How do we manage teams and lead well in these strange times when our teams are working remotely? I asked Sophie Edmond on to the podcast because she’s been doing some work about managing teams remotely and talking about what good looks like.
Sophie is a leadership expert and works in organisations to develop leadership capability for top talent. We talked about:
- Duty of Care
- Being Flexible
- A top tip if people are struggling
All this results in being kinder and ensuring we have that human element to managing the teams.
Her number one priority is about communication. There’s lots of different ways as a manager to communicate with the team. Have a communication charter. Agree some guidelines, whether it’s over skype, teams, zoom; agree what the format would be – for example,
- listening well
- only one person speaking,
- giving a hand signal if you want to say something
and it’s important that everyone is involved in agreeing that.
Clear structure and boundaries are so important that everyone gets a chance to be heard and this can mean that sometimes the people who are not always the loudest will still get a chance to speak and be heard.
Setting up a team whatsapp group or making use of the other technological tools and share photos or detail of the home set-up.
Having consideration of different people’s personality and even whether they are introvert and extrovert and where do they get their energy from. Communication about what works for each person is key.
Emma shares a little of her current set up that has provided interesting dynamics during her home working environment and the discussions they have.
Duty of Care
As a line manager they have a duty of care, even during normal times, and also now in the different circumstances to work virtually. The duty of care is really key that you ask the question “what can I do for you, how can I support you”, so it is much more than what have you done today … where are you with x work.
This will pay forward, because when we are back in the office, the duty of care taken by a line manager will mean you staff have felt well supported.
Emma talks about how she has conversations about being a curious leader. Emma had the pleasure of sitting beside a female captain from the army who told her that even the British Army are changing the way they communicate, so that the command and control is no longer relevant or effective.
Emma talks about being curious with using different sentence openers such as “help me understand” “tell me more” and “I’m wondering” stops people being defensive. Since our stress levels are up anyway right now, we need to be careful about how people respond and use the communication and a manager’s duty of care to check in on their people as a human being.
Sophie mentions that as a society and a working world we need to be kinder and have that human element. Even around the fact that we need to appreciate children (of all ages) that people work when they can. Which might early in the morning, before children are up and then in an evening when things are quieter. There may be other examples of a day, depending on the children’s age at home.
We are in times of being adaptable and flexible and appreciating that people will get work done when they can.
Emma reflects that when she worked in corporate there was evidence that people were more productive in working from home because people did not stop for a chat on the way for a coffee and that people will work different hours, but still very effectively.
It needs to be recognised that the manager might not be available too.
This brings us back to the communication charter and set boundaries and structure so that there is a chit chat at 11am, for example, as if they are chatting at the water cooler. Maybe someone has baked cakes or put some music on.
People still need the social element and to be OK without always being watched and monitored. Productivity may increase but also be respectful of that and recognising and praising people.
Recognise if people say they are struggling.
Zip the Lip
Once you’ve asked the question. “How are you today.” Zip the Lip and let them speak. Listening is so important.
We need to listen without jumping in, problem solving or thinking of the solution, so that we have to listen to hear what people are really saying.
Being able to listen and to be listened to is really important.
When managers are worried about productivity and performance, Sophie recommends that managers need to agree objectives for that week. Not too far in advance right now because things are still changing daily . Using SMART objectives is key, but realising that these might need to be flexible. Check in with the team and see how things are going. Say to people that it’s ok to have downtime, or agree a group activity, even setting up a book club. Who moved my cheese is a great book about managing change.
Find different ways to look after, communicate, be kind, be flexible and help manage our teams in these challenging and adjusting times. Be mindful of who you have in your team. Some people will have struggles, so listen, be flexible with them.
You can connect with Sophie here:
Finally, I want to remind you that I’m still open and here to help and support you during Covid-19. I’m delivering all coaching, webinars, training and workshops online, through video conferencing. Get in touch to discuss your needs at https://emmalangton.com/contact.
The link to the questionnaire mentioned on the podcast is HERE.