It goes without saying that businesses around the world are going through one of the most radical changes in the history of work. As much of the world grapples with how to work in this new environment, leaders are learning how to work, lead, and manage employees from a distance, many for the first time in their careers.
Sustaining business operations while keeping your people calm, safe, and as productive as possible during this crisis is no doubt a daunting task, but shifting how you think can help everyone in your organization think differently too. And that’s exactly what your business needs right now.
At 15Five we like to foster and maintain a growth mindset, which, if you’re not familiar, is the belief that abilities can be developed. This way of thinking is crucial all the time, but perhaps now more than ever.
Developing a growth mindset is vital to achieving your highest level of leadership presence. It’s by far the most critical factor in being an effective leader in “normal” times, but it’s even more key now as you’re working and managing others remotely probably for the first time.
Getting into the right mindset is the equivalent to putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others. And that starts first and foremost with believing that YOU CAN DO IT. Maybe this seems obvious and goes without saying, but you shouldn’t underestimate how important this starting point is. The belief that YOU CAN and WILL be an effective leader as you and your people shift to remote work is paramount.
Consider this time to be an opportunity to grow and expand your leadership skills. Working and leading remotely will force you to invent new ways of leading; this is the epitome of a growth mindset. This location change may have taken away some of the crutches that you had been leaning on as a leader, but you now have the opportunity to broaden and deepen your skills, which you will have to lean on in future disruptions.
Embrace the challenge to become a better leader and manager, and demonstrate a commitment to your own growth and development. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers, but you do need to take responsibility.
When it comes to your leadership and how you need to show up every day, here are four important to think and operate from as a remote leader:
1. Be present
2. Stay professional
3. Maintain structure
4. Don’t forget your company’s purpose
Your full presence and attention matters. Since you are not physically present, you need to show up in other ways. People can feel your commitment and your energy across a computer screen just as they can face to face. You need to do more than just “show up to work,” you need to amplify your presence and truly show up energetically.
There are some actions you can take to help you get into the right mindset.
• At home, it is important that you make sure you have an “office”— a quiet, private space to minimize distractions, interruptions. If space is limited, just get creative and find someplace to call your own. I’ve seen some really great examples, like offices in the garage or basement; desks on ironing boards, etc.
• Use video as much as possible with your camera on. (I’ll share more about this later).
• Set boundaries and make agreements with your family/household to avoid upsets and complications in your personal relationships. Create space for yourself both physically and mentally to “be at work.”
• Fully commit to taking regular breaks to refresh and recharge. This has always been true, but in crisis-mode, this is crucial for your well-being. Research shows us that honoring your unique human rhythms will naturally help you to be more productive and creative. Remember, the normal distractions that happen in your office may no longer be there, so I recommend scheduling time for this so that you don’t forget.
As a leader, your appearance always matters. Show up like you always do, if not better. Dress as if you were going into the office for a meeting. When using video, make sure you have good lighting and full-face screen positioning. Lean in and look directly into the camera (or as close as possible) so your face and eyes can clearly be seen by others.
Integrity matters. This is no time to get sloppy. If you do, what will your people do? It’s important to manage everyone’s integrity around timeliness and being present and focused in your meetings and conversations. And that starts with you. As the leader, you need to set the pace and demonstrate to others how well it can work to work remotely.
Regardless of the current circumstances, it is important that you continue to stand for your company’s purpose, mission, values, i.e., who you are as a company, why you exist, what you are about, and the difference you’re making in the world.
Right now having a sense of purpose is more important than it has ever been. Don’t ignore the psychological impact physical isolation is having on your workforce, not to mention that many people are also full-time parents and caregivers. The mission that your people signed up for will help to sustain their commitment, diligence, and passion during this time.
This is clearly not business as usual, and there can be a lot of confusion, anxiety, and a feeling of isolation setting in with our people. So as people leaders, we must rapidly adapt in order to support our people, teams, and businesses. Getting into a growth mindset, is the first step.
Jon Greenawalt is the Chief Performance Officer at 15Five, a continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, OKR tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. Jon brings over 20 years of global, cross-industry consulting experience to help develop leaders and teams through progressive leadership and management development programs.