Even at the best of times, leaders are often faced with challenges they have to deal with.
Whether that challenge is something that was mentioned in the job description or not, as leaders we have a team that will look to us for guidance and answers. Because of this we’re expected to adapt quickly to different situations and environments, whether that’s an internal issue or something happening externally such as industry changes or in the world of business as a whole.
One of the biggest challenges recently for businesses has been the vast amount of changes due to COVID-19. Whereas the current climate is affecting everyone on a global scale, one specific challenge when it comes to leadership and management, alongside financial implications, has been the shift to remote working due to the government’s social distancing guidelines.
In the long list of uncertainties for both our professional and personal lives, working from home has been widely discussed. We are now having to adapt to a way of working that many of us may be completely unfamiliar with. Even if remote working is something you offer in your business, the current landscape is making our usual ‘normal’ feel very different.
Everyone is feeling the pinch with this but if we look specifically at leaders, you are likely having to change the way you manage. How do you continue to manage a team when they aren’t physically in the same building as you? How do you keep staff morale high whilst also ensuring clients and customers are serviced correctly and that your business avoids as many financial hits as possible? Well, there is no one set answer, but there are things you can do to make the journey a little less bumpy.
Having led businesses of various sizes on both a national and international scale, as well as running our leadership training courses, at The Leadership Academy we know a good amount of tricks in the book. The situation we have found ourselves in may be tricky, but you can continue to be the best leader possible even if you are working from a desk at home. Who knows, this may lead to a whole new way of working for you and your team.
We’ve pulled together the below four tips on managing a team that’s working remotely, whether that’s during the COVID-19 situation or something you do every day already.
When looking specifically at our current climate, we’re going through a very scary time and it isn’t just you that needs to adapt to this new way of working, your team has to as well. Aside from the switch in our working environment, widespread media coverage of employees losing their jobs and not being entitled to financial support has left many feeling uneasy.
With this in mind, it’s important to be personable whilst retaining your professional stance where possible. Your team may need a little more reassurance than usual or may be feeling lonely without a team around them and it’s your job to ensure everyone is still communicating and supporting each other where possible.
The power of the video call
Many businesses have switched to video conferencing to keep clients happy and it’s important to ensure you’re looking at this internally as well. This isn’t an opportunity to have meetings just for the sake of it, this allows us to continue to have important meetings and to be able to communicate with a human face rather than via email.
Both now and if remote working is how you usually operate, it’s also worth promoting the occasional digital team lunch or Friday celebration to recognise hard work and any positive news for your business. No matter how small, positive feedback on a Friday is a brilliant way to set your team up for their individual weekends and if you can see their reactions – that’s even better!
Finding a balance
Working from home also presents challenges of not being able to physically see your team working and if they have children at home or aren’t used to working from the comfort of a sofa, concentration may not be as high as it would be in the workplace. However, it’s important to not slip into micro-managing and show your team that you trust them.
Setting deadlines and goals can be a really helpful way to track performance and work quality whilst also providing the opportunity to see if there are any areas where extra support might be needed. Be patient, especially if this is new ground for you, but also make sure you are clear with what you expect.
Just remember, even though you will have hired your team for a variety of reasons, trust is likely a key factor that runs through everyone. Trust that they will continue to provide you with their best work but don’t be afraid to address it if it isn’t up to the usual standard.
Keep updates and communications high – even if there isn’t much to say
Uncertainty fuels anxiety, it’s human nature. This point really mirrors the tips raised in point 1 and 2 in that it’s important to keep communications between the team flowing and that you are keeping everyone updated with what’s happening ‘behind the scenes’ if appropriate.
One tip to keep people communicating could be to set up small groups or a ‘buddy system’ so team members have someone they can regularly catch up with. We’ve even seen businesses host virtual water coolers for the team to share ideas and useful information.
Whether remote working is new to you or not, we hope these tips will help you to manage a team wherever they are. If you are keen to develop your leadership skills even further, why not take a look at our Leadership Development Programme (LDP)? Download our free eBook now to find out more.