"extra" ordinary leadership
April 2, 2020

Times like these call for “Extra” Ordinary Leadership – focus on people

By William Buist

Continuing our focus on remote working, let’s consider the “extra” ordinary leadership that’s needed right now.

To build on my first post (that began to consider personal well being), I’m conscious that many readers of this blog are leaders. So, rightly, your concern is not just personal productivity but how to help your team.

Given his experience in working this way (as shared in our podcast interview), I’m glad to welcome back guest blogger William Buist. He has shared with us before on the need for collaboration, managing external change and effective planning.

So, over to William to explain why “extra” ordinary leadership can be such a help to your team during a crisis…

Identifying “extra” ordinary leadership

On a typical day in a typical office, two people meet in passing at a drinks station, one may mutter to the other a greeting, the second may ask what they did at the weekend. A conversation ensues, it may be only a few minutes long. On returning to a desk one or other may encounter another person, and a conversation about their projects may crystalise a way they can help each other hit their respective deadlines. 

These seemingly minor interactions are multiplied by all the connections and random meetings and comments as people go about their work. They seem like a by-product of being in the same place. But, as so many of us now find, they are part of the fabric of the office. Part of its culture, part of our humanity.

The need today across the UK

Today the UK is semi-locked down. People aren’t at the office because we need to reduce social contact to limit the spread of a dangerous and virulent disease. People are working from home, children are being taught by video conference by teachers also working in unusual circumstances.

Leaders and managers aren’t getting the stream of updates that keep their finger on the pulses on their business, and their people. Those people too don’t know how best to update their manager or share an insight.

Tools help, of course they do, our world of eMail and Slack and Zoom and Teams doesn’t lack noise. What we are finding is that it lacks empathy, humanity, and we haven’t ever had to build that in. We need to work differently, for sure. But, we mustn’t let physical distance separate us emotionally and mentally. Technology can help here but it’s not a panacea for all ills.

7 tips to help teams work together while remote

Teams can’t work as a group of isolated individuals. Leaders can’t lead a team without creating an esprit du corps. When people are working remotely there are some key things that help both: 

(1) Early & late chat

If you are using zoom or other similar video technology it’s worth starting the technology early, and turning it off late; encouraging people to use that time to catch up with colleagues and share snippets of news.

(2) Regular catch-ups

Regular team meetings matter when we are all together. Standing meetings once a week have now become common in some environments. They matter more now. 

(3) A place for small talk

Focus on delivering our work is also important, but all the minor social interactions can’t happen when people are isolated. The opportunities for them have to be created. A WhatsApp group is a good way to do this.

One of my clients has created a “small talk group” and a “work talk group“. The small talk group is busy, but it’s letting people feel more like they are still together. They tell me that they feel connected, cared about, interested, and relevant. 

(4) Be transparent about issues

Transparency builds trust, if something needs to be changed talk about it, involve others. explain what isn’t working, and seek ideas. We aren’t all in this together unless we are all fixing the holes in the boat as well as inspiring others with stories of its final destination. 

(5) Personal contact

Regular calls to members of the team, but to check-in rather than check-up, help to create a sense of involvement. Be social, ask them the questions that you would ask them at the watercooler.

Share your fears and concerns and tell them how you are finding the days and the work as well. They are feeling vulnerable, and that’s a feeling they need to know is shared. 

(6) Stay emotionally alert

Listen to the mood of the team, gauge when you need to be present, and when you are present, be interested, not distracted. If an email seems terse, pick up the phone and have a conversation, rather than replying in an email death spiral of misunderstanding.

(7) Have a laugh together

Finally, encourage sharing jokes, or video’s or snippets from social media that make people smile, or better, laugh. We all need to do more of that, and the more we do of it, the more we can begin to enjoy a situation that none of us would ever choose. 

These are extraordinary times but the more, as leaders, we turn our “extra” to make things feel as “ordinary” as possible, the more success we will have.

How are you delivering that bit extra of ordinary leadership?

Thanks to William for that wise advice. I already see some leaders distinguishing themselves by giving more thought to team morale & human interaction.

What are you doing? What is helping your team? As managers & leaders across the world learn together about what works best – please share. I’d love to hear your ideas (either in the comments box below, or contact me if you have a longer piece to share).

Keep well & keep leading.