If you’re like me, you approached your computer Tuesday morning with a little trepidation. Maybe you picked up your phone with one eye closed against what awaited you. The reason is that it’s the first Tuesday in September, the day after Labor Day and for many of us who work away from the office the dam burst.
Depending on the business you’re in, summer is often a slow time of the year. People (especially those with families) are out of the office for vacation, business cycles tend to slow in August, and we’ve had the chance to work on some of those long-term projects we’ve been putting off.
And then comes the first Monday in September. In North America that’s the Labor Day holiday. It seems that immediately after we are caught up in a deluge of communication, meeting requests, and our inbox is full of email that went unanswered until now.
If you lead a remote team, there are some things you can do to help your team not get overwhelmed during the next week or so:
Check in to make sure that what people are working on is what’s important to you and the team.
Last week would have been better, to help people prepare, but it’s not too late. Often when our inbox starts blowing up, or people call demanding action on things they’ve let slide for weeks, it’s tempting to just get reactive and start responding to whoever dinged us last or yelled the loudest. Help your team set priorities based on what’s important, not just urgent and give people permission to reexamine their to-do lists based on the needs of the business.
Find out what’s changed with people’s schedules.
People who work from home often adjust their work schedule to what’s happening in their family and their personal life—it’s one of the reasons we love working from home. But September seems to be the time of year for new beginnings. School schedules change, new personal activities start up, and what was true in June may not be the same now. Find out what’s changed and make sure the rest of the team knows. If Tuesday afternoons are going to be bad for Sharon for the rest of the fall, that’s important news.
Have explicit conversations about technology use and etiquette.
When we get into a reactive frame of mind, we aren’t as mindful of which tools we use and how we use them as we should be. It’s easier to send an email than to return a phone call. Messages and cries for help from teammates suffer so that we can deal with “fires” that could have been dealt with in August, but weren’t. This is a good time to talk honestly with your team about what’s working, how you want to communicate as a group, and issues like expected response time and use of status updates.
It’s the fourth quarter.
If your company works on a calendar year, you’ve entered, or are about to enter, that painful period known as “Q4.” Not only will the pressure be on to complete tasks that were planned, but you also have to spend time thinking about next year’s activities, budget, and goals. As a leader, make it easy on yourself by taking some time now to look at your team and identify those people (no matter where they work) to whom you can delegate tasks. Where can you find the help YOU need to save your sanity?
And don’t be shy about how your needs will change. You’ll be in a lot more meetings, which will mean needing more data. You will reach out to the team more often with questions, not because you don’t trust them, but because you are preparing for other conversations. You’re not suddenly checking up on them, don’t let it look that way.
Welcome back from summer. Don’t let the end of the year freak you out. You’ve got this.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.