I used to work in the office with most of my team; this has the great benefit of being able to feel the mood of the people, see how busy they are, and have unplanned meetings or one-to-one when needed. Impossible to do now that we are all working from remote. So here are my from-the-field findings.
Meeting face-to-face is now on hold due to the lockdown (I hope it will come back soon) and the Allen curve tells us that communication stops as soon as people are 8 meters apart. Being in lockdown is more like 100Km. Communication needs to be artificially encouraged (leader led).
At the beginning of the lockdown, it was hard.It is effortless to see if someone is upset/happy when physically close, it is impossible via webcam.
Not being able to see my team was blocking what I feel is my primary duty as a leader: protect my people. Remote working is directly in conflict with my non-locked leadership style involving eavesdrop conversations, get the mood of the team and individuals and act when needed, usually with an unplanned meeting.
After a couple of month in this situation here are my finding to make things better.
- Ask everyone in each internal meeting how they are and feel. I go through the list of participants during a call.
- During one-to-one, I start by sharing my feelings and invite them to do the same
- I now ask the question: “what bothered you the most last week?". It gets great feedback
- I also ask “what did you enjoy last week?” With this one, I get long pauses and no clear-cut answer. The biggest joy at work comes from finishing something. Not having a response is a sign that people are too busy doing infinite tasks instead of finishing smaller chucks every week, and celebrate completion more often
- The last new question is “are you overloaded?” Overloaded is terrible, very busy is ok for two weeks max, busy is good, not-busy should not happen as everyone is encouraged to go around the team trying to help, or learn.
Hope this helps you as it helped me