Leading your team — remotely
BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - July 4, 2020 - 12:00am

An estimated 3.9 billion people are in quarantine. Now, while some countries are easing up, many of my client’s employees are still working from home. This pandemic has rearranged the workplace so quickly that people worldwide have been sent home to work remotely. The transition happened so fast many were caught unprepared. Clients tell me that at the start of the lockdown they had to ask their IT people, scramble back to their offices, take their company laptops, and bring it to their employees so they can work from home. Others struggle with the issue of weak or even non-existing internet connections, and they would have to make provisions so that work from home can quickly resume. Today, things have settled a little bit. Remote work or work from home has become the norm but there is still an area of challenge that has to be addressed.

Many managers are now leading their teams virtually, and many have not been trained to do this effectively. Locked down in their home for months leading their team through a screen can be daunting, especially for first timers.

During my webinar training, a client-participant said, “I miss the physical office, the interaction with my colleagues, the casual conversation with them over coffee, and I am longing for the end to this lockdown so I can go back and be with them.” I smiled and said, “What you mean is you miss your company pantry,” And he gave a hearty laugh.

Many sent me private messages asking how they can lead their virtual teams effectively. Managers know that the screen magnifies every aspect of their role. Every nuance of facial expressions and words used are amplified, and they need to know how to lead their teams virtually and effectively.

Here are some ideas that may help managers lead their teams remotely:

1. Stay in touch regularly because nothing fuels anxiety more than worry and fear. Information vacuum creates unnecessary speculation, not to mention that it also creates so many silly conspiracy theories.

Uncertainty fuels anxiety. The more you communicate and share, the better. You also may want to achieve engagement by having a predictable communication cycle times. It doesn’t have to be Zooming and video all the time. There are other alternatives like instant messaging apps or Viber groups wherein short, crisp communications can take place for needed updates. Reserve the video meets for the regular formal meets with the team.

2. Using video facilities would be good for the manager and the team to have a daily huddle and here is a tip, rotate the responsibility of leading it.

3. Focus on results rather than on contemporary work standardization practices. Remote work assumes different conditions and environments, and the conditions are never the same. Delivered results are more important than following the old ways of synchronous work processes. And because of this, you need to reconfigure how work gets done. This requires you to set and reset expectations.

4. Stimulate continuous learning. Share a short lesson, an article, a specific tool, behavior, or skill. The new environment does not negate the need for continuous learning; it increases the need for it. But here is the key: Keep It Short! You can apply the same principle mentioned about spreading the responsibility of different team members leading, but this time, have various members take charge of the learning sessions.

5. Do not be too serious. Find appropriate time and humor to make sessions fun. Show empathy and compassion. Be sharp in monitoring their stress and engagement levels. Let the team know that their well-being, health, and safety is the manager’s chief concern. Do not be shy in asking them how stressed they are and how engaged they can be.

6. Exhibit transparency. Do not pretend to have answers when you do not have any. Tell them you don’t know, and I can assure the members would understand. Be optimistic, but do not promise anything definitively.

Leaders are merchants of hope, but it is the kind of hope that is not reckless, careless and illogical. The leader shows he or she has confidence in the future but is brave enough to face the brutal realities of the situation. Good leaders would hope for the best, but they prepare for the worst, and this principle still applies even when leading a virtual team.

(Bring your family, attend and take part in a live webinar via Zoom this July 8-9, “Raising Future Leaders - Values, Virtues and Attitude with Chinkee Tan, Nove Ann Tan and Francis Kong as they present winning ideas on Money Management, Online Education and Life Skills for Success. For further inquiries or registration email: admin@successoptionsinc.com or contact April at 0928-559-1798 or Abby at 0917-533-6817.)

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