Interacting with your team
Communication while working remotely can be a challenge for managers who want to balance staying in touch without overwhelming staff with unnecessary information. You want your team to feel connected and empowered to do their jobs and also that you trust them to complete tasks without too much scrutiny. Having a game plan and the right tools will make keeping your team connected effortless, until we get back to normal.
Have a few questions ready
There is nothing wrong with having a script of questions as conversation starters when checking in with your people. Having something like that handy can prevent long awkward pauses that have become an earmark of online interactions. Prepared questions can set the stage to discuss future goals, personal development and how you can better serve them as a leader.
- Is there anything specific that you have been wanting to tackle?
- Do you have any thoughts on how to better streamline how we do things?
- How are you and your family holding up?
- Do you have everything you need to do your role?
- Are you struggling with anything while working from home?
Don’t ignore proper onboarding
Extended periods of lockdown means that people are both leaving and starting new jobs remotely, which can present a challenge for managers. You want new hires to feel engaged and integrated which can be difficult when they can’t interact with colleagues face-to-face. Make sure they have a proper introduction to their co-workers and the opportunity to talk about their special skills and goals for the role. Check in with HR for electronic versions of documents that speak to company culture, brand standards and employee expectations. Make it clear that while they are joining the company at a non-traditional time that they are still an important and appreciated member of the team. Check in more regularly than you would with established staff to make sure they have enough work, support, and tools.
Don’t give people busy work
There is a difference between legitimate tasks and busy work and good employees can tell the difference. Trying to keep people tied to their desks and laptops for the sake of feeling like they need to be working no matter what, can backfire in a big way. It creates resentment when their skills are not leveraged and things are assigned to fill gaps of time. The fact is, that not all roles are able to function at 100% in a lockdown setting. An example of this is salespeople working in the beauty and fitness industry. They cannot call into salons and move products when their clients are not currently open for business. Managers would be much better off allowing these reps downtime to casually read a book on time-tested sales techniques they can leverage when things return to normal versus online training sessions or webinars that may not directly apply to their role.
Take time for training
If some of your staff have down time, encourage them to up-skill. Let them know they have your full support to read, watch or engage with materials that can help them in their role. Do the research yourself as to the best books and courses for your team and email them out to your people. Giving them some extra money to order books and enrol in courses is a fabulous way to get them engaged.
Leverage every tool
Not all online tools are created equal for every task. Messenger apps are good for quick answers but video calls are better for brainstorming. Zoom calls are great for one-on-one check-ins but can be tiresome if over-used for every interaction. Ask your team for feedback on communication channels and how they are used. This can improve the quality of interactions and make comms more meaningful.
Make meeting etiquette clear
Brainstorming sessions can bring out the best and worst in team meetings. Adding a dash of stress from lockdown conditions could create a storm of people not having the best manners. Even though your team is working virtually, ensure they have clear expectations as to how to interact with each other without being patronising. For instance, make sure that there is no such thing as a silly idea. Tell your team if you don’t agree with a suggestion to take a deep breath and pause before launching into criticism. Make video calls a safe space for talking about goals, big picture thoughts, and an arena for new concepts without fear of backlash.