How to lead during COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has struck and your entire team, who normally works 10 feet away from you, is now completely remote. If you’ve never had a remote team or it’s simply been a while since you’ve led one, don’t panic. This is one situation you can master with a few easy tips.
You already know the building blocks for a great leader: empathy, trust, mentorship, etc. Well, to be a great remote leader, you’ll channel those same skills. Don’t let the thought of virtual meetings and management throw you off—you have all the tools you need to lead your remote team successfully and now is the time to tap into them.
Even the most proficient laissez-faire leaders must make a few adjustments when their team is working remotely. Each employee handles working from home differently. For some, it’s a challenge to stay on task and for others, it’s hard to peel away from the computer for fresh air. Here are 10 ways to keep your entire team connected and productive during this time of change:
1. Encourage your team (and yourself) to “get ready” for work each day. Put yourself in a constructive headspace by going through your normal routine as if you were going into the office. You may dress a bit more comfortably than formal business attire, but keep in mind that a video chat with a client or team member is only a click away.
2. Structure your day effectively. When you’re in the office, you have back-to-back meetings and high-priority projects. Try not to lose that momentum just because you’re working at home. Block off time on your digital calendar to work on specific projects, just as you would for calls and meetings.
3. Double down on phone calls. Now is the time to rely less on email and text and focus more on phone conversations. If you find yourself replying to an email or text more than once, make a call. Not only will it lend itself to more clarity on the subject at hand, but it provides a higher level of engagement and reduces feelings of isolation.
4. Triple down on video conferencing. Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, the application doesn’t matter, but the benefits of seeing your team members face-to-face does! We often take for granted how much body language plays a role in communication. Video chatting gives you a better gauge on how your employees are faring and creates more fluid communication. Plus, it’s another reason to get out of your PJ’s!
5. Keep up with standing meetings. Now is not the time to forgo regularly scheduled meetings. Your team wants to feel supported and connected during times of uncertainty. If you have weekly one-on-ones and team meetings, keep those on the books and send clear communication to attendees on how to connect at the scheduled meeting time.
6. Lead with trust. It’s easy to fall into a trap of micromanagement when leading a remote team. Simply delegating isn’t entrusting. Give direction, set expectations, provide authority rights and ownership and let your team deliver results!
7. Listen better and ask more questions. When you meet in-person, you pick up on nonverbal cues throughout a discussion, but a phone conversation doesn’t give you that same opportunity. Take time to draw out genuine feelings and opinions when working with colleagues or team members. Otherwise, you may run the risk of employees becoming frustrated, feeling detached or disengaged.
8. Continue to give feedback, even if it’s criticism. Out of sight, out of mind makes it easier to sidestep uncomfortable conversations. Draw upon your emotional intelligence and have those challenging talks with candor and compassion. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should avoid giving feedback to help your employees perform at their best.
9. Setup in-person meetings. When it’s safe to do so, plan time for the team to get together. Industry conferences, annual business planning and year-end celebrations can all be an opportunity to gather in-person. Plus, it’ll give your employees something to look forward to.
10. Foster an environment of shared leadership. Find ways to involve team members in leadership activities. Give them an opportunity to lead a virtual meeting or coach others in an area where they excel. When you onboard new team members, assign them to a mentor. This will not only increase engagement, but it’ll create room for growth and development.
You know the old saying, “two heads are better than one?” It applies to leading a remote team. You have employees on your team for a reason—they bring knowledge and capabilities that support your team goals. Don’t let being remote hold you back from brainstorming, collaborating and giving constructive criticism to help your team succeed. Give them a chance to surprise you! Working remotely could lead to even more efficiencies and creative outcomes than when in the office.
Scott A. Pederson, chief marketing officer at Delta Dental of Arizona, has more than 10 years of experience successfully leading remote teams at various Fortune 500 companies.