Covid-19 has caused panic and mass uncertainty. People are concerned about their jobs, their health, and their loved ones. Leaders should shine in difficult times. But how can you lead remotely?
The pandemic has brought new challenges to leaders and employees as well as managers.
Working from home is a better option for employees than working at a desk. It’s possible to work from home if you have a place to work. Or, living in a flatshare where several housemates are trying to do the exact same thing.
Emails and video calls are transactional forms of communication. Humans are social animals. It can be isolating to not have the same watercooler chats and contact with colleagues as you had in the office. This can lead to wellbeing issues.
Managers are usually measured on productivity. Managers are used to seeing their employees at work, where they can see what they’re doing. Managers can become anxious about their staff’s actual activities if they aren’t in the office.
Are they watching the television or doing the laundry? Micromanaging can lead to counterproductive behavior by managers.
Leading differently
Humans are also trying to pull together the business. They are also experiencing the same anxiety about uncertainty and change as everyone else.
It’s difficult to give direction due to the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus. You don’t know what is happening. Then there’s the challenge to communicate your ideas effectively and communicate your thoughts.
To answer my question, I believe there are three key elements that enable you to lead remotely.
The first is about eliminating uncertainty. As a business consultant, I have seen that great leaders make assumptions. They say, “This is what we’re going do.” We won’t wait for anything else to happen.
We are going to move forward, to be proactive as business and to give people clear focus. It may not be the best solution for the long-term. It’s something to be focused on. It’s a touch point.
The second focus is to address the social engagement gap. There were many great stories from lockdown about different approaches. Drop-in calls are a great way to get to know people, whether they are individually or in groups.
Leaders sent thank you cards and parcels to their homes to express gratitude for their help during difficult times. Don’t forget to thank furloughed employees. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to meet people face-to-face, it can make a huge difference.
Communication options
This is connected to the third element, communication. Email traffic was already rising before Covid. It’s risen dramatically since lockdown. People are now emailing everything to everyone. It can be stressful and time-consuming to try to read everything.
Leaders must find the right way to communicate the right information to the right people. For urgent information, a phone call or video conference might be a good option. Email, shared workspaces, or even a letter may be better for urgent information that cannot wait.
Leaders in the new Covid Normal should consider training. Don’t bank the money if you are closing offices and making a savings on your premises. Instead, invest it in training. This is especially important for managers who are just starting out.
Your managers will benefit from effective training. This will enable them to manage effectively and work with your team in this new remote environment.
Neil Bradbrook is the managing Director of Falkirk-based Ahead Business Consulting.