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Let us face it. We are living in strange times and stranger things are happening every day. Team and social dynamics have changed  resulting in a huge change in workplace processes. Above all, emotional and mental health are at a real and present risk!l Businesses have gone online, everyone is at home, schools have shut down and stress levels are at an all-time high.  And in such times, managing and leading a team that works remotely is everything but easy!

I am often asked when talking about this issue: How should the team stay engaged? Can we manage timelines as we used to? How can we make sure that it is a disciplined effort from all employees?  

I often answer this by first mentioning that social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. An aware and authentic leader can bring out the best in their team. By communicating openly and being accessible, it is possible to recreate an effective and efficient team when working from home. 

By enabling a shift in mindset for the team, the leader can create the readiness to change. 

Here are a few ways of how you can achieve that.

Be Empathetic.

Empathy is one of the few skills that forms the foundations of emotionally intelligent leaders. While it may sound like an easy skill to have, it requires nurturing and practicing to be good at empathising. It places emphasis on the whole person, rather than just the task at hand. Putting yourself in your team members’ shoes and deeply understanding their situation will therefore, not only help them with their tasks, but also help you understand how your team is performing. 

Asking questions about your employees’ well-being, listening without interrupting them, and leading from within are a few ways you can start being empathetic. Aim to truly understand their situation and their motivation that drives them, without interrupting with opinions or suggestions. 

Empathy is a valuable emotional capital that establishes trust and loyalty. It is the glue for interpersonal communications that help your employees feel understood. By understanding what is driving them will help drive a shift towards the new order of things.   

Be Organised.

Clearly setting out objectives and spelling out timelines often leads to having profound results. However, being organised does not mean being strict. Allowing flexibility for the team and everyone’s working hours not only helps productivity, but also allows the team some room to balance work and personal life.

Communicating regularly, managing expectations and working hours, keeping a track of your team’s efforts and pitfalls, and maintaining a team objective are essential when keeping the team focussed and spirited. These will also help a team stay present in virtual discussions, by creating a professional and formalised environment. 

Be Trustful.

Trust is one of the building blocks to an effective team, and applies to both, remote teams and those working in the same space. However, it is essential that this trust is a two-way street. A manager should be able to trust that their team is working to the best of their abilities. At the same time, a team must have faith that their leader is always looking out for their best interests.

Running trust-building exercises, checking in with your team on how you can help them do better, understanding their schedules, and letting go of some of the control can help a team learn trust better and in effect, it can all make you a better and more effective leader. 

It would be safe to say that re-establishing trust in a changed environment would involve stating your intent, demonstrating integrity to establish new team culture with increased emphasis on inclusion and engagement.

Be Appreciative.

At first, working from home can feel incredibly liberating for a team. But slowly, it gets lonesome. A team that is used to working in the same physical space can start missing their work buddies, their time away from home, and the ability to focus without interruptions.

Small rewards for your team often can reinforce that they are doing well and that their work matters. Calling up your team, thanking them for their work, and making an effort to go a step further is a good place to start.

It is always good to remember that appreciation breeds optimism. In over 20 years of research, optimism has been observed as one of the foundational stones for self-reliant and effective individuals. So by being appreciative, you are not only helping your team be optimistic, you are also helping with an increased productivity. 

Be Patient.

Give time. These are extremely unexpected times and situations. Allow room for your team to adjust to this new normal and help them find their footing. By being patient, you are also giving yourself some time to understand how your team works and behaves. This will give you perspective on the kind of management style that will work best for them in these tough times. 

While there is no single trick to learn patience, by allowing yourself to slow down a little will help your employees feel at ease and in a more optimistic frame of mind. Rather than following up on timelines everyday, following up on the progress of the task more regularly will ensure that your employees feel purposeful and accountable. 

While the tides continue to change, this is a new normal we will all have to accept. Working from home will now become a big shift in the corporate sector and leadership must be equipped to manage that change effectively. Developing skills that build trust will help increase motivation and optimism to foster innovation. By being all of the above, leaders will not only make the transition easier, but also help achieve results! 

Easier said than done, though! The change is global and some foundational skills for managing teams need to be implemented  along with setting direction and value creation for the team while being relevant to the current situation. It’s also imperative to establish accountability and a rhythm of doing business in a different and changing environment. For the leader to deal with these changes and manage his own emotional and physical well being is quite an arduous task.

 He would need to enhance  self-awareness, self-direction and more broadly, self-management, 

Leaders would need to  find answers for themselves and develop their own problem-solving skills. They could consider being coached at an individual or organizational level as coaching uses a process of inquiry so that  individuals can access their own energy or inner strength to reach their own level of awareness.

The process  builds accountability by providing a safe forum for people to honor the commitments they have made. These commitments advance personal and organizational growth.

Coaching is collaborative as well as interactive. It is like a dance rather than a premeditated or prescription process. The shared experiences, insights and solutions generated during meetings move the person forward, which also allows the manager as a coach to grow even more. The process also helps people become more observant so they can better respond to the events, problems or situations that arise.  The manager and leader would also be able to understand the relationship between feedback and coaching; when does one lead to the other?

If you’re a leader who is experiencing the challenges that come with the shifts in team & social dynamics please do get in touch with us for a free conversation at sandhyamathur@inwardfocus.in



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