Leading Teams Effectively While Social Distancing
As humans, connection is part of our DNA. We come together to solve problems, care for one another, and support each other through good times and bad. It’s amazing how quickly we start to miss being around other people when we are asked to “shelter in place.” In this time of social distancing when many teams are collaborating remotely for the first time, it’s more important than ever for leaders to find ways to keep our teams connected and supported.
Leading from afar during a crisis
Leading during a crisis is not easy—and it’s even tougher to do it from a distance. In a crisis, decisions must be made quickly to keep both your business and your employees safe and secure. In an unprecedented situation like COVID-19 has brought on us, at best we’re feeling our way forward in dim light, without all the data we’d like to support our choices. And let’s face it—our leaders’ personal affairs might be in more disarray than anyone they are trying to lead.
But pretending we know exactly what we’re doing, or that we’re not struggling too, doesn’t help. The leaders that succeed in crisis aren’t afraid to show vulnerability, bringing people together to overcome obstacles and persevere. You can be this type of leader.
Remember the good old days
Look back to the good old days just a few months ago before coronavirus made a crash landing in our economy. What were the unstructured ways you stayed connected to your team? Did you spend time chatting with a team member while pouring a second cup of coffee halfway through the morning? Did you catch up over a shared afternoon snack? Or make the rounds in your facility or office to check in on people throughout the day?
Look at the unstructured ways in which you lead, and if you’re working remotely, set reminders or set aside time to connect on your calendar. It can be easy to get caught up in the isolation of solo remote work and go entire days without checking in with your team. But to successfully lead remotely, you’ve got to build a routine that gives you sight into how your team is doing, while also giving them freedom to focus on the overall goal.
For instance, let’s say as a leader of your team, you randomly ask people each week what they are working on or where they are stuck. In a remote setting, you are going to have to schedule the time on your calendar or set reminders to reach out to each of your teammates. As a leader during this time, you can’t allow out of sight to equal out of mind. At goBRANDgo!, we use tools like Followup.cc or Apple Reminders to remind us to check in with each other.
Speaking of tech…
As for technology in a time of social distancing, consider video conferencing whenever possible. We’ve found Zoom to be the most stable platform for video conferencing. For more informal, spur-of-the-moment communication, we use Slack for video calls and chat (similar functionality is also available with Microsoft Teams). We try to use email as a last resort for communicating within our organization, because it doesn’t allow for the same verbal nuance and real-time communication as video and chat.
Lastly, in a time of social distancing, it’s important to remember that people are stressed. Many of your team members are trying to adjust to these new ways of being an employee, a parent, and a teacher all at the same time.
They’re counting on you
People follow leaders because they are the ones willing to step forward to inspire, direct, and help people accomplish something bigger than they could by themselves. Vulnerable and compassionate leaders are what everyone needs to get through this time of economic uncertainty and social distancing. Your family, team, and community are counting on you to find ways to innovate, connect, and inspire.