The post-pandemic future isn’t looking too bright for several people, but the ones truly suffering are the managers. Caught between providing for their people and meeting business goals, we think they’re this close to a mental breakdown. Let’s look at the best ways to manage teams and ensure timely delivery.
Managers are people too! The sudden and recent transition from a traditional office space to a mandatorily online one meant a rapid adaptation curve for most of us, and managers are no exception. At the end of the day, they are still responsible for their team’s performance, and they must be given the tools to keep the show running. Self-care routines and tips for managers to deal with this unique situation are essential. That’s just what we hope to inspire with these four pointers.
Managers, we’ve got your back!
1. Structure and the infrastructure
Ensure that your team has the work-from-home (WFH) tools they need to pick up where they left off. Open up the budget or requisition more funds to provide the necessary electronics and Internet access for all the employees working from home.
Providing sufficient communication technology options to everyone is the first step on this ladder. It also ensures that people don’t need to stay off-camera due to bandwidth issues or miss important meetings.
Consult your company’s IT department regarding the measures to be taken to establish data security in this altered environment. Be a part of cyber safety and remote working discussions, or at least keep tabs on any discussions and new policy design or revisions of existing policies. For instance, your team should be made aware of the policies regarding downloading any third-party software, use of external sites on company-owned devices, email and information-sharing policies, and the like. Ensure that your team uses devices with in-built security tools to protect their hardware as well as the data on it. Set up a weekly work, check-in and meeting schedule using apps and tools specifically designed for remote working. Run a tutorial or crash course for your team before they begin to use it, to prevent any glitches or delays further downstream.
2. Team availability
The bottom may have dropped from below some of your team members’ feet in the event of sudden lockdowns. With no more daycare, household help or sitter access, they may find themselves out of their depth and unable to fulfill their work responsibilities. Show empathy in these situations, and you will win loyalty and appreciation for being a tuned-in manager. Talk to your team one on-one to get a sense of individual challenges and constraints, which will help you visualize the big picture before you formulate your strategy. Ascertain who is available for crucial tasks, and re-assign them if necessary. Let them know what is high priority and who would be the point person on the tasks. Emphasise that this is need-driven and that there should be no hard feelings.
3. Communicate and align
Unlike in a physical office where all that one needs to do is pop over to someone’s cubicle to give information or clarify a doubt, WFH during a crisis can make personnel drop off the radar completely. Even the most well-intentioned open-door policy gets nullified. Chances of miscommunication and misunderstanding among your team members could go up, as one may have to wait for another person to respond on a key piece of the puzzle. There is no way for a team member to gauge another’s state of mind when he or she receives a one-line reply.
The best way to avoid such scenarios is through clear communication.
Encourage employees to share their best time window for meetings and query resolution outside of meetings. A shared calendar can really help here, and there’s nothing wrong with putting in events for personal commitments as well—we all get it!
At the same time, inform them of the time slots that you can be contacted in for ad hoc queries. Keep an eye on the team’s communication patterns and ensure that no one is blocked for lack of information. When any tough decisions are required, do not hesitate to make them.
4. Team engagement and productivity
First, get all your own ducks in a row. When your team sees how “together” you are, they will look up to you and emulate your example. Deal with your own stressors and seek help when you need it. Any indecisiveness, apprehension or lack of conviction on your part will show, and in the worst-case scenario, trickle down to your team members.
Check in regularly with your team members and offer emotional support along with practical solutions, wherever needed. Be proactive in seeking feedback on what’s working and what’s not, and revise your management style if required. Nominate one or two mature, trusted team members to be your task force, your second-in command, to bounce ideas off, or stand in for you should you need a day off. The “new normal” is the ubiquitous, somewhat nervous phrase that defines 2020. But you can look at it as an opportunity to reimagine work-life balance in this context. You can create your own optimal virtual work environment that enables maximum productivity and, with a little effort, possibly better circumstances than before. Encourage your team to come up with their own solutions on “WFH-life balance,” and share them with others so that everyone can benefit from the trials and travails of one. Give your people the space to recuperate and the freedom to innovate. Empower them to take ownership of their adaptation strategies, and you will have one winning team! The true worth of a leader comes to the fore in times of crisis. As the saying goes,
“People don’t remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel.”
In order to be that leader for your people, remember to start with yourself.