It is safe to say, that for the first time in the age of technology, ad hoc face-to-face meetings are no longer an option for many people. While we don’t anticipate in-person meetings to go away forever, working during the COVID-19 crisis does provide us with the opportunity to reflect on how the best leaders succeed in virtual environments.
For many, working from home, and communicating through digital mediums like Slack, Zoom, Google meet and WebEx, are nothing new. Many business models have supported virtual work for years as a necessity to accommodate employees and clients in various locations. Still, while technology has improved our ability to get work done and communicate remotely, we have not yet been forced to develop a set of best practices for leading remote teams at the capacity that has been brought on by this crisis
First, it’s important to be aware of the factors that make working together virtually such a challenge:
- Interpersonal dynamics are harder to manage
- Easily losing people’s attention
- New skills are required, from you
- Accessibility is itself an issue
With these factors as a backdrop, we need to ask ourselves five questions to ensure best leadership practice while managing team from home.
Am I being strategic enough?
Strong leaders practice strategic communications in every interaction, be it a full-day meeting, an hour-long meeting, a sales call, a one-on-one check-in, or even an email. But communicating virtually requires even more strategic planning because we can’t rely as much on human connection or charisma to carry us. Before every exchange, take time to think about the purpose, audience, and the context of the exchange. Then write down those objectives, agenda, and the amount of time we want to spend on each item. It helps to make the objectives broader than usual.
Have I revamped communication plans for my direct team and the organization at large?
Moving operations virtual means that it’s time to revisit and potentially revamp our communication protocols with direct reports, employees, board members, and any other audiences you regularly work with. For example, we must now think about how we will run your weekly check-ins with team members. Will you hold these meetings by phone, over slack, or schedule a video call? While best practice says video is best, we may need to adjust our approach based on the preferences of individuals. The same goes for meetings with clients and other stakeholders.
- Mode of communication (i.e. video, phone, slack)
- Meeting cadence (i.e. weekly, monthly)
- Meeting agenda (i.e. team building, check-ins)
- Meeting participants (i.e. managers, board members)
How might I reset roles and responsibilities to help people to succeed?
Some people thrive while working remotely, while others may feel a lack of motivation or encounter other unforeseen challenges. Though it may not be apparent who is struggling at first, as a leader, it’s our job to check in regularly with team members about how they are coping. During our one-on-ones, ask: “How are things going for you? What challenges are you facing? What do you think you need to be successful? How can I, or the team, help?”
Am I keeping my eye on (and communicating about) the big picture?
When we are working remotely, it’s easy to focus solely on the tactical, to stay glued to our computer, fielding email after email, in an earnest, unorganized fashion. With our to-do list looming in front of us, and no colleagues to pull out of our head, we may be tempted to stay buried in the weeds. But people rely on leaders for direction, especially during uncertain times. This means, no matter how many small tasks are clogging our calendar, we need to be able to pick our head up and keep one eye on the bigger picture.
What more can I do to strengthen our company culture?
Many of the most resilient leaders feels it is important to find opportunities to align, engage, and inspire their teams around a purpose. Right now, teams need to feel connected, not only to the company’s mission but also to each other.
One way to accomplish this is to regularly set aside time for team members to highlight and share wins delivered either to customers, each other, or to the business itself. If well-crafted, we can tie the “bright spot” sharing to the company’s vision, mission, or values, reiterating the importance or the organization’s purpose and the essential role that everyone plays in achieving it. If meeting time is tight, a slack page, a quick email or another type of non-verbal communication can also be used.
Is there a silver lining to our current business environment? we all know the answer. The leadership skills we are building now will continue to serve us even after COVID-19. There is no going back to exactly where we were before. New opportunities will open up — maybe full virtual workforces on a level we’ve never seen. And thanks to an unforeseen time in our history, we should be ready for it, with new skills in place to truly lead, whether from home or the office, more effectively than before.
Source : HBR Article on “5 Questions that (Newly) Virtual leaders should ask themselves”