In today's uncertain times, the one consistent need for leaders of teams both big or small, is ensuring the wellbeing of team members as they operate in this new normal – a world filled with new challenges across many facets of daily life and no playbook to help navigate. As leaders, we can help create this playbook by leaning in, thinking forward and articulating a flexible framework to ensure that we lead teams through the short-term crisis of today to the long-term implications that will result in changed ways of working and collaborating tomorrow.
To start, our leadership during a crisis period needs to evolve and evolve quickly. Our teams need to have consistent and clear goals to create structure where none may currently exist. The five key areas that can enable this leadership for teams who have shifted to a "home office" environment include:
Empathy: Understand that your team is not in a typical work-from-home situation, they are working from home during a crisis. This means expectations for immediate responses may not be possible, and what used to be the exception may become the new rule. By being open, transparent, and grounded in understanding, you can help your teams by discussing the situations, challenges, and solutions that work best for each person on your team. Everyone has a different battle they may be waging and by trying to understand what each person needs, it will help increase productivity and provide a sense of security for your team.
Renewed and Revised Team Principles: Redefine the principles of your team. This will allow space to create the needed structure for a situation where none currently exists. For example, you may now have 100 people working remotely, who may also be in 100 different locations. Your team needs the groundwork and foundation to understand who you are as a leader, what you believe in, and how you operate. Be open to flexibility, because what worked last week may not work this week.
Consistent Communication: Being consistent in communication is critical whether you are managing 1 or 1000 employees. Reinforce or create a strong team culture by interactive meetings like huddles, video chats, virtual happy hours, etc…, whatever you need to do to ensure that your team consistently feels engaged and connected.
Everyone is a leader: In these times, we must treat every person on the team as a leader. Everyone is going through their own daily challenges in addition to managing their workload to ensure that client work is being delivered. They are showing up, building connections, and bringing forth solutions in atypical times, so they should be rewarded and regarded as the true leaders of this "new normal." You should make it a point to call out the team members helping to make a difference, celebrate the team wins, fail forward, and be conscious of how many leaders will emerge from the group.
Follow-up: Action speaks louder than words and following up is more critical than ever. Create task forces for everything from larger initiatives to important actions that need to be communicated. Be sure to set clear metrics for team plans, schedule check-in meetings, and measure progress consistently to give feedback to ensure teams have everything they need in order to thrive.
With this global crisis, we now have an opportunity to engage and lead in so many new ways, and if we can trust ourselves as leaders to bring forward our teams, we can continue to build a strong foundation that sets our teams up for success well into the future.
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