This virus, and the impact it’s had on disrupting our daily routines, is unprecedented. Over the past week our entire workforce has been sent home and everyone’s trying to figure out how to navigate this new work environment.
The primary concern for me as a leader when a situation like this presents itself is figuring out how we can effectively help each other move through the stress and fear so that our team-members feel supported. Motivation and accountability come next, once the supported box is checked.
In the last few years my Leadership Development team has built its virtual capabilities by doing a majority of our work remotely (my team is in New York, Connecticut and Indiana)…and wow, who knew that we were actually preparing for a moment like this. Even though there are so many new variables added to this work-at-home equation, I wanted to share some tips I have learned by being a part of a collaborative and healthy virtual team.
One thing I have learned is that distance has a way of magnifying challenges in relationships and that when working from home it is harder to address challenges. Concerns can drag on longer and this ultimately can have negative outcomes on our productivity.
Why does this happen? The simple answer is, when working remotely, communication can easily decrease.
Just like in face to face team meetings, the success of any team is determined by the quickness in which we can communicate concerns/obstacles/problems and the way we are able to create actionable and viable solutions. Creating a safe environment where communication is transparent and timely will, most certainly, increase a team’s effectiveness.
So how do we do this virtually? Well, don’t underestimate the influence you have on your team’s ability to engage in dialogue and create a collaborative virtual culture.
Here are 6 things you can do:
- Establish Structured Check-ins
This is essential to staying connected with your team-members. A scheduled team meeting time each week as well as your 1 on 1 meetings are key. However, in a crisis mode, be prepared to increase your meeting frequency. For example, since Covid-19, my team has decided to meet each day at 1pm for our daily check-ins. This allows us to get the latest tactical information from the organization, share what we are working on and give each other support with challenges.
- Take Personal and Professional Pulse
When connecting virtually, many leaders just want to get right to business and be done. However, building in time to hear how your team-members are doing personally can really help you get clarity about their situation. Once we can connect personally, we are better able to move forward productively. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time—we simply start our meetings with a quick scale of one to ten check in, and then move on.
- Lay Out Clear Expectations/Clarify Goals and Roles
Getting clear on what the team is trying to attain and what each team-member’s role is in accomplishing that needs to be continually addressed. It is essential to get buy-in and allow team-member’s ideas to help define these expectations and goals. By prioritizing this we can increase the likelihood of team-members success in completing their tasks.
- Focus on Outcomes More than Time
Now that we are working remotely, there are so many more variables that can impact the time of our team-members. We must start from a mindset of respect for whatever situation our team-members are in. Micromanagement is hardly ever a winning strategy, and that holds true even more in the virtual world. As we lead in a virtual world, we want to focus on the viable outcomes our team-members can produce and we want to support them in achieving these outcomes.
- Promote Personal Relationship Building
It is essential to continue building our teams by going beyond just the work we do to acknowledge the value of deepening personal bonds. Figure out ways for your team to have “water cooler type” conversations so the team can continue to strengthen relationships and find inspiration.
- Model, Model, Model
As a leader we must always role model what we want others to do. In order to improve communication in virtual situations, if we commit to doing tips 1 through 5 then the chances of our team and organizations succeeding will rise.