How’s it going for new remote leaders? It’s understandable if you’re feeling a little out of sorts right now. You’re still in the middle of a whirlwind transition to a new way of working…and oh yeah, there’s this global pandemic thing going on outside, too.
As you’ve rushed to get your team prepared for working from home for who knows how long, it’s possible that you missed asking a couple of questions. Heck, you most likely didn’t even know all the questions that need to be asked, time crunch or not. Since I’ve been doing this work from home thing for a couple of decades and helped write a book on remote leadership, I thought I’d offer a few questions that you should be asking, but maybe haven’t yet:
Before we get to the questions, you have one important task: Breathe. Your team needs you right now, so make sure you’re taking some time to catch your breath and get your bearing. Don’t get caught up in the rush to “get things done.” Instead, be more focused on getting the right things done by asking these questions:
Do people understand the work that needs to be done?
Don’t assume that everyone’s will be the same. Some work can be done remotely, some can’t. Make sure everyone on the team understands what is “mission critical” and what jobs aren’t as important. You’re going to be operating from a “triage” mentality for awhile, so the “normal” task list probably won’t be relevant. Everybody should be prepared to do some things they might not have been doing when you were at the office.
Are everybody’s priorities aligned?
When we work remotely it’s easy to put your head down and tackle a to-do list. In this “triage” world, however, that list can change hourly. Everyone needs to understand and put the company’s priorities first, above their own routine of task completion.
Do you know all the stakeholders and their needs?
Maintaining relationships is going to be important. Everyone should have a way to access phone numbers and emails offline, because if the power or internet go down (even for a few minutes) it can get stressful.
Is everyone comfortable following the processes and using the technology needed to get work done?
Don’t assume everyone is comfortable with webcams, and that they understand logging in through a Virtual Network can change speeds and what you can access online. Make sure the right tutorials and help is available and that there’s a way folks who are struggling can get help or their questions answered either from you or from your IT department.
Make sure employees know how their performance will be assessed.
Here’s where things can really change. In a perfect world people won’t be judged solely on when they log on and off, but if it is that should be made crystal clear. Also, remember that in a situation like this, when people are surrounded by family, kids, dogs, etc., spending eight hours focused solely on work is nearly impossible. Be patient with people and apply the golden rule.
As far as quality of communication and work, everyone needs clear expectations of what is expected (think SMART goals.) Also (and people don’t want to hear this) bandwidth permitting, the more you can use your webcams to keep connected with other human beings, the better. Unless you are talking to a customer or a senior leader, nobody cares that your office is a mess or the dog just ran into the room. We need to know we are still connected to human beings and in times like this you want to show how much you care about them and their families.
You need to know that we’re here for you and stand ready to help however we’re able. We have a whole webpage dedicated to suddenly working from home and COVID-19. You can check it out at https://kevineikenberry.com/covid-19/
And if you need to talk to me personally, let me know. And wash your hands!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, offers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.