by Kevin Eikenberry
Schools have closed, forcing your people to work remotely. Or people have self-quarantined after travel. Or your state has issued guidance to have people work from home if possible. Or perhaps out of an abundance of caution, your organization has decided to allow people to work from home. Whatever the reasons, if this is you, welcome to the new world of leading newly remote teams.
Even if previously people have been able to work from home occasionally, this is different. And perhaps if that has been the case, you and your team are thinking this change won’t be a big deal. Don’t let that lull you into a false sense of confidence.
A team working remotely is still a team, but the changes, while subtle, are important. There are things leaders of newly remote teams can do to acknowledge and capitalize on the differences. Here are the first five things to do:
1. Be Supportive.
Being supportive of your team members is always good advice for leaders, but during times of uncertainty (now certainly qualifies) and change (like being told to work from home), it is imperative. Recognize that even if people seem happy to lose their commute and work in their favorite comfy t-shirt, they will have questions and concerns. And now they can’t just poke their head in your office or cubicle to ask a question or get some assurance.
2. Check in Regularly.
Chances are in the office you walked around, checking in on and connecting with people. It is hard to “manage by walking around” when you are only walking around an empty office or your home. I have a personal goal of checking in with at least three of my team members each day, and with everyone at least once a week. If you and your team are new to remote, I would make that more frequent. While you can use instant messages and email, pick of the phone or fire up your webcam for more of these check-ins.
3. Encourage Webcam Use.
Speaking of webcams, some people won’t want to use them, for a variety of self-conscious reasons. Yet, we know that while a face-to-face conversation gives us the best chance of successful conversation, a webcam conversation is the next best thing to being there. Two of the best ways to encourage webcam use are related to the next two suggestions on this list.
4. Be a Model.
If you want people to use their webcams, use it yourself. If you want people to get comfortable using your web platform, get comfortable yourself. If you want your team to adapt successfully to a changing environment, you lead by being in front, getting comfortable with the changes yourself, and leading by example.
5. Set Clear Expectations.
You may set expectations about use of technology as we have talked about, but that is just the start. The expectations of work fundamentally shift when people don’t work in the same location. Unfortunately shift this isn’t always addressed soon enough (or ever). Make sure you have conversations and set expectations about how you will work, communicate and check in. Hopefully people already understand what they need to do, now more focus will need to be placed on how that work needs to be done.
There is plenty of stress and uncertainty in the world now – and working away from the office may be part of it. As a leader you can help make sure that work can be successful for everyone, even with where they are working as changed.
Kevin Eikenberry is a world-renowned leadership expert, a two-time bestselling author, speaker, consultant, trainer, coach, leader, learner, husband and father. He was recently recognized by Inc.com as one of the top 100 Leadership & Management Thinkers in the World. For more information about support for remote leaders and team members, please visit his Resource Site.