How to lead a team from home? How to virtually manage a team from home?

Last week, I wrote about how to work from home efficiently. This week I wish to draw your attention to how to lead a team during such times. Here are a few things you can do as team leaders/ managers in these times:

1. Acknowledge this WFH situation is different from a routine WFH situation: As team leaders, one needs to acknowledge this fact. In a routine WFH, things are known, processes and protocols are in place. In the situation today, you too are figuring things as you go along, so the first step is to acknowledge the situation.

2. Be Empathetic: Empathy is a key quality for leaders in today’s situation. “I am doing it, so can you” – may not necessarily be as motivating as it sounds. As a leader, you will have to understand every team member’s personality and situation as unique. You will not be able to expect the same level of productivity from everyone. At workplace – the environment is the same for everyone, whereas, at the moment, the environment is different from everyone. The situation is the same – stay at home, but everyone’s home environment is different. As a team leader, ensure you have informal calls with your team members to understand their home situation. Understand that introverts and extroverts behave differently. Your star employee in office may just be finding it very difficult to focus on work from home – Empathize. Go easy on the person, if you hear his/her child crying in the background during a meeting or if there is a noise of utensils being washed in the sink – have a laugh about it instead of making the person feel uncomfortable, awkward and shameful.

3. Communication protocols: As a team leader, you need to lay down some protocols and best practices for communication. Depending on the nature of your work, you may choose to have daily morning & evening video calls; video calls on alternate days etc. As a project manager, you will need a system of communication, wherein individuals can report work completed, work pending, clarifications required, doubts they are stuck on – remember they can’t just walk into your office to clarify their doubts. As a team leader, it is your responsibility as to how to go about setting up a communication structure. Feel free to have a group brainstorming session and then come up with a communication system that works for you and your team.

4. Deadlines & Priorities: Workflow will need to be prioritised. Leaders who are not used to prioritising are going to find work from home, rather challenging as they are used to a system of a chaotic workflow (I could not find a better word than chaotic – perhaps random, haphazard are other words that can be used for this). You can’t simply call someone in your cabin and ask them to start working on something. In these uncertain times, adding workflow uncertainty will surely dent morale.

5. Easy with the habit of micro-managing: You may be used to having everyone working in front of you in your office, today you are not going to be able to see what everyone is doing, every hour of the day. Avoid sending unnecessary emails to check on your team members and avoid calling up randomly. I know the counter-argument is to “check” if they are working but a better way of doing it is to have deadlines and ensure that they are being maintained. Showing a lack of trust in these times is only going to make things worse.

6. Fun time: Go ahead with the quiz night, have the talent show or have a Maggi break together. Go ahead and make time for the office banter. Have a place where people can vent out. Celebrate the successes. Schedule in some fun time as a group.

Leaders need to adapt their leadership style, what works on location may not work virtually. Give yourself time and your team members some time. Take things slow and do your best.

Till things become normal, stay at home, stay safe!

How to lead from home? How to manage your team from home?
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How to lead from home? How to manage your team from home?
The WFH situation today is different than a routine WFH. It's important for a leader to understand how to manage a team virtually. Here is an article that does just that.
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