and provide a glimpse of the colleagues’ personal space.
- Pre-scheduled on-on-ones: This can become one of the best ways to connect with your employees, understand what they are struggling with and how you can support them. Use this time to ask questions and just listen.
- Playtime: There is no better way to connect than having fun together, and even though, you may not be feeling particularly joyful, you can actively create these mini pockets of fun by asking “would you rather” questions, creating team challenges, having a virtual happy hour or even doing a “show and tell”. And if you feel lost, just ask your team for ideas!
This is NOT a typical work from home scenario because in addition to trying to work many of your employees are experiencing all sorts of hardship. You may also be experiencing hardship. This is NOT “business as usual”, so there is no point in treating it as such.
A crisis is just like a magnifying glass. People are hurting, people are scared and little things become big things: good and bad.
This is not the time for perfection, it is time for compassion and empathy. It’s about making an effort to see the situation from your employees’ point of view, showing that you care and meeting them where they are.
Self-compassion matters just as much. You may be doubting your abilities as a leader right now or maybe you are feeling isolated and defeated, struggling to find ways to get your team to deliver results and stay engaged while trying to care for your family and worrying about the future.
Focus on activities and tasks that are within your control as much as possible to create a sense of accomplishment and progress, and have trust in your team. You got this!
? What are your tips on leading from home?