ACTION PLAN: Five Moves to Optimizing Team Success During COVID-19 and Beyond
If I asked you to name your most valuable asset to optimizing team success during the challenge of COVID-19 which has caused some mandatory telecommuting, my guess is that you would say your computer or your internet service. I disagree. Your personal communication — — your ability to connect — -is the key component in optimizing team success during a remote working situation and social distancing environment. For sure, leaders have a due diligence to ensure resources have the proper tools to work from home, but success will require more than hoping everyone on your team is mature enough to navigate the changing work landscape.
Where data shows that early social distancing prevents a sharp peak of infections, the drawbacks can include loneliness and reduced productivity. In the workplace loneliness decreases performance, affects creativity, reasoning, and decision-making says Sigal Barsade and Donald Gibson in their article published by the Academy of Management. Yet, as a leader you can connect with people in such a way that inspires trust, motivates hard work, and generates positive momentum in a social distancing climate.
If you want a plan to help you think ahead on how to maintain a strong sense of team and connectivity during the COVID-19 challenge, here are five action steps you can take, right now, to optimize your team’s success.
1. Create a Team Agreement (TA) for Telecommuting — Draft your expectations for how the team will communicate and work during the mandatory work-from-home. Then hold a team meeting and ask for the team input on additional items to be included in the TA and items of concern that are listed in the initial draft. Make it clear that your draft is a starting point and that nothing is set in stone during the creation stage of the TA. If your company already has telecommuting guidelines include them in your team’s agreement, but usually corporate work-from-home guidelines are broad and you will need specific expectations of your teams’ process for starting work, ending workday, measuring and reporting progress. Lastly, make sure your TA has a communication plan that covers how information is communicated during this time.
2. Stay Connected Personally — Emails, web conferencing, and texting are convenient ways to communicate but they will never replace the power of vocal one-on-one conversations. Why? People are often reluctant to say what’s really on their heart and mind in a group setting. Yet, a one-on-one weekly phone call or a video-conferencing meeting that starts with sincere dialog that’s meaningful to the individual is the gateway to creating high engagement within your team while working remotely.
3. Keep It Simple — Simplification is a skill, and it’s necessary if you want to get through to someone when you communicate especially when you’re communicating via telephone or teleconferencing. Here’s how to keep your message simple: 1. Shorten your message so that others can remember it. 2. Stick to a main point, and don’t hop from topic to topic. 3. Be repetitive. Good teachers cycle through the same information until it sticks in the minds of their students. Do the same for your team because during challenging times, even seasoned professionals may need to hear the directive more than once to be clear on the expectation.
4. Build Team Spirit — If you want your team to stay connected while working remotely, you have to be intentional about creating an atmosphere of unity. Here are some suggestions to get you started: 1. Host a weekly or bi-weekly web-conference where the team is NOT giving work status but come together to share an experience. The experience could be an online training or seminar where each member of the team attends online and then have a brief recap of learnings at the end in a group meeting. Virtual team building activities such as the John Maxwell Leadership Game, a Mastermind or brainstorming sessions where team members share ideas on how to balance life while working from home.
5. Lead by Example and Inspire your Team — Leaders set the tone in an organization by how they approach their work and how they approach their people. Through their actions, they communicate their character, credibility, and convictions, says leadership expert John C. Maxwell. People need to be convinced of the passion of their leader before they will put passion into their work. You will inspire your team by leading in a way you would want them to respond to uncertain times as this. In other words, walk the talk. If you expect your team to be online at 9:00 a.m., make sure you’re online and reachable at 9:00 am. Or even better be there slightly earlier.
Many employees are expressing concerns over the Coronavirus and your team is looking to you for answers and leadership. By implementing these five action steps, you will teach your team how to stay connected while practicing social distancing.
What action steps are you taking to help your team to stay connected during these challenging times? Please share your tips for success in the comment section below.
Leadership Consultant, Yvette Gavin has over 10 years of experience building successful remote teams onshore and offshore. She has helped organizations create telecommuting frameworks that yield high productive and high team engagement. Yvette is the CTO of Yvette Gavin Consulting. www.yvettegavin.com