Last week I spoke about how to work from home. This time I’m speaking about how you, as a manager or leader, can stay connected with your teams when you are all working in different locations.
There are three main things we need to consider when we work from home – ourselves, our people and our space:
Looking after ourselves
Show some self-compassion
Dr Kristin Neff is one of the world experts on self-compassion. She says there are three elements:
- Self-kindness vs self-judgement – make sure you recognise that life is currently a bit tough and go gently on yourself!
- common humanity vs isolation – as a society we’re all going through COVID19 together. We might be physically isolated but we don’t need to be socially isolated. Make sure you check in on how you personally are doing, as well as how the people in your life are doing. The Calm App is a great tool for asking you to do a daily self check-in.
- mindfulness vs over identification – be aware of your negative emotions, and try not to judge yourself too much!
I’m currently loving Brené Browns new podcast Unlocking Us. In the first episode talks about the FFTs – the fucked first times (sorry not sorry for the swear…). And she reminds us that the first time of all new experiences is bloody hard. First dates, the first time we get behind the steering wheel of a car, the first time we go through a global pandemic…
As managers and leaders we need to be aware that we are all going through the FFTs, so let’s show ourselves some self-compassion!
Be more effective communicators
90% of communication is non-verbal and as we are now physically separated from our people, we lose the opportunity to observe. This means we need to be more proactive with asking and listening. What are you doing to communicate on a regular basis with your people? Are you having daily catchups individually and as a group?
We need to be communicating with clarity, compassion and conviction so our people understand and are engaged.
What are the messages you’re sharing? What are the questions you’re asking? What are the expectations you’re setting?
Dr Louise Schaper CEO of Australian Institute of Digital Health has always managed a remote workforce, that has largely worked from home. Her advice on communicating remotely is to keep it as simple as you can and as frequent as possible.
Keep the communication open with your direct reports, wider teams and YOUR managers and senior leaders and other decision-makers.
How’s your curiosity?
As leaders, we need to ask more questions and show an interest in what’s around us. Organisations such as 3M and Google make time for curiosity – it’s how a scientist at 3M created the post-it note (their biggest seller in case you’re wondering!).
Did you know 3M and Google give employees the freedom to spend 10 to 25 per cent of their work time on products that just catch their fancy? If work is slower for your organisation right now, how can you encourage curiosity? Now might not be the right time, but what about in 3-4 months?
Be curious about your people too – ask them about their new workplace, who are their new workmates – pets, kids, partners, parents etc.
Looking after your people
Think about your culture
What’s your current work culture and how is it going to change? How do you want it to change?
What can you take from your existing culture into the new way of working to provide stability?
If you have a regular team morning tea in the office, can you do it online? Same with regular activities, such as lunches, meetings, etc. What fun things can you do together? Can you all show your pets or wear silly hats, or wear a daggy cardigan?
I reckon culture is going to be critical to keep your people focused on what you want them to achieve, and how they are going to stay focused as a team.
What are you doing to stay connected? Do your people have the right tech, the right tools and the right about of time with you? A good question to ask is “what do you need from me to do your job right now?”
I’d be asking this question every month or so, as the answers will change as we get used to this new way of work. For example, right now they might need time to sort out their kids, time to work out a new routine, a new office chair, some training on how to use the new technology, more data. Over time they might need more training and development, an opportunity for a promotion, an extension on a project timeframe.
In terms of you staying connected with your team, ask them what they need. Do they want a quick text every morning or are they needier? This will probably also change over time.
A huge bonus some of my clients are already telling me about is that they are noticing their team feels closer than ever as they face this challenge together.
What do you need to clarify? Do you need to be clear on boundaries? Work hours? If you have workaholics in your team then what do you need to do to ensure they don’t increase their work hours or work weekends?
And what do your people need clarity on? What are you expecting of them?
The space – physical, online and emotional
Most people will have changed their physical space, probably had changes to the online space (more Zoom calls in a week than in the last year!) and our emotional space has definitely changed!
What changes have you noticed and how are you providing support?
Not everyone will have equal amounts of change, and it’s important to remember this.
What are you doing to create a great space? In your physical space, your online space and in yours and your people’s mental space.
How can you create a physical space that’s conducive to work? This will be easier for those who can have a dedicated work space just for them than it will be for those of your team who need to share their workspace with other people and activities.
In terms of your online space, don’t forget to create “water-cooler” channels online for people to talk about their favorite TV shows, their pets, their holidays, to share cat memes and dad jokes – just as they would talk about these things in the corridors and lunch rooms in your office.
In terms of emotional space, don’t forget to look after your team’s mental health.
Don’t expect everything to stay the same!! However, look at what you can do as a team to create consistencies, rhythm and order. Are their rituals you can instil for yourself and your people? Perhaps it’s a WFH lunch every Wednesday, a morning coffee for 15 minutes every morning, a team check-in every day.
Make sure you don’t forget to give your people permission to be inconsistent too. Especially as we get used to this new way of work.
And encourage people to still do activities they love in their non-work lives – such as exercise, sleep, taking a lunch break. If your workplace offers lunchtime activities such as yoga or lunch and learns, how can you keep these up? Online yoga subscriptions (or free), webinars with guest speakers, regular training and development, regular strategy sessions etc.
A few good resources for managing how we need to work now:
- Donna McGeorge – the First Two Hours and 25-minute meetings
- Darren and Ali Hill – Dealing with the tough stuff
- Nir Eyal – Indistractible
How are you coping with leading a team remotely? Is this the first time you have had to? What is surprising you about it?
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