There can be little doubt the recent 15 months or so has seen an unprecedented level of change in how and where we go to work. In many ways COVID-19 has accelerated a change in working practice driven by technology and mobility.
This pandemic has also challenged some traditional thinking in terms of how we create an optimum environment for people and business to grow. A particular challenge is how those responsible for leading and managing others have had to change their approach to engage virtual, hybrid teams and the use of technology to keep people connected to the vision, goals and priorities of the team and the broader business.
One thing I have certainly learnt is that there is ‘no one size fits all’ approach to this challenge. Organisation context, culture, team dynamics and access to technology, reliable broadband all come in to their own.
Another consideration, if there has been any positives to take out of the recent pandemic, one of them has to be that it has acted as a great leveller for many in that we have all been forced to work remotely and max out on video conferencing. As the lockdown begins to ease, we will see a return of teams working with half of the team in an office and half on a video conference call. This will bring back the challenge of how you ensure everyone has a voice, those on the call are not inadvertently side lined by those in the room. The case for keeping people connected is absolutely critical if we are to ‘come back bigger and stronger’ from this pandemic.
Some hints and tips (in no particular order) that I would offer and that I continue regularly use myself;
1. When running team meetings with a mix of people on premise and others remotely, run the meeting with everyone logged in to your video conferencing platform, this allows everyone to have the same experience and feel part of the conversation.
2. Ask more than you tell…this one probably applies to every situation, it’s well documented that new ideas and change are more likely to succeed when there is a strong sense of ownership, while it may feel quicker just to tell someone/team what they need to do next, catch yourself in the moment and ask what’s the right thing to do here?
3. Make Everyone a Leader…this is a mindset but can have remarkable results, situational leadership and putting the decision making where the knowledge is. Not only does it free up your own personal time but it connects the team and its members by demonstrating high levels of trust and confidence within the team. ‘You do not need ‘stripes’ to be a leader and if you think that you do then you probably are not’ is a favourite phrase of mine.
4. Catch people doing things ‘approximately’ right and recognise the effort. This one is straight out of the ‘one minute manager’ but when the team are apart (indeed when they are together) and you can’t see people putting in the effort and going beyond then it’s really important not to wait for the end result to be delivered, instead take the time to acknowledge the small successes (and even the failed attempts) on the journey, it lets the team know you appreciate the efforts being made and reinforces entrepreneurship and creativity.
5. Make the time for a Casual Check-In and be human, probably now more than ever it will not feel like business as usual. Take time upfront in your meetings to ‘check in’ check how people are doing, inquisitive enquiry about things other than work can be a great relief and helps to balance its not all about work. Why not schedule a midweek and/or end of week ‘check-in’ to allow the team to share their successes, ask for help and update on what’s happening across the business and up/downstream.
More broadly and something for everyone to keep connected, I have seen some great success with the following;
6. Virtual book club – while not for everyone, a virtual book club whereby colleagues are challenged to read a particular book and then have a online book review and vote on the particular title.
7. Lunch and Learn – this is great to offer a catalogue of lunchtime learning sessions, ran by subject matter experts, they can cover any subject from ‘how to make most of video conferencing’, Excel formulas, PowerPoint hack, the subjects can be limitless. Market them to the whole organisation as a way of keeping people connected while sharing the knowledge – double bubble!
I hope you find some of these useful. Finally, it’s probably an obvious point to make but this hybrid world of work that many of us find ourselves in makes a huge call on the tech and internet access we have at our fingertips. Ensuring you have capability that allows people to productively and securely work from anywhere as if they were in the office, have access to up-to-date software and a rock-solid internet connection goes without saying.
It’s certainly not lost on me that when away from the office we often place our faith in consumer grade products that we do not have any say on the Quality of Service. The reputation of your people, brand and business to make a positive impression on your customers is paramount, can we afford to take any such chances and shortcuts?