Managing Remotely in Uncertain Times: A Survivor’s Guide to Facing the Many Challenges Posed by a Crisis

You are submerged with a constant flow of information, you must juggle instructions and counter instructions and are confronted with daily operational challenges? Remember that this crisis, as have all others, will come to pass. And as we become more and more expert at distancing ourselves, we must take a step back and return to basics. Being in the moment will allow you to focus and think with clarity.

The right posture will allow you to reconcile crisis management with business continuity. Decisions in the short term should continue to reflect the organization’s aims in the longer term.

If they remain focused, your teams will project themselves into the future and remain mobilized. Starting up again may be a lot easier.

This is a time to assign value added tasks to keep your people engaged and motivated.

Here are some winning conditions you might consider

  • Managing teams remotely requires a certain level of trust. Your teams must be autonomous. This will require that you “let go”.
  • Give your people the necessary latitude and do not insist on a daily rendering of their activities.
  • You should focus, and indeed have THEM focus on results; let them determine how they will achieve that.
  • A word of caution: autonomy does not translate into a lack of oversight. You will need to be there for them: they will need your support and backing. Providing the proper framework – aims, goals, priorities, decision criteria – is still relevant.

Communicating and mobilizing for the duration

When uncertainty becomes a daily occurrence, communication is one of your key drivers to mobilize, reassure your teams and help them hold on for the duration.  Think in terms of a marathon runner and not a sprinter. Regular and efficient open channels of communication must be in place.

  • Carefully plan your actions. Your communications should happen on a regular basis and be unambiguous and authentic.
  • Remember that even if operating remotely, a well-informed team will remain engaged. Set up a routine whereby you email your employees after each remote or virtual meeting to summarize what was said and what we agreed to. You may want to delegate the preparation of this summary to a team member. Reviewing the draft email will allow you to instill a sense of shared responsibility and assess what the team understood of the discussion and whether your message is getting through. Make sure the information is shared with all members of your team and that none of your collaborators get left behind.
  • Get an update on projects and make sure that any action taken is in line with current priorities. Clarify everyone’s specific mission and role and the rules to follow.
  • Technology permitting, opt for videoconferencing. Seeing each other is an integral part of communication. Keep in mind that 55% of the message is non-verbal in nature.
  • You may not hold the answers to all of the questions your employees may pose. It is important to let them know you will seek the answers through the proper channels and get back to them. Unanswered questions will simply mean that someone needs to dive deeper!

Here are a few strategies you might consider to motivate the troops:

  • Enlist those employees who are generally positive and look for solutions. They will mobilize the rest of the team. And pay close attention! During uncertain times, it is not always those you expect who may best be suited to lead the team. You may have to move past preconceived ideas and adopt a fresh point of view.
  • Seek out opportunities to point out your team’s achievements. Mention those achievements during team meetings. Those you recognize in front of their peers will remain motivated. Emphasize various behaviours and approaches to highlight the many ways team members may contribute to our success.
  • Nurture the team spirit… even from a distance. How can we maintain the friendly atmosphere we enjoy back at the office, with informal gatherings and spirited exchanges? Let’s get creative!
  • Be an active listener. Truly understand your employees’ concerns and recognize the challenges they face. Long term, you will increase their attachment ant loyalty to the organization.
  • Don’t forget to enquire, in a respectful and tactful manner, about their well-being. Understand their situation, show empathy. When required, be flexible and adaptable in reaching defined goals. When usual frames of reference no longer apply, team cohesion relies more than ever on our common values and humanity. Don’t hesitate to share your own experience and feelings with your team: you are an integral part of the group.

Ultimately, what we are experiencing reminds us that we are not alone.

Your best bet, right now, is to take some time for yourself, refocus and strengthen the bond your have formed with your team. We must all pull in the same direction.

In other words, remaining calm amidst all the surrounding chaos will allow your organization to stay healthy



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