Leading a remote team already requires a unique approach based on strong communication and trust. Helping them navigate a crisis is a different story entirely.
When a crisis hits, you need to support your team through it by doing more than fielding questions and delegating tasks. These challenges also take a psychological toll on teams that you must account for.
What do your remote workers need from you? The answer may not be what you think.
Morale is Your #1 Priority
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when leading a remote team in general is keeping up productivity and boosting morale. It becomes even more difficult during a crisis, particularly when the crisis features a huge level of uncertainty.
How do you boost morale within a distributed team?
A few simple ways include using your communication tools to do more than just work or make announcements. You can also use them to build connections. For example, you can set up an optional 15-minute Zoom coffee break at a time that works well for team members. It can serve as a space to chat, vent, or even sit quietly if that’s what the team wants.
Remember that many people use their ‘water cooler’ time at the office to blow off steam and problem-solve. Giving them that time virtually can boost their morale and keep them feeling productive.
Keep Communication Honest and Frequent
Communication is key within any team, but during a crisis, it becomes a tightrope that you must walk almost on your own. You must communicate sensitively and honestly, and you need to share updates regularly, even if you don’t yet have an update.
Perhaps the most important thing to do is to grasp your employee’s concerns and address them while also providing extra time to those who need more support.
Allow Employees to Experiment
Perhaps the biggest thing your remote workers will miss out on in an extended crisis is the career-building tools usually available to them, such as mentors and career plans. The ability to develop their potential is a significant motivating factor, and losing access over a long period of time can cause a slump in productivity and even generate more uncertainty.
Following that, it’s important to resist the temptation to stick to strict rules and processes. Give them opportunities to solve problems and build their schools and act as their mentor or career development officer where and when you can. If possible, consider experimenting with new ways of working to facilitate this. If you do, the results could surprise you. As detailed in Prime to Perform, innovation skyrockets when employees are allowed to experiment to solve problems.
Learn to Lead in New Ways
When a crisis hits, your role as a leader changes because your remote team’s needs shift. Communication, motivation, and experimentation can help you better support your team through extended crises like COVID-19.
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