23 Apr Don’t be a remote leader!
Don’t be a remote leader!
We have all been encouraged to work from home, and have rapidly set up our home offices, and made our home space also our work space, as well as a home school for many people.
With the pressures a lot of businesses are under it can be easy to keep focus on the task and the urgent stuff that needs your attention. In these challenging times it’s important to think about how we are leading, how we are supporting our team and helping people to keep connected to the organisation.
Data from the Academy of Medical Science details the mental toll that the coronavirus is having on the wellbeing of people within the UK and finds that 24% of respondents to the medical study stated that they had mental health concerns over the lack of contact with others.
One way leaders can help colleagues is to look at the format and way they are connecting with people using the leader connection model I’ve shown below. We have choices of we connect with our teams individually or as a group, and whether that connection is formal, planned and focussed on work, or more spontaneous, informal and more social.
Box 1 – formal and groups – the work meeting. We are all using Zoom or Teams, and I think the purpose of a team meeting is time together to talk through performance, solve problems and build relationships. It’s where we talk about work, ask for help, give updates and solve problems. When you are planning a meeting (web based or face to face) here are a set of questions to consider:
1. Do you want a decision?
2. Do you want to generate ideas?
3. Are you making plans?
4. Are you getting status reports?
5. Are you communicating something?
The more your meeting is about 4 and 5 the higher the potential it is to be dull!
Making meetings more engaging, more collaborative and useful for people will help people feel positive, want to contribute and ultimately mean good outcomes. When you plan your meeting ensure you have a balance, and have a point to ponder in each meeting, something each person can contribute to solving. People want to help, want to share ideas and you can facilitate this happening.
Box 2 – informal and groups – past-timing and chatting with the team are activities that tend to happen when we work in the same location, as we get in in the mornings, in gaps between meetings and calls, or at the end of the day. When we are working remotely these activities can be lost, and we miss out on the social interaction and connection. There are many activities you can do to keep your team engaged and connected. Here are a few:
- Have a team quiz on zoom – you can find great questions on the web, or have each person lead a round
- At your desk exercise – again using zoom or teams have a group 15-minute exercise session from your desks – you can find some great ones on YouTube
- Theme of the day on WhatsApp – favourite film and why, best book ever read, what did you do at the weekend etc
- Friday check out call – a team conversation about how the week has been and hopes for the weekend. This has the additional benefit of encouraging people to stop work.
One big learning for me is when you are using Zoom or Teams for your meeting encourage everyone to be on video, as everyone seeing everyone builds connection. When we come out the other side of this situation it will be these conversations, these activities and good memories that your team will remember about their work experience.
Box 3 – formal and individual – the 121 meetings or the time to talk though one specific challenge. The more these video meetings can be collaborative, the more you listen, coach, invite opinion and work as partners in solving issues, the more productive this time will be. Having adult to adult conversations, sharing and seeking feedback and being encouraging are all indicators of worthwhile conversations. Simply checking in on progress against a task list, asking if stuff has been done, and asking if there are any problems is very transactional. Check your own mindset about others, are you assuming they aren’t delivering? The more you trust people, the more you show kindness and appreciation the more people will know they are trusted and valued.
Again using video conferencing helps to build connection, being able to see each other, observe and notice builds the relationship, and increases the quality of the conversation.
Box 4 – informal and individual – relationship building and connection. When two people have a truthful, sharing vulnerability, open conversation, the relationship deepens. In these challenging times the more we can talk about how we are, how we are coping, our worries and fears, the better it is for our mental health and well-being. The leader’s role is to listen, have empathy, help, and to offer insights. Sharing your own challenges and your own concerns shows understanding, and that it’s normal to be worried right now. Lowering your façade, letting people into your own life deepens the relationship. The key here is to listen first, and get the right balance of being there for your colleague and offer personal disclosure.
I also encourage you to look at the volume of emails you are sending, and reduce it. We are all getting too many emails, and keeping on top of these can feel a huge challenge.
So to summarise reflect on how much time you are spending in each box, and get more balance, and set your intention of being more collaborative, more open and informal.
Next time I will explore how we can still employee engagement in these turbulent times.