For many of us business owners this past year has taught us to be flexible, patient and more resourceful than ever. The work from home orders and the stress tsunami have also wreaked havoc on our processes. At FAULHABER, creating genius ideas during a group brainstorm in our cool office setting – YES! Making magic happen from home with some of the team’s cameras dark – not so easy. Building relationships, providing feedback and giving guidance to my team in person is tough enough without the added challenge that we’re all so far apart. We had to develop a few new skills in order to make this online-first vibe work. Showing empathy and listening have become essential skills. Last year I wrote an article on becoming a better leader in a time of crisis. Now, coming up on a full year of remote work, the crisis continues, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on all the impactful improvements I’ve made to become a great leader… online.
1. OVER COMMUNICATE
There’s communication for function and communication for success. Talking to your team about current and upcoming projects is imperative to ensure you’re all on the same page. In a remote-first environment having clearly defined goals and timelines is key to ensuring everything runs smoothly. We use Microsoft Teams to streamline groups, comments and edit shared documents.
Communicating for success goes beyond projects and clients. Acknowledge the challenging circumstances and talk about how things have shifted both personally and professionally. Being transparent about the health of the company and your personal life builds a solid foundation and trust. This has helped us become a stronger, more united, team.
2. TRUST YOUR TEAM
Trusting your team is important to keep them motivated, productive and happy. Studies show this is a key engagement tool. But how can this happen when you’re not in the same room? Set clear expectations, firm deadlines and use shared open-kimono documents and systems.
After we interviewed our employees about their time and productivity, we reduced our all-team check-ins to 2x per week and we gave each one a specific purpose. We found that, although not perfect, the team has leveled up and comes through most of the time, on their own. I learned a ton from the Speed Of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey.
Though micro-managing may be your go-to, constant updates and repetitive questions are unnecessary. Your employees will thank you for lessening the video call fatigue we’re all feeling. Showing you trust your employees to make the right calls will also increase their trust in you.
3. LISTEN UP
Listening is one of the most challenging skills to master. And it’s even more important when you’re in a leadership role. Our typical reaction is to engage and converse, but sometimes, listening and taking in information is even more valuable. Face to face we can rely on body cues that just isn’t possible with a screen in between so this becomes even more true during times of uncertainty.
In the past I rarely dedicated time or adjusted my schedule to anticipate the team’s emotional needs. Now we teach our leaders to reserve time precisely for that. VP & Partner Lexi Pathak has weekly “office hours” set for anyone to “stop in” and chat to talk through a tough client issue or share pics of their new puppy. This way to connect and hear what our team needs has been an important new tool. Although we may not always have answers immediately, actively listening and showing invested interest can be just as important. This is a great article you might find useful that our HR team at A Modern Way To Work shared with us recently.
4. CONNECT BEYOND WORK STUFF
While nothing is ‘offline’ in this current e-world, it is critical to keep team culture and energy with activities beyond work and outside the daily “virtual office” environment. Our Director, Team Engagement & Client Relations, Lindsay Singer is tasked with showing our employees how we live our values every day through our Weekly Huddle, TEAMS chats, Praise badges AND after-hours fun.
Casual after-work drinks have turned into a sommelier-hosted session where the team gets together for some fun and casual laughs, no work-talk allowed! Our People managers have a budget to treat their employees to a special something tailored just to them. Recently we bought a full-grown Fig tree for a new homeowner and made time to talk about their transition. Room-clearing at the start of a meeting is a fantastic way to get people talking about what’s on their mind, catch up and then get down to business.
On a few occasions, we delivered customized care packages – such a simple gesture that really makes a connection. These simple acts show employees they are valued outside of work, which goes directly into my next point.
5. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Putting your own oxygen mask on first is a real thing when you are a business owner. All the above tips won’t be of use to anyone if you don’t take care of your own mental and physical health. If you’re like me and have a busy calendar, kids and lots of balls to juggle so you have to make sure to schedule time for yourself. They say that the best and high-performing teams take the same focus to their home life as they do work. Go for walks with friends, hydrate & fix your posture, fill your mind with inspiring intel (we recently bought MasterClass passes for the team to learn and enjoy) and take breaks away from your computer. Steering the ship means constantly checking in on the health of your business and employees, so make sure to check in with yourself.
Read Christine’s article on the 5 Benefits Of Vulnerability.