By Luke Smith
Just weeks ago, our economy was thriving. Unemployment was at a record low. And we were looking forward to spring graduations and weddings, summer vacations, and family reunions.
And then, suddenly, everything changed. Our schools were shuttered, our businesses closed, our towns and cities abandoned.
But, as we retreat to the safety of our homes, life, changed as it is, must go on. That means that, for many of us, remote work is now a necessity.
Suddenly you’re tasked with leading your team under once unimaginable, conditions.
Image Source: Pixabay
You’re going to have to learn, and quickly, how to be both a leader and a counselor, a manager and mediator, a boss, and a cheerleader. This article provides the best tips and tricks you can use today to help you lead during the lockdown.
The first thing to do is just breathe, and to remind your team to breathe as well. We’re all just feeling our way through this unexpected crisis.
So have patience and compassion. Recognize that there will be mistakes. There will be challenges, and your team’s efficiency, productivity, and performance will take a hit.
But that’s okay. It’s only temporary. You and your crew will adjust. Now is not the time, though, to be a taskmaster, to conjure up every rule and regulation, to enforce every performance metric. You’re going to need to throw out the rulebook, or at least set it aside for a while.
Relaxing the rules and being a bit more accommodating with your standards doesn’t mean a free-for-all, however. There’s still important work to be done. In fact, that work can be a saving grace, not only to guide the company through these turbulent times but also to give you and your team something other than COVID-19 to concentrate on for a while.
Staying on task and working together to find specific solutions to help your team work effectively from home will provide a sense of purpose, normalcy, and accomplishment right when we all need it most.
Talk It Out
Leading a virtual team makes good communication essential. Now, more than ever, your team will need you to be responsive and “present,” even if from a distance.
The younger members of your crew, especially millennials and Generation Z, will probably feel pretty comfortable communicating virtually, but they’re not likely to have the patience even to wait on an email. Text and instant messaging, and video calls and conferences, anything that provides nearly instant access, will likely be what they’re needing and expecting.
Older workers, and especially baby boomers, are probably going to have a harder time with the loss of face-to-face interaction. They may also struggle with the technology, so you should be prepared to offer additional support when and if it’s needed.
So, to optimize communication at a distance with your multi-generational team, you’re going to need to use as many tools as possible, from video conferencing to chat and instant messaging.
Help your team to install an instant messaging tool, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, and a collaborative tool, like Hangouts or Asana. Likewise, make sure you have a videoconferencing platform, like Skype Business or Zoom.
These tools aren’t going to be effective if you don’t use them. So require your team to have at least the instant messenger app running whenever they are working and make sure to communicate frequently with your team, individually and in groups, using this app.
Likewise, it’s important to make daily use of your collaborative and videoconferencing tools. Schedule video conferences with your team at least once or twice a week, and use your collaboration tools to set up the daily work agenda for your team.
Be Good to Yourself (and Your Team)
As you and your team enter the brave new world of remote work, you’re going to need to help your team strike the right work/life balance. Unfortunately, when your home is also your office, it can be hard to get the equilibrium just right. The temptation to always be “on-call” can be great.
That, however, is the perfect recipe for burnout. So to protect yourself, and your team, you need to encourage–and to model–self-care. Make sure that you are getting enough exercise and sufficient sleep. Take your lunch break away from mobile devices and laptops and ensure that you and your team set, and adhere to, a definitive end-of-shift time for each work-from-home day.
No question about it: life has suddenly and dramatically changed for us all. And that means that your team, in many ways, will need you to be a different kind of leader as you shepherd them through the transition to telework. But leading differently doesn’t mean leading poorly. You and your team can still be effective, productive, and successful. It just takes a bit of strategy and a lot of patience and understanding.
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.