There is a new reality that many of us are undertaking: working from home, or as it is now known “WFH.” Many of us, including myself, have been doing it for years – this is our norm. Unfortunately, Covid-19 is forcing a whole new group of individuals to join us. This is new a challenge for employees, as well as their employers. The real challenge for many is not just working from home, but that we are now Leading from Home.
As entrepreneurs and leaders of our organizations, the ability to “pop over to John’s desk” is gone. Everyone’s favorite, “Hey, you got a minute?” is not possible. Even just keeping a pulse on the team’s productivity is a challenge. Are your teams being productive out of fear of losing their jobs in this everchanging current? Or are you micromanaging to make sure they’re performing up to par? You built your organization by leading your people, not by managing them. You must learn to adapt your leadership skills to this new work environment.
Here are 5 strategies you can immediately apply with your WFH team so that you can Lead From Home:
- Remember Your Why. As an entrepreneur there was a reason that you started the business. This is your Core Purpose – it goes beyond profit to the foundation of why you exist as an organization. You need to reconnect with that purpose and stay committed to it – don’t lose sight of it just because of these changing times. If you do, it wasn’t the right one to start with.
- As the leader you must lead by example. If the rest of the team is not living out the Core Purpose, you might want to look at yourself. Let the team know not only of their continued importance to your company’s existence, but also make sure they see you embody it.
- Find new ways to live your Core Values. What worked in the office might not work with everyone working from home. Core Values are the guiderails of how your company delivers on its Core Purpose. These are more important than ever, so be on the lookout for new ways to uphold them.
- Keep your focus through everything that is changing around you. This is a great time to commit to mindfulness practices and daily exercise. A morning ritual of meditation and/or breathing exercises will give you the focus you need to start your morning off right. Then, at a minimum, take a couple short walks through your neighborhood every day. It will help you maintain your energy level from start to finish.
- You set up your defensive plays, now focus on the offensive ones. With much of the nation sheltering in place and the stock market taking its beating, most companies have jumped into defensive mode. What do we have to cut? What expenses do we have to reduce? Who is getting laid off? Now what are you going to do.
- Leaders must embrace change. Don’t get paralyzed by fear. What seemed like a great plan in February might not work today.
- Create an offensive plan. Get the team together to identify what opportunities are going to come out of this and move now. One way of doing this is to complete a SWOT analysis based on where you are today.
- Have a planning session today, don’t wait till the quarter is over. Make an executable plan to set and chart a potentially different path.
- Change your expectations, but don’t just reduce them. Your first thought might be to expect less from your team. But just because the work environment is different doesn’t mean that their output has to be.
- Don’t assume because people are working from home they won’t be as efficient or be able to accomplish as much. Many companies are finding out their team is able to accomplish even more.
- Re-evaluate your teams KPIs and goals. Some might need to be adjusted to ensure they are still relevant and set properly. You don’t want your team to say “That KPI wasn’t possible, so I didn’t focus on it.” Make sure you have targets that you’re still aiming.
- Set new targets. New opportunities will create new expectations. Look for new ways to measure success.
- Be supportive. If working from home is new for your team members, it’s going to take some adjustment. Maybe they have their kids at home with them or have friends and relatives that have become sick. This is the time for you to care about your people and let them know it.
- Some people will respond well to this and others will not. Some will feel isolated in their new WFH environment. Make sure you know your people are feeling and find new ways to fill that gap.
- Be intentionally patient. Stress for many will be at an all-time high. Your patience will be key to helping them to manage that stress.
- This is the time for leaders to step and up and lead. Your team will be looking at you more than ever for cues on how to feel and act. You must always be honest with the team, but not pessimistic. As you look to the future and think about the road ahead, bring them with you.
- Over communicate. The communication rhythms you had before probably worked great. Yet in today’s WFH environment, you need to think about what is needed now. This is not necessarily about just about you – it is about what your team needs. If they are used to seeing everyone every day, you need to find a new rhythm to fill that void.
- The entire team should be in at least one Daily Huddle in the morning and an afternoon one as well. Use the short meetings as way to bookend the day and learn what the team is focusing on and what they’ve accomplished. Put emphasis on sharing good news and what everyone has learned.
- Use video technology, not conference calls. Being able to see everyone’s face is incredibly important in your evaluation of how the team is doing. It is also a way to keep the team engaged with one another. Platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft are easy systems to implement and use.
- Create one-on-one meeting rhythms for all leaders with their teams. This should be done once per week right now and as time goes on, it can be reduced. It is vitally important that leadership be connect to and aligned with all team members during this time of change.
With so many companies having team members working from home, it is up to us, the organizational leaders, to learn to Lead from Home. This is not easy. It will take time for us to learn and grow into this role. Leadership is about changing and adapting, and your team needs that from you now more than ever.