How can you lead your team through challenging times?
Management is a playing field with shifting goalposts at the very best of times. In 2020, management roles have grown a whole new set of challenges.
Most managers are working in environments and with teams that have completely transformed. In many cases, teams are working remotely with no definite “return to workplace” date in sight.
Regardless of where we work, it’s certain that our working conditions are almost unrecognisable from where they started on January 1st of this year.
So how can managers navigate this unusual time? How can you as a supervisor or team leader be supportive of your team? What are the best ways to keep the team connected and productive when working remotely?
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What are the challenges?
As always, the challenges you’ll face as a manager will differ depending upon where you work and your current situation. Bizarrely, 2020 has united us all in that there are a handful of obstacles we all face.
Teams are Distanced
Whether working remotely or socially distanced in the workplace, teams are further apart than ever before. This can potentially create a sense of disconnection and miscommunication.
If your team are working from home, it’s likely that they may not have ideal circumstances to work the hours you’re used to. Shared workspaces, parenting responsibilities, and less than ideal conditions can cause interruptions and lack of focus.
Many businesses have had to innovate, in some cases, completely changing their business model. While these changes are necessary for many organisations to continue thriving, or even survive, for some team members they may feel like another roadblock 2020 has thrown in our path.
The uncertainty filling our news feeds can easily permeate our mood. We’re all human and it’s hard to stay cheerful amidst so much uncertainty. You may have found a loss of enthusiasm or a dip in the overall mood of your team in recent months.
How can you help?
If you’re facing any of these issues, we know these solutions will be helpful.
Check in Regularly
Yes, Zoom fatigue is real, but regular team calls or emails are one of the best ways to keep everyone connected and ensure that no one feels left out in the cold.
It can be a quick check-in over the morning coffee or a wind down for the last 15 minutes in the evening, but that contact helps to keep the team working as a unit and projects moving along nicely.
We’ve noticed that our in-house training for teams is proving really effective for keeping teams united and productive when working remotely. Why not consider running a virtual workshop for your team?
You can choose a subject that’s relevant to your team’s work (for example, project management is a really popular option) so that they can contribute actively to starting a project together or creating a solution for something that needs to be improved.
For some team members, recreating an office environment at home will simply not be possible. Kids need to be taken care of, noisy neighbours are sometimes unavoidable, and - let’s be honest – pets cropping up on video conferences are adorable.
Where possible, allow some flexibility to support your team in fitting these new aspects of their home life into their working life. Can they adjust their working hours? Can you offer additional resources to make their home office more comfortable?
Even if these supports are not available, simply offering understanding and patience when tasks or meetings are delayed due to things at home can make such a huge difference.
Open a Channel
Not everyone will be comfortable speaking up on a group video chat. Let your team know that you’re available to help or even just listen if there’s anything they are struggling with.
You may be busier than ever right now, but as a manager, your team need to know they can come to you if they need support. Time allocated for 1-to-1 chats is time well-spent.
Don’t forget about yourself
Finally, amidst supporting your team, don’t forget that you need support too. Managers are not immune to all of the challenges we mention above.
Ensure that you have what you need to navigate this crazy year. Here's a short checklist you could use as a starting point:
- Do you have senior leadership that can assist in solving team problems or provide guidance in your evolving role?
- Can you make time to attend supportive people management training?
- Are you keeping reasonable hours and taking breaks when needed?
- Have you considered your work from home pressure points?
Finding the Positives
While there are many obstacles to clear, and 2020 has undoubtedly been the toughest year of modern times, there are positive elements to keep in mind.
This year has allowed us to reframe what’s possible. We’ve discovered just how resilient we can be as individuals and teams.
We've gotten more innovative. The status quo has been challenged at every turn. New, inspirational ways of doing things have enabled us to stay in touch and many of us to stay in business.
We have supported each other at every step. People are noticing a stronger sense of community, both at a local and global level.
As we move forward into a “new normal”, keep these encouraging thoughts at the front of your mind. We humans are excellent at creative solutions.
You’ve got this.
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