Leadership has never been more challenging or more important. Right now, the corporate world is running on the edge of experience. We have never had to figure out, on a mass scale, what it is like to run our businesses and teams while most of us work remotely, interacting with our customers and coworkers in a mostly digital space.
How do you showcase your products or services when people aren't able to visit your storefront, or when you can't be out marketing face-to-face? How do you keep your teams focused when you know they're at home, doubling as full-time school-teachers/child-wranglers? When you never leave your house, which is also now your office, is it okay to do your laundry while taking a conference call? These are just a few of the questions that teams and leaders are having to answer right now. What makes this so challenging for leaders is that there is no precedent for us to follow!
"One thing has not changed: it is the leader's job to lead."
That challenge, however, isn't exclusive to the leaders of a team. However challenging a leader finds this situation, the people they lead are even more in the dark. This is why leadership is more important now than it has ever been.
Here are three ways leaders can help their teams work remotely while still being healthy and productive:
Teams are struggling to know what is expected of them. Some team members may struggle to stay disciplined while working remotely. Often though, team members are afraid to underperform, so they work even more than usual, which ends up hurting their personal lives and zapping them of the energy they need to perform professionally.
Leaders must step up and clearly communicate to their teams what is expected in terms of workload, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. Even if you've made it clear in the past, now that the environment has changed, it is time to clarify again if you haven't already.
Question for reflection: Have I clearly communicated expectations since my team's environment has changed?
High Challenge & Support
Leaders must offer enough challenge for their teams to remain focused, and simultaneously enough support to make sure their teams can achieve their goals.
When a team isn't challenged enough, their focus can easily drift. Remind your team not only of what they need to be doing but more importantly why their work matters. Challenge them to make a true difference.
But challenge alone isn't enough. By itself, too much challenge will wear a team down. As the leader, you must also bring the appropriate amount of support to match the level of challenge. Make sure each team member has everything they need to be able to meet the challenge you've placed in front of them. (To learn more about High Challenge High Support, set up a free GiANT account here and watch the video lesson.)
Question for reflection: Am I bringing too much or too little challenge? Am I matching the challenge with the support my team needs?
A Model of Boundaries
Team members must also know that they aren't constantly on the clock, and leaders must be the ones to model the way forward. This means that leaders must be even more diligent than their team members about not working all the time, not sending emails or texts at non-work hours, and not expecting more production than usual just because "you don't even have a commute now!" While there are some major bonuses to the remote work lifestyle, leaders must be brave enough to not take advantage of those for the sake of the bottom line and instead choose the health and long-term wellbeing of their team members.
Question for reflection: Have I been taking advantage of my team's remote work environment in a way that will diminish their long-term capacity and job satisfaction?
Leaders Must Lead
Leadership is more challenging and more important now than it has ever been. But one thing has not changed: it is the leader's job to lead. It doesn't matter that you are in uncharted territory. Your job is still to lead. If you will step up and give your team clear expectations, appropriate support and challenge, and a healthy example of boundaries, they'll thrive in our new remote-work world.
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