Managing your team is quite different than it was a month ago as many people find themselves working from home for extended periods for the first time. The Coronavirus crisis has shuttered the economy while those who are still able to work are doing so from home.
Home as Headquarters
Even before COVID-19 hit, thanks to technology such as high-speed internet and better teleconferencing tools, more people were already transforming their homes to their workplace. Google reports that mobile searches for “remote jobs” had increased by 210% over the last two years. And a Global Workplace Analytics analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data between 2005 and 2018 found that working at home has grown by 173% between 2005 and 2018 and that “5 million employees (3.6% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.” Those figures even exclude the self-employed.
But 3.6% of the workforce is nothing compared to what we’re experiencing now with the current stay at home orders in place. That means leaders need to know how to deal with their newly remotely teams – and their emotions. You may need to pivot and adjust your own leadership style as you manage your team in the upcoming weeks and months. Your team is looking to you for structure, direction and support. Here are eight techniques managers can employ to successfully manage their teams from afar.
- Check-In More Often
A daily check-in may have been overkill in an office setting, but now that your team is working remotely, it could be essential. Depending on the size of your team, set daily or weekly meetings simply to touch base. Talk about what was challenging for them the day before, what accomplishments they are proud of and what may have surprised them about living in this new world.
It doesn’t have to be a long meeting; take 10 to 15 minutes to come together and say hello, ask how they are, build intimacy, find something inspiring and allow people to lean on one another. During this time when everyone is panicked and scared, you can be the leader they trust. Research on emotional intelligence show that employees look to their managers for cues on how they should react to crisis situations. By staying solid through this time of sudden change, you will create stronger followership.
- Use Video
Conference calls were the norm before the virus hit, but you should switch your meetings to teleconference now. Your team may be wearing sweatpants without any makeup, but having a visual connection to each other will help everyone be more engaged and encourage interaction. It could also increase productivity as well since it’s hard to multi-task while on video.
- Reflective Listening
Remote or not, every leader needs to be an active listener. That means mastering the verbal and non-verbal cues that let the other person know you are available, ready to pay attention and interested in what they are saying. In addition to that – and especially important during teleconferences – is a communication skill called mirroring or reflective listening. Just like a mirror works, the manager verbally reflects back to the sender words that let them know that the message was received.
Slow down the cadence of your virtual meetings, even the speed of your talking, so that participants feel like there is more time to talk and that they are being deeply heard. You can still get done what needs to be accomplished during the meeting, but it will feel different – like a refreshing and connective break that’s desperately needed right now. It may extend your meetings by a few minutes, but you might find it so refreshing you keep up the practice even once we are able to return to our offices!
- Invest in Personal Conversations
We need human connection right now more than ever and that can be hard to achieve via a virtual setting. Start off your team meetings with some personal conversations. Ask them what’s going on with their family, their pets, their newfound hobbies, even what they are binge-watching on Netflix. It’s a great way to start the day on a positive note, but you must be authentic so that it doesn’t seem to your employees that you are checking off a box. These personal conversations will eventually build trust and lead to stronger collaboration.
- Talk about the Tough Stuff
Video can be particularly useful for sensitive or complex conversations since it feels more personal than an email or a phone call. A lack of physical presence can make it easier to avoid these crucial conversations, but that doesn’t serve you or your team. Don’t be afraid to give direct feedback or address a conflict virtually if necessary. Call a meeting with the necessary players to address the issue and get everything out in the open.
- Show Empathy
Now is the time to really understand the context of your employees’ work experience in the moment. It’s changed for everyone, and that brings new challenges. Ask them questions about what they are feeling and try to help them remove obstacles to achieve their goals. Talk about what they miss most while we are being forced to stay at home. Show your support and be available so that your staff feels nurtured and taken care of.
- Create Playfulness
Every week or two try to create some playfulness in your staff gatherings. Create a virtual event such as a shared lunch, happy hour or host a pizza party and have pizza delivered to all of your team members at the time of the teleconference. Invite your team to join a group yoga class together online, or take some time during your regular meetings to do something silly like introduce your pet or wear your ugliest sweatshirt. Ask for ideas from your team so that you can use their creativity, and make it fun!
- Remember Gratitude
Even during times of crisis, it’s essential to take a step back and reflect on the positive things in our lives, the things that we can be grateful for. Parts of our lives that we used to take for granted are now viewed differently because of the virus. Help your employees process the current time by looking at their lives through a grateful lens and help them realize that they have the power to transform a loss into a potential gain. Try “grateful recasting,” which is recalling a positive aspect of a negative event. It’s been proven to help heal disturbing memories, and this exercise will help you have a positive outlook as well!
Use this time of remote work to build a deeper connection with your colleagues and staff. At the same time, as a leader in a remote environment, you have to be a lot more introspective in order to be present for your team. We can help you gain clarity with our new stress management workshop. This virtual setting is intended to give people the tools to stay mentally fit during this crisis. We’re all in this together, so let’s support one another virtually but personally.