In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has changed the working reality of millions of people across the globe. Businesses large and small are facing one of their most significant challenges in recent times, and many are in a risky position. This crisis is different. We all have to change our way of working and find innovative solutions to work virtually and remotely. This crisis is forcing employees to work away from their offices and adapt to unfamiliar ways of working. It is also forcing leaders globally to lead remotely and virtually, to take care of their teams and lead workers who they are physically apart from. It’s a complicated situation in which the ability to lead remotely, virtually and globally while getting things done in a human way is crucial in determining whether a business keeps going or has to close its doors. Times like these are a challenge to get things done.
Most leaders are equipped to lead their teams face-to-face, but what do you do when you are forced to lead virtually and remotely with limited capabilities? How do you make sure you get things done? How can you support your team in times of crisis? How do you ensure you provide the structure and systems to help your employees perform in their jobs while remaining human? How do you manage employees who have to perform in their jobs while helping their kids to do their homework? How do you manage demotivated employees who hate working from home? How do you glue your team together and make sure they collaborate effectively?
Now that we all have no choice than to perform our job from home, this new reality presents a new set of challenges for leaders and managers. Is it possible to be an effective leader through a video call on Zoom or a Slack channel? I think so, yes.
Leading your team remotely from one day to another when the house is on fire may seem intimidating and challenging to achieve, but it can be done. Global, virtual and remote leadership is a subject in itself. I could write an entire book on this. Here I would just like to point out some simple things that all leaders can consider to bring out the best in their teams and keep them energized during these uncertain times. Be sure to pay attention, since it is likely that this crisis will only accelerate the remote working trend, according to the president of Global Workplace Analytics.
1. Set clear goals and expectations
The fundamentals of leadership don’t change, regardless of whether your team is gathered in an office or spread out around the world. In essence, a good leader must know how to set clear and realistic goals, nurture individual talent, and encourage teamwork, to name a few of the skills he or she must master. The difference between leading face-to-face and leading remotely is that the latter requires attention for a new set of realities.
2. Empower your team and anticipate changes
A study conducted by Buffer that includes data from thousands of remote workers showed that the most common difficulties encountered by home-based employees are isolation (21%), communication problems (21%) and distractions at home (16%).
You may have some people in your team who do not deal very well with loneliness or maybe others do not have an adequate space to work from home. Others may feel isolated and disoriented by not receiving instructions in the way they are used to. Many issues can arise, as, after all, teams are made up of human beings, and each of us is different. A great virtual leader must be able to anticipate the needs and realities of each of his or her team members, empower them and give them all the tools they need to do their job as well as possible.
3. Connect with your team.
The priority of global leaders should be connecting with their teams. Instead of worrying or stressing yourself about how to keep your team on track, you should acknowledge that these are exceptional times and that is ok if it isn’t “business as usual”. People are the priority. To get in a tasks-focused mood won’t help you get good results. You need to create a safe environment so your team members can feel confident and capable of doing their jobs in a completely different way. Making strong connections while we’re isolated will have a tremendous impact on the productivity of your team.
4. Be extremely clear.
Being clear in giving instructions and feedback is a skill every leader should have; there are no surprises in this. What changes in a remote leadership context is that more things come up that need to be addressed with clarity.
Defining boundaries and processes should be one of the first team activities a leader coordinates in a remote work setting. According to statistics from Cardiff University, 44% of remote workers have problems relaxing after finishing their working day. Many of them try to compensate for the lack of physical presence by working after hours. It is essential to communicate the goals and expectations of the business clearly, as well as to have criteria for establishing work schedules and ways to deal with unforeseen events and interruptions (caring for children, pets, etc.).
5. Embrace flexibility
Leaders, managers and executives must understand that this situation is forcing us to work remotely. This is not a planned and orderly transition, and our expectations must take this on board. The social implications of this crisis remain to be seen, and we must all adapt if we are to keep our businesses afloat. Leaders must be at the forefront of this ever-changing situation; it is imperative to be flexible and embrace change.
Be considerate of your team members. Be considerate of everyone who is going through this challenging situation and is concerned about their jobs and their loved ones. Today, more than ever, it is necessary to show leadership, adapt to new ways of working and take care of our teams.
I know that many leaders and teams are facing this new reality. It is not an easy change, but you are not alone. If you want to know more about how to better lead remote teams and keep your business running during a situation like this you can consider our guide: Fast-track your global organization with an influential personal leadership brand to lead complex change.
Magali Toussaint. Career and Leadership Expert – Helping global leader to execute their vision with their diverse, virtual and remote teams in a complex world
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About U Diverse’s founder:
Magali Toussaint is the founder of ‘U-Diverse’. She is a certified Talent Acquisition Strategist, an ICF-certified Leadership Consultant, a Career Coach, a Cross-Cultural Trainer, and a Job Search Strategist with an extensive career in Recruitment, HR, Diversity, as well as Education. She has lived and worked in over four countries and speaks French, English, and Dutch fluently. Read More...