Leadership In The Age of COVID

We are living in strange times. Everyone who can work from home is doing so to protect themselves and their communities. This creates new challenges for managers who now must oversee teams from a distance and keep them motivated and productive, and not just lounging at home in their bathrobes watching “Tiger King.” Mangers can transition from their traditional role to one in a virtual space by doing a few certain things. 

Communicate Frequently

You need to be checking in with every member of your team at least once a day. The best way to do this is with a video chat. Yes, you can do it over the phone or via email, but a video chat requires more attention to be paid, and for your team members to interface with you directly and let you know what work is being done. Also, it can be helpful for morale when people are isolated to have somewhat face to face interactions on a regular basis. 

There are many video conferencing software programs available for a minimal cost. Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams are all being utilized widely in a variety of industries. Find the one that works best for your team and set it up as your primary method of communication. 

Keep or Create Routines

Routines are important especially in times of crisis. They help us feel normal as the world seemingly burns around us. If you have a daily standup meeting in your traditional office move it to your online meeting space. If there is a certain way that you celebrate birthdays or achievements, be sure to retain those in your virtual setting as well.

If you don’t have specific routines now is the time to make them. Schedule a daily check in with your entire team. Plan a virtual lunch once a week to keep team members interacting. Ask a question of the day related to the work being done to spur creativity and keep work not just moving, but moving forward. 

Let your team members know you expect them to retain their routines. No, they may not be at their computer for eight hours straight, but let them know the times you expect them to be available. They also need to let other team members know when they are stepping away for lunch, or moments of self-care. They wouldn’t just disappear at the traditional office, so they shouldn’t vanish from the virtual one either. 

Encourage Communication (and maybe competition) 

It would be very easy for you to allow your team members to work solo right now and only communicate with their direct report. However, that isn’t good for them, you, or the team as a whole. When you return to your normal offices (I promise, it will happen) you don’t want them returning as strangers. 

Look for ways to foster communication and teamwork. Ask team members who normally don’t work together to partner on projects. Look at ways to change workflows to encourage team brainstorming and increased collaboration. You may find new ways of doing things that work better than your current methods. 

Also, now may be the perfect time for a little friendly competition. You don’t have to offer a huge reward, just something big enough to get people involved. Pose a problem related to your business and ask people to work in teams to solve it. Or set a goal to reach within a certain time frame. The competition will not only keep your team motivated, but also help keep morale up. 

Focus on Results 

Now is not the time to become a micromanager. If you are one then, now is the time to dial it back. Trying to manage every little step of every project isn’t possible right now. You will only drive yourself (and your team members) crazy in the attempt. Instead focus on the goal line and point your team toward it. Let them know you are available as a resource if they need help, but otherwise trust in their ability to get it done. 

Trust

It is so important right now to trust in your team. There is a reason that you chose them to work with you, because you know they can get the work done. Remember that, each time you feel that you don’t have everything under control. Let them know that you trust them to keep going and stay productive. Those words will resonate with them in the moments when it may seem pointless to keep working. 

Physical distancing from your team doesn’t mean the teamwork has to stop. You can take this crisis and turn it into an opportunity to learn new ways to work and streamline productivity. You may even come out of this as a stronger leader, able to pivot in difficult circumstances. All it takes is learning how to adapt and keeping work moving.