by Kevin Eikenberry, co-founder The Remote Leadership Institute
As you read this, you have challenges – likely some you haven’t experienced before. While I’m not sitting in your shoes, I’m betting you’re trying to help your team navigate a transition to a new way of working. This change came without warning and little time to prepare. The work continues, and you need to get it right. You may also be dealing with new economic and cost pressures. You may be looking at letting staff go, making other painful cutbacks, or trying to make sure the organization survives.
You’re not alone
For all the pressures and stressors you feel, your team feels them too. They’re going through this transition with you, and they are aware of the challenges, and might even be more worried than the reality requires. As hard as this is, some people have been through economic downturns before, but that isn’t all we are facing.
Perhaps you and/or members of your team have school-aged children and are now adding “homeschool teacher” to their job description. The kids are home all day, every day, and they need help with their school work. If your kids are older, it may be just helping them use Zoom or other digital platforms to get their work done. If they’re younger, you may be having to actively participate in hands-on learning activities with them…all while trying to do your job.
And all of this has been caused by a virus that, depending on where you live, may be threatening the lives of friends or family. We’re facing an unknown future with regard to how we live our daily lives. Things we once took for granted, like going to the store to buy some toilet paper, are no longer guaranteed.
That’s a lot of balls to juggle, and all of them are critically important to us. We can’t afford to let any of them drop. So, what can you do as a leader to help your team members keep all these balls in the air?
Know their specific issues
Not everyone is facing the same challenges. Some of your team members may have small children, some may be empty nesters. Their circumstances and what’s stressing them is going to be very different. It’s your job, however, as the leader to know what the specific challenges are. If you don’t know, you’re not doing your job as the leader.
Adapting leaders are in demand
Perhaps the most valuable leadership skill right now is the ability to adapt and be flexible. Some people on your team are busier than they’ve ever been with everything that’s happening. For others, this may be a period of relative quiet. As a leader, know who is where. Encourage those who have more available time to step up and be available for those who might be feeling overwhelmed.
Armed with your knowledge of the specific challenges each team member is facing, be understanding of their individual needs.. Team members with small children may need to adjust the times they’re available to fit the schedule their kids are on with school. You should be able to offer more flexibility than their second-grader. This also means, if you’re not already doing so, you need to be focused on accomplishment more than activity. Keep the “main thing the main thing” and value the outcomes you’re after, not necessarily availability during a specific time slot.
Tremendous challenges create tremendous opportunities. The leaders who see the opportunity and adapt and guide their teams will be most successful in the short and long-term. You will not only help your organization survive and thrive, but you’ll also be helping the people who depend on you do the same.
I was honored to have an extended conversation with education expert, Dr. Byron Ernest and a very talented classroom teacher and leader, Katty Pacheco. We talked at length about many of these challenges parents who are working from home are facing today. If you missed it, you can watch it here.