By Dr. Bob Preziosi
I know of no management development program in the past that prepared managers for the scattered, isolated teamwork paradigm we have all muddled through the past 5 months. It’s been a new, unforeseen frontier for everyone. It hasn’t been for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. I conferred with colleagues to harvest their insights about keeping team members on the same page in this challenging time.
As always, the human element is just as important an emphasis for a manager as the project and program management tactics. However, with many of the team members in their homes, connected electronically and by phone, we have had a totally different teamwork paradigm for the manager to orchestrate for success.
Mastering the human element for people working from home is a challenge that we all can meet.
Begin with remembering that the business and personal aspects are equally important. As Pat Sreenan, VP at JM Family Enterprises, suggests, provide support and reassurance. For some people, the office is their only form of social interaction. Sreenan suggests we should help people be resilient in this new environment of physical separation.
- Listening has become more important than ever, suggests Jackie Martinez Sancho, a Director at Humana. She believes that effective communication impacts not only the team, but makes real connections with clients to support their needs.
- Julia Costin, Program Manager at the National Cybersecurity Security Center, builds on that, saying that managers should increase communication to overcome loneliness and isolation that might set in.
- Marcus Madlock, Executive General Manger at Learfield IMG, believes that managers should have one-on-one conversations to dive deep into how each employee is doing and managing their personal situation.
- Patricia Taylor, VP at Pictet Bank and Trust Limited, suggests that employees will have many questions and concerns. Frequent and consistent communication removes doubt, provides insights and keeps the team connected.
Meetings are, of course, hugely important when managing from home.
Each manager must decide what approach to use. Julia Costin suggests structures daily and weekly meetings. Use the daily approach to discuss tactical activities, while weekly meetings are used for one-on-one project status reports.
There is a special kind of meeting that many believe is essential.
Pat Sreenan suggests a weekly Zoom meeting where everyone has their video activated. The meeting is only social; no business discussion allowed. John DiBennedetto, Program Director at The Conference Board, suggests “virtual coffees” so everyone can connect with their peer group. Again, no business discussions allowed. Julia Costin schedules a “virtual happy hour” to promote social interaction.
Sabia Cherebin, a manager at British Airways, uses technology like Microsoft Teams to maintain camaraderie, business relationships and team spirit.
H. Nathan Charles, PhD, Certified Executive Coach, believes that meetings can motivate teams. He suggests virtual, bi-monthly meetings with each team member (one-on-one). The manager should focus more on assisting the team members rather than checking on the team members. He suggests two questions to ask:
- How are you doing? and
- What assistance or other resources do you need from me or others that will enable you to get the results you are pursuing?
Wrap up by reminding the team member that you are available and accessible if needed.
A closing thought for this blog comes from Marcus Madlock. Be open to feedback since we managers really don’t know it all. We are learning daily. Reach out to folks to see what’s working for them.