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3 Steps to Effectively Lead Your Remote Team Through Crisis

Our employees are overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out. And that was before the Covid-19 crisis! Now they have a whole new mess of problems to deal with: worrying about the virus, fear about what will happen to the economy, working remotely for the first time, trying to manage their kids at home, struggling to adapt to new technology, increased conflict with their partner from being cooped up inside…it’s A LOT. Meanwhile, we’re trying to get them to be as productive as possible and G.S.D (Get Shit Done).

If you’re anything like the clients we’ve been talking to over the last few weeks, you’re struggling just to keep your own head above water let alone be the kind of leader your remote team needs right now. While there’s no manual or precedent for dealing with a large-scale global epidemic in this modern age, we’ve been coaching our clients on how to pivot and adapt their businesses while leading their teams to success. No matter what industry you’re in or what catastrophe you’re facing, there are only three things you need to focus on as a leader to effectively manage your workforce and cultivate high performance.

1) Decrease Fear

Your people are scared. They are facing the unknown just like you.

As their leader your most important job is to decrease their fear. Even if the future looks bleak, your people want to know you have a plan to take care of them and see them safely through this storm. They want to know they can count on you, that you’ve got their back, and you’re here for them. 

One of the most effective ways to decrease fear is to ask your people what they want from you. Start by listening and leaning in. It may be different for every person, but you owe it to them to take the time to ask great questions, be an even better listener, and find a way to meet them where they are. Then authentically contextualize your mission and vision in a way that employees can relate to and find meaningful. And communicate, communicate, communicate. Take a look at our 4 C’s of Connection in Virtual Work – scroll down to get a free copy of our Remote Management Toolbox.

2) Increase Safety

Along with decreasing fear, you need to increase every team member’s sense of safety. When you start by turning your workplace upside down and listening to your people, you’ll have a good sense of where to begin.  Understand that people need people and that we are interconnected beings. The biggest challenge is the lack of community and perceived empathy.

But even more importantly, you’ll have taken a big step toward decreasing their sense of isolation. If your team is working remotely for the first time, they’ll quickly start to feel alone and adrift in the world. It’s up to you to make sure your team is connecting to you and with each other on a regular basis. Have at least two real connections per week that asks how they are doing.  And make sure to use video – verbal communication is only 7% of total communication!  Additionally, appoint a communication czar to make sure it works well with your team.

Start now. Implement daily or weekly video calls. Create a Slack channel where people can check in with each other during the day. And spend time demonstrating you care by coaching your team members through their specific challenges. Let them help each other and create a buddy system. 

3) Solve the Emotional Component

In times of turmoil, it’s normal for emotions to run high. As a leader, you need to make sure you’re helping your team process their emotions in a way that is healthy and productive. Make sure you’re regularly addressing these five areas on your check-ins with your remote team:

1) Self-Care: Discuss the importance of self-care and share strategies for individual success.  Routines, schedules, and how to deal with kids at home and connections.

2) Learn: Make sure your team has the tools and resources to support their learning and development with new skills for the virtual workplace and great communication tips.

3) Growth: If there is down time, encourage personal and professional growth along with real creativity.  What are some great ideas they can come up with for themselves to add big value for a future which will be super different and better than what we’ve experienced?

4) Mindset: Share practical ways each person can work on reframing their thoughts and help them through any mindset blocks. Remember, we need connection and help.

5) Connect: Illustrate the importance of connecting person-to-person and encourage team members to communicate over phone or video instead of email and text.

If you focus on just these three things and follow our hacks and tools, I guarantee you will see dramatic improvement in the performance and productivity of your remote team. While we are all being challenged to work differently, there is NO reason your team cannot continue to execute at a high level.

Need help implementing these strategies? Looking for personalized help for your organization? Reach out to us – the first session is always complimentary! We can deliver virtual keynotes, online workshops, and remote high-performance coaching to help your team continue to succeed and thrive. 

We also recently hosted a webinar on this same topic – click here to watch the replay. It will only be available for a limited time so don’t wait to watch!

Download our Remote Management Toolbox including Our 4 C's of Connection to help you lead your team to success!



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Two Predictions Shaping the Work(er) of the Future: Reality Hits Sooner

Last year we made some predictions for the future workplace. We predicted (i) technology is going to continue to evolve and drive change, and certainly (ii) people will matter more than ever. Our new Coronavirus reality further demonstrates the importance of both these points.  So as we enter this next decade, we’re gratified to see that new interviews and evolving research continues to support our predictions for the future workplace.

 The Wall Street Journal recently published an article called, “The Workplace of 2050.” It featured interviews with five experts at the top of their game making bold predictions for the future. All five talked about the way evolving technologies will reshape their industries – and the important role humans will play in the future of work.  

David Baszucki, CEO and co-founder of Roblox Corp, talked about the gaming industry as a whole. Alongside tremendous technological innovation, he envisions teams getting larger and transitioning to remote work with employees spread out around the world. While not mentioned directly in his interview, we know that communication between humans will be critical. As teams stop reporting to the same central office and start logging onto Slack from their couch, being able to articulate your story, demonstrate your value, and build relationships will become key factors for success in this industry.   

In the medical field, the need for technological expansion is particularly great. Dr. Esther Choo, ER doctor and Associate Professor at the Oregon Health and Science University, expects we’ll see “a lot more options for communicating with patients, monitoring them, connecting them to needed care…and streamlining things.” She also expects increased integration among the many electronic health systems doctors and patients are currently using. Although these innovations will certainly help healthcare providers improve job performance, what’s really driving this shift is a desire for better communication between patients and doctors in order to create meaningful change.

 Other CEOs and founders echo Baszucki and Choo, predicting an increasingly prominent role for technology in industries ranging from restaurants to talent acquisition. But for all this focus on technological innovation, Free the Work founder Alma Har’el sums up it up best: “At the end of the day, the heart of the work is really about connecting on a human level, and that’s never going to change.” No matter how an industry is disrupted or what new technologies they choose to deploy, at the heart of all this change is us: people. We still matter.

To help you create success and shift to a culture of high performance, we introduced our 3-hack system. Many of our clients have already reported tremendous success after implementing it in their organizations. How will you keep the future workplace human? What choices will you make to make your employees matter? How will you empower and lead your people to high performance? Reach out to us for a free consultation. Through our dynamic keynote speeches, game-changing workshops, and bold coaching, we will inspire your people to up their game and help you create a high-performance culture.

Become the Leader of the Future By Doing These 6 Things

In our last blog we looked at how the worker of the future will need to grow and adapt to succeed in the new world of work. But what about their leaders? Doesn’t it make sense that their managers will need to grow and adapt right along with them and become leaders?

Yet in my experience managers, who all should be leaders of one sort or another, are often the slowest to respond to changes in employee behavior and culture! That’s why so much of my work is focused on helping the generations connect in the workplace – because many of the older generations still don’t “get” their millennial and Gen Z coworkers and employees!

But the younger generation isn’t going away and taking their new ideas about work with them – in fact, more than 35% and even closer to 50% of Americans in the workplace are millennials! So if you are a manager or boss with millennial and Gen Z employees, it is critical that you get this right with your team! You must master the following new leadership traits and immediately start putting them into practice so you can continue to crush the competition in the years to come:

 

Create Trust and Eradicate Mistrust

Bill Simmons, formerly of ESPN, famously remarked, “Leaders thrive when they feel creatively empowered, when they trust the people around them, when their confidence is swelling. Leaders make mistakes when they lose that same confidence, when they’re fretting about their power base, when they’re reacting instead of acting.” And while Simmons was talking about basketball, the point remains: great teams are built on trust. Period.

While trust is a two-way street, as a manager and leader it’s up to you to set the tone in the company. You need to consciously work to create trust so you can build authentic relationships with your people. If they don’t trust you, you’re going to have a hard time connecting. And if you can’t connect with them, you’re going to have a hard time trusting them in turn!

Employees, and especially younger employees, want to work where they feel valued and where they can trust the leadership of the people in charge. And leaders in turn want to feel like they have a solid team backing them up. Just as Bill Simmons has a great team of writers backing him up at the Bill Simmons Media Group, including many who followed him from ESPN.

Are you unknowingly breeding a culture of mistrust among your direct reports? Check out this list of The 25 Behaviors That Contribute to Mistrust and eradicate any that you’re guilty of. TODAY.

 

Give Real-Time, Real Deal Feedback

Your employees want to know you care. So ditch the annual review and make time to invest in them right in the moment and give them the feedback they crave. They want to know they’re doing a good job, but they also want to know if something needs to change.

Just be cautious of putting too much emphasis on the negative. Instead take a page from Tony Nicely, former CEO of Geico’s book: focus on your employee’s strengths and help build them up. In a 1992 article about Nicely, William Snyder, then the chairman and chief executive of Geico Corp, commented that, “He has a marvelous talent for dealing with people…he’s empathetic and he builds on people’s strengths rather than picking out their weaknesses.”

Always assume positive intent (API) when interacting with your people and help them be the best they can be! They have all have a story to share and they all want to connect, they just need you to show them how – remember there’s no school for becoming the worker of the future! And if you do need to have a tough conversation with them, use these tips:

  • Identify the problem
  • Attack the problem, not each other
  • Listen to, and acknowledge, others’ points of view
  • Focus on organizational goals and objectives
  • Listen as an ally to strategize for success

Focus on the Right Things

In the old world of work, an employee would be at their desk at 8:30am and stay until it was time to go home at 5pm. It didn’t matter if they finished all their work in an hour or it took them all day to do it. It also didn’t matter if the employee did their best work after 3pm. The work day was the work day and employees were expecting to be at their desk and “working”.

But as technology has evolved and allowed us to be increasingly connected, the idea that employees need to sit at their desk for a specified period of time has become less and less practical. So as managers, we need to shift our thinking to focus on the right things. Instead of worry about “how” things get done, we need to be looking at “what” is getting done. After all, an employee can sit down at their desk at 8:30am, turn in a mediocre report, and spend the rest of the day playing solitaire. Or they can spend all day doing the things they’re passionate about and turn in a rockstar report at 11pm when their creativity is at its peak.

In a memo to his team at Slack shortly before the preview release of the product, Stewart Butterfield said, “Life is too short to do mediocre work and it is definitely too short to build shitty things.” Don’t allow your employees and your company to fall into mediocrity by focusing on the wrong things. Make sure that what you’re measuring actually MATTERS!

 

Foster Open and Transparent Communication

Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, has often talked about the importance of communication in the workplace. She believes you “cannot over-invest in communication skills.” And of her own communication style, she had said, “I’m brutally honest. I always look at things from their point of view as well as mine.” But Nooyi’s not all talk: during her twelve-year tenure at Pepsi, the company’s sales grew by 80%!

The worker of the future needs you to communicate with them openly and authentically. To be brutally honest! The days of org charts and companies saying one thing to their customers and another thing to their employees is over. We are now too connected to ever treat our employees with anything other than radical honesty and to force them to follow a hierarchical structure of communication. And with our increased access to knowledge and learning through the Internet, we are ALL capable of coming up with and presenting new ideas that can change the direction of the company for the better.

 

Encourage Learning and Experimentation

Which brings me to my next point: as a manager in the new world of work you need to encourage your employees to learn and experiment and actually lead. ABL: Always Be Learning! With as much access as we have to information, if you as a manager rely only on your individual knowledge to make decisions for the team and company, you will be crushed by your competition.

You need to encourage your employees to learn and grow so that they can bring their ideas back to the company. We’ve previously written about Google, but it bears repeating again: Google has famously allowed its employees to devote 20% of their work time to passion projects related to the company. Whether or not 20% time is still practiced is up for debate, but what can’t be ignored is that 20% time brought two of Google’s best-loved products to life: Gmail and Adsense.

You must encourage your employees to learn and grow. With the world changing as fast as it is, to not allow space for new ideas to develop and emerge is a mistake. The fact is, your employees are often spending more face time with your customers than you are! They know exactly what your clients want so it’s time you listened to them!

 

Stop Trying to Control Everything and Everyone

Most managers love control. They want to control the company, its projects, and its people. They believe that if they can manage to hang onto everything, they will win in the long run.

But that just isn’t true. One, it’s incredibly exhausting. Two, it’s one of the behaviors that fosters mistrust in a team. And three, it doesn’t do the company any favors to have everything flow through such a narrow channel.

Instead, invest the time to train your people well and then trust them to do the job you’ve hired them to do. Yes, they’ll make mistakes and fall flat on their face occasionally. But you are not perfect either!

Just take a look at this story about Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors. In a previous leadership role in the Human Resources department, she dramatically scaled-down the dress code policy to just two words: Dress Appropriately. When she got pushback from a manager, she suggested he talk with his team to work out a solution. And wouldn’t you know it, but the team came up with a great solution that didn’t involve needing to expand the dress code policy.

Trust your people. You hired them, you trained them, now go let them do their job!

 

If you’re struggling with any of the managerial behaviors on this list, please reach out to us at launchbox. Your company needs you to grow and adapt. So invest in yourself and become the manager of the future!