Although it is tempting to adopt a more leisurely attitude when communicating with employees from home, it’s important to maintain professionalism in all exchanges. The same rules of conduct and dress codes that are used when working at the office should also be applied when working remotely. Likewise, be mindful of what’s visible in the background when you’re presenting via video or use a free virtual backdrop. Take the lead on setting remote meetings, especially one-on-one exchanges since this lets others know these meetings are a priority.
Many leaders set 50% of the topics to be discussed during remote meetings and let direct reports determine the other 50%. This helps to ensure that everyone’s concerns are addressed, schedules are maintained, and projects stay on task and also allows a healthy dialogue. Remote work can be isolating and create a sense of removal from one’s team, vision and purpose. Taking a few minutes to catch up on how others are doing, can rekindle empathy. From a team-building standpoint, set aside times for employee gatherings such as virtual happy hours to offset the isolating effects of social distancing.
With so much uncertainty, keep the team abreast of current events, maintain a sense of direction and minimize colleagues’ sense of disruption. Regularly check in with direct reports and explain how company actions are helping create positive outcomes. If you have to convey bad news, be straightforward and empathetic. While furloughs, project delays and other changes aren’t easy to talk about, being honest and respectful with coworkers is the best policy. Prepare for questions that employees may ask, have supporting information ready in advance, and walk through how impending changes may impact your team as well as next steps.
During tough times, leaders should acknowledge employees may be stressed due to uncertainty and seek ways to empathize. Especially when working remotely, it’s important to regularly ask others how they’re doing. Exercising emotional intelligence, and providing others with comfortable contexts to air their feelings is a crucial part of leadership. The more you make listening to others a priority, while simultaneously projecting calm and control, the more successful you’ll be. Top leaders inspire confidence and also provide encouragement to their team.
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