Whilst there is much data to ponder around COVID-19, there is little that provides guidance to leaders on how they can be most effective during this time. So here’s my view of two areas I think are of particular importance.
1. How to Lead your team through the COVID-19
Whether you are in the supermarket (a sudden reminder of how we used to shop for many) or in the office – it is the new topic, where your leadership will make a significant impact
We are already seeing some businesses adopt more flexible working and it is likely to continue for a period of time. It is quite possibly your team will be required to work remotely at times, perhaps without the clarity about when things may return to ‘normal’. Your ability to enable your team to continue to be effective, regardless of where they work, is critical to sustained performance.
Leading through COVID-19 – ‘Top tips’
1. Lead by example with ‘Reality & Hope’
We know that your team watch everything you do and at times like this – you are even more under the spotlight. Your job at this point is to convey calm and a sense of perspective about ‘what this means to us’ and actively seek ways to de-escalate any temptations to be pulled into negative discussion. You possibly know the people in your team who’s ‘half empty’ way of looking at things (whilst keeping you safe on a number of occasions) will need more management at this time. Seek them out and help reframe their thinking by offering a positive alternative way at looking at things. Get them inside ‘your thought tent’
2. More communication than normal ‘Make it personal’
During times of uncertainty it’s even more important to keep communicating – even if you have limited ‘new’ information. People who feel as informed as possible (regardless of where they physically are) are less likely to look ‘in the shadows’ to fill any gaps. Particularly look to help them understand what you expect from them during this time and YOUR view of what it means for ‘us’. Don’t just use email – mix it up – it’s very easy to lose the ‘personal’ touch in emails.
3. Focus & Progress ‘Spotlight’
Re-emphasising your purpose and your priorities as a team right now is critical. Keep them focussed by sharing more than usual the progress the team are making and the contribution you make as a team – keep shining the positivity light to prevent a loss of focus. Celebrate everyday success and shift any temptation to move into ‘Survival mode’. Provide an external lens to lift their heads and consider ‘what the competition is doing’ and ‘what this means for our customers and partners’
Remote leadership – ‘Top Tips’
1. Monitor results and quickly get out of the way
‘I’m not sure having all of your team working from home will work – I can’t see they’ve made any progress’ (we love an exaggerated position) – sound familiar? Overcome any effectiveness concerns quickly. Set clear and well understood objectives and deliverables and give people the room to do their jobs (albeit with the support they each need to succeed). Make progress more visible to both to your team and to your seniors and peers than you probably feel necessary.
2. Get the team involved in ‘virtual’ meetings
‘I’d like to go round each of you for an update on key projects’. I actually even found that difficult to write – the reason why – this is one of the MOST boring/energy sapping/dull types of meeting I ever remember having when I had a ‘proper job’ – even face to face. Virtually these must be interactive, capture the spirit as much as you can of being in the office, to keep people energised and engaged. Here’s some thoughts on how you might do this
- Pose a question to stimulate interactive debate e.g. ‘What opportunities have been created by this situation’?
- Revolve the chair, experience different approaches – get them doing the work for you and gaining experience of what it might be like to do your job
- Include an element of learning (possibly a focus on a technical skill or soft skill) to break up some of the more operational content.
- Consider ways to generate some form of virtual ‘social’ activity? Something FUN?
- Leverage the creativity and skills within the team to allow people to ‘shine & impress’
3. Check what’s getting in their way
Worth exploring what the team feel they are ‘missing out on’ e.g. building relationships, sense of belonging, team working, social interaction. Building empathy and uniting the team around common challenges will help build trust and a sense of ‘WE’ not ‘I’. You might consider developing a best practice tool kit for them too, this might include:
- Ways to structure their day
- Importance of taking regular breaks
- Creating a ‘work’ space at home – avoiding working from the ‘sofa’
- How to ‘turn-off’ at the end of the day – both the laptop and their mind
- Getting ready for work (physically and mentally) – yes I’m referring to taking off pyjamas