A new darkness has come over the world, it seems. A darkness that brings with it uncertainty, fear, anger, sadness, and impatience.
And yet in the midst of the darkness, some normalcy remains for there is still work to accomplish, projects to complete, deadlines to meet, and client relationships to nurture.
It is leaders’ time to shine.
In sharing how to design a room that people will love in the book A Pattern Language, author Christopher Alexander says, “When they have a choice, people will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides, and leave the rooms which are lit only from one side unused and empty.”
The question is, how do leaders shine the light for their teams who are now working remotely, and how do we get that second light Mr. Alexander suggests on the other side of the room?
Let’s start with the first part of the question—how leaders can shine the light for their remote teams?
1. Establish accountability measures.
Accountability is key to keeping the work train on the right track. All team members must be very clear on their responsibilities, due dates, response time, and communication expectations if and when obstacles occur.
Just as when work is completed in the office, accountability measures are there for the purpose of—you’ve got it—holding people accountable. This means when deliverables fall through the cracks, involved team members understand exactly what happens next. There should be no surprises here—which takes us to our next idea.
2. Double down on transparent communication.
We are working and living in an unusual time. Transparent communication is always a necessity and never more so than now.
It is the leader’s responsibility to provide clarity around how people will be held accountable for their results; what changes are happening within the organization as a whole; what those changes mean for the team; and how the changes may affect each team member.
I’ve worked with leaders who are hesitant about how much to share with their teams, and my opinion is to share it all. As leaders we don’t always have good news to share, but sharing the facts of a situation is a far better option than allowing speculation and the mind drama that comes with it.
3. Tighten up the feedback loop.
With teams working remotely, the feedback loop becomes even more critical, and it’s important to provide it for the full team as well as individuals.
Schedule a 15-minute team tag-up meeting daily. This keeps everyone on the same page with how projects are coming along and also promotes camaraderie that isn’t as easy to maintain with people working from home.
A one-to-one meeting at least once a week with each team member is important as well. These meetings cover not only work-related questions and challenges but also much-needed coaching especially given the many changes people are currently experiencing.
Creating a routine and structure around the feedback loop when team members are working remotely will help immensely when some or all team members begin working in the office again. Build the foundation now, and reap the rewards from here on out.
4. Promote flexibility and structure at the same time.
Not only are team members working from home, many of them are doing so with kids or elderly relatives home with them. Offering flexibility as people are juggling so much is a compassionate way of leading in this time.
One idea to be flexible and structured at the same time is to adhere to the normal eight hours of work per day with some required common hours for the whole team. For example, everyone is online and working from 9:00-12:00, and the remaining five hours are completed at each team member’s discretion. This allows for the scheduling of team meetings during the common time and also provides trust that flexible schedules in the remaining five hours of the day will be managed well by each team member.
When incoming client communication is part of the mix, structure can come in the form of scheduled shifts for each team member to be at the ready to receive them. Flexibility comes in the remaining hours of the day for each team member just as in the example above.
5. Commit to some fun.
Fun isn’t a word we’ve heard a lot in the past several weeks, but it is still allowed and even encouraged. Bringing the fun is how leaders can show some levity to their teams in this ambiguous time we’re in.
Host a contest for the craziest hat worn to a daily tag-up meeting. Celebrate a milestone like a team member’s work anniversary, a sales success, or an email from an appreciative client. Complete the work week with a virtual happy hour. Email your kid’s e-learning math problem that stumped you—even though it’s just second grade math. The tactics for keeping the work environment fun aren’t written in a book somewhere: they’re in your brain—and the brains of those creative team members you get to lead.
And there you have it. Five ideas for shining the light on the leader’s side of the room, but what about that other side of the room for that second light that’s suggested?
That light is easy. When leaders commit to shining the light they have the privilege of igniting, the light on the other side of the room shines brightly for it is the light that comes from a team that is empowered, encouraged, and enabled. Lead well, and your team members will always gravitate to your well-lit room.