This article was based on episode 96 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get the mini-guide here or the full guide when you become a member at mamieks.com/join. Purchase a single full guide at mamieks.com/store.
Life is crazy right now. Never before have we experienced such a complete disruption to our lives in such a short amount of time. Learning to live and work in this new reality is understandably stressful. Below are three tips for navigating these unprecedented times.
TIP #1: BE PRACTICAL
Instead of stressing out and letting feelings of overwhelm take over, in moments like these, it's important to take a breath and be practical. Now is a time to embrace “good enough.” This approach does not mean you have permission to give up or go with the lowest common denominator. Reflect on what truly matters for you right now-at work and at home. Hold firm on those priorities and be flexible on everything else.
Taking a practical approach to your team and work means being extra empathetic. We all need time to adjust to this new lifestyle, so be patient and slow down any timelines that you can. This will remove some of the pressure. Do what you can to delay deadlines, especially arbitrary ones, and advocate to your boss on behalf of your team.
In addition, be straightforward with your team about your own experience. We’re all in this together so you can let go of any ideas that good managers must be perfect and strong and keep it together for their team.Talk to each person about what they want and need from you.
TIP #2: TALK WITH YOUR TEAM
Unless you were already a virtual team, your team members are probably freaking out a bit about being thrown into remote work. There is a ton of uncertainty for people - what’s happening with the virus, the economy, your company, their workload, their job. Remove some of the uncertainty by planning for how the team will work together at a distance.
I recommend a weekly meeting that gives you an opportunity to connect on a human level and stay aligned on the work. Start with how people are feeling, what is going on for them, and simply catching up with one another. Then move into updates on the team’s work, any company news, suggestions for how to work together better, or other topics that affect the full group.
You may be tempted to cancel these meetings if there is nothing important to share. I urge you to at least keep the relationship portion of the meeting because it’s so important to be together as a team and maintain bonds.
Talk with each team member individually about how you can support them right now. What do they need from you to be productive and feel good working remotely right now? What hours will they be available for meetings? Getting clarity with each person will allow you to best support them and keep up the momentum.
TIP #3: USE A CHAT TOOL
If you’re not already using a tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams, now is the time to start using one. It is the absolute best way to stay aligned and connected with your team members.
Start by setting up channels (or topics) for work. Base the work channels on projects or workstreams. Don’t overthink it. Consider how you would normally organize conversations with your team members. Some teams find it helpful to have a channel called “issues” or “hot-topics” as a place for anyone to post something they need help with.
Then create channels for fun such as family photos, funny media or coronavirus news. You want to replicate the kinds of conversations people would have if they were chatting in the office. Photos are the most powerful way for people to feel like they're in relationship. Encourage people to share pictures of their workspace, home life, pets, and kids, even if they didn’t before.
Try using your chat tool for a daily standup. Ask every team member to answer three questions by a certain time - maybe 9am. And then each person reads through the responses by 9:30am so that anyone who needs to take a support action can do so.
The questions are:
What did you accomplish yesterday?
What will you accomplish today?
What is blocking you from getting your work done or what do you need from your colleagues to move forward?
This combination of questions creates focus, prioritization, accountability, and alignment. It also quickly surfaces issues or roadblacks.
Managing a remote team is no easy feat, especially under these circumstances. Be practical, talk with your team, and use a chat app. Those three approaches will get you started down the path to being a rockstar manager of a virtual team during social distancing.
Get the mini-guide here or the full guide when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at mamieks.com/join. Or, purchase an individual guide at mamieks.com/store to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.