Leading people remotely during a crisis

These uncertain times have brought a big change to the way we work, but that shouldn’t stop you from using your leadership skills to successfully manage your team remotely. Moira Dunne tells us how.

We’ve all been taken by surprise by the speed of events in relation to COVID-19. Most people are working from home, and for leaders and managers this means a shift in style and approach. However, the skills required are the same leadership skills you use every day in the office, just with a slight adjustment. Use these pointers to help lead your team from a distance.

Provide focus

As you streamline your business to essentials activities, many decisions will be made at a senior level. Help people adjust to these changes by explaining the reasons behind them and how the changes will impact everyone’s responsibilities.

Discuss priorities with each person. Listen carefully to their ideas and suggestions and agree weekly and daily targets. This will help people stay on track, and is particularly useful if people are finding it hard to focus while working at home.

A target combined with a daily check-in will give people a sense of accountability. It can also provide a sense of achievement and productivity as those targets are reached.

Provide connection

Being available by phone and email to discuss questions or concerns is key. Consider using video for daily check-ins. Group video calls keep everyone connected and can help keep morale up. Tools like Zoom or Whereby are easy to set up and manage. Perhaps someone in your team would take this on as a mini project to get everyone connected.

Collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams, Trello or Slack can also be used for updates on group projects and to track the status of tasks.

Provide flexibility

Flexibility is key right now. We are all adjusting to these uncertain times and it is important to help your team manage their stress.

Adjust your expectations as you set targets. People can’t be expected to work at the same rate or pace as they did in the office. Some may find they get more work done, as they have fewer distractions. But for most, there will be more demands on their time right now, particularly with children off school.

Your people may not be available during usual business hours. Be flexible. Allow them to work at different times if the demands of your business can support it.

The new normal

For many companies and leaders, this transition to remote working will be tough. But there may be some insights into new ways of working for your business in the future. Keep an open mind and an open ear during these uncertain times.

This article first appeared in Briefly, a weekly e-newsletter published by Accountancy Ireland.