Last week, you took stock of your situation. You identified your feelings. You reflected on your opportunities. You wrote a mantra for yourself. This week, it’s time to start making a plan.
Leaders always have a plan.
So, what will yours be?
How Will You Work Through This? (Be Specific)
In order to lead effectively, you need to figure out what’s going to work best for you.
Have small children at home? You may have to start work a little bit later than usual. Cooking dinner for elderly family members? Maybe you sign off earlier than normal. Suddenly sharing a workspace with your partner? You’re probably going to have to work around their schedule too.
Your unique circumstances will shape your daily routine. And that’s fine – you just need to understand what you can and can’t do and when you can or can’t do it.
In order to hone on what will (and won’t) work for you, start by reflecting on your work habits. Ask yourself: When am I most effective? When is a good time of day for me to schedule calls with my team versus responding to emails? What schedule will work best for me? Where can I carve dedicated blocks of time to focus on actual work (and not managing others)?
Next, I want you to think about how you’ll craft a new, productive work environment at home. Where will you do most of your work? Can you carve out a space where you can shut the door if needed? Do you prefer peace and quiet or do you need sound and stimulation?
These steps might seem simple, but they’re going to serve as the foundation for something much bigger. Leading through chaos will be so much easier if you’ve made time to get your act together, first.
Define the New Normal for Your Team
As a leader, you set the tone. You have the answers. You will make a plan. But before you do any of that, you need to think about what will work best for your specific organization.
- How are you going to operate as a team now, what are the norms?
- What are acceptable working hours, response times?
- What are my expectations around communication, accountability, results?
- What’s our new team structure and what are the rules that our team is creating? How do we work?
- How will I maintain the culture of my team in the absence of regular facetime, meetings, and team lunches?
I want you to really dig in here. Think about how frequently you want your team to communicate with you and with each other, what tools you want to use to stay in touch, your rules for conference calls and Slack chats (maybe insist that no one have other tabs open during meetings), specific times throughout the day when you need everyone to be online, and how frequently you’d like to be updated on ongoing projects.
And don’t overlook your team’s culture, either. As a leader, it’s your job to create, nurture, and maintain healthy, supportive, and interpersonal relationships. What will take the place of face-to-face activities like team happy hours? Virtual coffee breaks during team calls? Sharing fun facts about each person at the start of a virtual meeting? Doing some type of morning trivia?
This may seem like overkill. It’s not. Your team will be looking to you for structure – especially if most are new to remote work.
You need to lead the way.
Homework: Define Your Plans. Then Share Them.
First, I want you to nail down your daily schedule. When will you be available? When will you be offline? What’s the best way to get in touch with you?
Next, you need to establish the new rules of work for your team – with your team. You need to rely on each other now more than ever, and everyone should have a say in how things will work moving forward. You might want to schedule a brainstorming call to talk through some of your ideas or create a survey to collect everyone’s thoughts, understand their concerns, or get a handle on their home office set-up and ideal work schedule. Embrace the collaboration. Then, lead the way.
Once you’ve finalized your plan, you need to communicate it to everyone who will be affected. This includes your fellow leaders, your direct reports, your clients, your partner, your parents, your children. And then, I want you to ask the same questions of the people in your life. Ask your team to share their plans with you, and with each other.
Finally, you must follow your own rules. Telling your staff that they don’t need to be working at all hours of the day won’t mean anything if you’re making yourself available during all hours of the day. Just talking the talk (but not walking the walk) will make your team feel inherent and unnecessary pressure to follow your lead.
How will you keep yourself accountable? Will you set alarms to remind yourself to stop working? Use scheduled email reply tools? Keep your phone and computer in another room when the workday is done? Take this seriously.
You don’t need to have it all figured out yet. This week is for formulating a plan. Think about what works for you, ask your team what works for them. Things will start falling into place from there.
Next week: we’ll talk about how to transition from planning to executing. But for now, do your homework. Repeat your mantra. Look for opportunities amidst the chaos.
In the meantime, if you need me, I’m here. You can always reach me at email@example.com