As leaders are continuing to manage remote working teams – in whole or part, businesses are readying to systematically and safely reopen their workspaces, and executives are thoughtfully considering how to strategically re-tool for success in the new normal, it’s easy for leaders and their teams to become disconnected and lose focus among the many distractions.
Now, more than ever, we need to practice the fundamentals of management best practices as the circumstances that we are operating in continually and unpredictably evolve.
Here are five fundamentals for keeping your team engaged and productive that I’ve been discussing with my clients over the past few weeks.
1. Create opportunities to connect in meaningful ways.
Whether virtual or in-person, genuinely connecting requires us to slow down, ask thoughtful questions, and sincerely listen. Here are several questions to consider for individual or group settings.
What are you grateful for today?
What’s most challenging for you now?
What has kept you anchored during this tumultuous time?
In what ways can I best support you (or, can we best support each other)?
How has this experience made you (or, us) stronger?
When you ask these questions, stay curious, open to the perspectives you hear, and acknowledge and normalize the emotions that are present. The most valuable gift we can offer others is the gift of our full attention.
2. Focus on outcomes, not activity.
Twelve-hour workdays over an extended period and workaholic behaviors lead to burnout, a clouded perspective, and a vicious cycle of inefficiency. As you are managing your organization to both navigate the short-term and plan for what’s next, consistently communicate the outcomes that matter most (including what no longer matters), how those outcomes are being measured, and who is accountable to those outcomes. Reinforce the results you want by continuously reporting progress and acknowledging the team members that contributed to that progress, all while proactively encouraging your team members to work smarter, not harder.
3. Strengthen trust by providing your team with perspective and clarity as circumstances change.
A crisis tests the strength of trust a leader has with its team. As Simon Sinek says, “Trust is built on telling people the truth, not telling them what they want to hear.” As organizational conditions rapidly evolve, proactively communicating what’s happening, why, and how your team will be impacted (even if it’s what they don’t want to hear) is essential. Unexpected change, coupled with a lack of clear communication, will quickly lead to an erosion of trust. Because trust is the foundation for high-performing teams, this is the most important fundamental.
4. Continue to provide opportunities for professional development.
Your greatest asset is your people, and their ability to perform at their best is your ultimate competitive advantage. The organizations that will emerge from this crisis stronger will be the ones that continue to invest in their people’s development. The job of leading and effectively managing will only become more complex, and the new skills that will be required to succeed are shifting faster than ever. Directing development resources (e.g., cross-training, mentoring, executive coaching, management training) toward your talent is an investment that will produce a return in the form of improved performance, productivity, and employee retention.
5. Encourage teamwork and collaboration.
Collaboration keeps team members connected and engaged – and done well, it sparks innovative and creative ideas. While it’s more logistically challenging to collaborate in a remote working environment, it’s also more vital than ever for both the psychological health of your team members and the continued success of your organization as you adapt to new ways of operating and serving your customers. Routinely creating the expectation and climate for productive dialogue among team members will foster a collaborative culture.
Grow with purpose.