Working from home has become a necessity for many, yet some business owners, managers, and employees lack confidence that productivity will be sustained. But the location of your workforce shouldn’t determine results. Here is how leaders can ensure that their teams remain productive and able to lead themselves.
1. Lead effectively
Start with honesty: Speak as openly and frankly as you can about the situation your business faces. Be real and share emotion: Nothing demotivates employees like the feeling that they are not being spoken to truthfully. Don’t sugar-coat or catastrophise – lead with resolve, integrity and humility.
Realise the power of empathy. Recognise that everyone in your team faces their unique challenges. Speak with them individually to show that you care and are prepared to work with them to find the best solutions. Consider:
- Parents with children at home – many working parents are overwhelmed by the demands of managers and colleagues to be constantly available and productive while also managing home-schooling and childcare.
- Those living alone – how is social isolation affecting them?
- Those caring for elderly or sick relatives – what stresses are they dealing with?
Empathic leaders appreciate individual needs and understand how these affect their productivity in the short and long term.
2. Set a clear common goal
To engage the finest efforts of any group of people, establish a common goal that encapsulates what the group desires, believes in and is prepared to work for.
Good leadership will go beyond the ‘business as usual’ message and use the current situation to re-emphasise the mission. Establish in people’s minds why their everyday actions are important.
What is the ‘big picture’ that you are working towards? How is the world a better place because of your combined efforts? This can be a combination of the direct outcomes of your core business as well as the additional contributions made to communities by the business and its people.
Agree on the specific, short-term goals that will see you survive and remain productive, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Maintaining focus in times of uncertainly can be hard so boost morale and productivity with weekly team goals. Remember to mark them as victories once accomplished.
3. Plan ahead
When we hear the regular government briefings, the last thing we want to feel is that leaders are just responding day by day rather than formulating an effective strategy to success. As the plan changes with new information and experience there will obviously need to be flexibility, but overall, the plan should be set and clearly communicated. Stipulate what projects, KPIs and milestones are most vital.
4. Build on solid foundations
Instead of micro-managing people, empower your team. Resist the desire to know everything that is going on. Allow staff to report routinely on progress rather than continually on current activity.
Change happens quickly, so plan regular team meetings as recurring appointments. Make ‘progress and victories’ a fixed agenda item during these meetings. Leaders and employees should agree to scheduled ‘focus time’ free of interruptions and ‘communication time’ to respond to calls, emails and instant messaging.
5. Maintain productivity
Essential personal leadership skills combined with a deeper understanding of goal setting and time management should allow business to continue as usual, despite staff being separated.
Nick Howes is managing director at Leadership Management International UK