With most of the workforce now opting to work from home, due to the COVID-19 virus, employers and team leaders can use this as an opportunity to learn how to lead teams remotely. A study by the International Workplace Group (IWG) stated that around 58% of Indian employees work from home at least once a week. With the numbers only expected to increase in the foreseeable future, a lot of workplaces will have a hybrid situation, with employees working in the office as well as remotely. Corporate leaders will have to learn how to lead in person, as well as lead remotely.
In work from home (WFH) scenarios, your primary means of communication will include calls, emails, video calls/conferences, and instant messengers mainly. Each of these services comes from a number of service providers. It is important to select a fixed medium for each, that is convenient for everyone in your team to use. Usually, the company will have these mediums predetermined, but if it isn’t, then you will have to make that decision.
Scheduling and Communication
While in a corporate setting, it is easy to schedule an impromptu meeting or even speak to someone at their workstation. These tasks aren’t as easy to schedule in a WFH or hybrid working situation. It is important to ensure that the team is communicating smoothly. Proper scheduling of meetings and discussions with team members will be the most crucial step in making sure that important information is conveyed. Make sure that the team members know their tasks and what is expected from them, as it will help them schedule their time and make them more efficient.
Understand the Employee’s Perspective
Not every member of your team will be comfortable working from home, especially those that are now transitioning from an office work environment. In a corporate environment, you can control some of the distractive elements, but not at the person’s home. Moreover, there are higher chances that the team member may have to deal with unexpected obstacles now that they are at home where family, friends, pets and even the household chores are fighting for their attention. It is important to be empathetic towards your team members, especially during the initial phase.
Carrying on from the previous point, you need to set goals that are realistic. While setting the goal, keep in mind the usual performance of the individual, how comfortable they are working from home, and how urgent is the project. While setting up the timelines, also account for any revisions that may need to be made. Be ready for all possible outcomes, and have a plan to combat the bad ones if they occur.
Trust and Relationship Building
While assigning work and communicating with your team, it is important to build trust. Show that you trust them in the tasks you’ve assigned, and they will reciprocate. While building a working relationship with your team, it is also important to know how comfortable they are communicating with you. Some of them may prefer or be more responsive to a specific medium of communication, while others would have certain boundaries as to how often they would like to communicate. Keep all these in mind, as well as your own personal boundaries when building a rapport with your team members.
Coaching and Giving Feedback
In a corporate environment, it is easier to use the means of face-to-face communication to offer feedback and coaching to your team members. In a WFH scenario, the best alternative to this would be to use video calls as a means to communicate. If your scheduling is done right, you should be able to communicate with your team members individually at least once a week. Make sure that during these sessions, the exchange of information is clear, and the member is completely aware of what is expected, and how they have to execute it.
While providing feedback to the team members, it is important to also be attentive to feedback directed towards you. If you have built trust with the other members, you should be getting good quality constructive feedback. This feedback will help you to gauge how well you have been working with your team members, and how you could improve on it. Receiving feedback will also help you build a better work relationship and trust with your members, which will, in turn, make you and them all the more comfortable while working with tasks that are more strenuous than usual.
Be A Role Model
Your team members will be looking up to you to lead them. If you slack in your responsibilities, do not expect your team to act any better. By holding yourself to a high standard, you are ensuring your team can follow suit. If you are able to be accountable, then your team will certainly look up to you and work effectively.
With the transition from working at office to working from home, it is your duty to ensure that your leadership skills are able to translate well between the two environments, especially if your company has a hybrid system in place. While the rules of leadership never really change, the means of communication and team management do. If you are a good corporate leader, then the location of your team should not be an issue.
Khushboo Jain, Co-Founder and COO, ImpactGuru.com
Khushboo Jain was recently featured amongst the Top 15 winning women entrepreneurs at NITI Aayog & United Nations, 2019 Women Transforming India Awards. Khushboo Jain began an entrepreneurial career and co-founded ImpactGuru.com with a mission to help India’s people find crowdfunding solutions for patients struggling to fund critical illnesses.
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