Managing a team remotely during the pandemic

man saving the domino fall

The present crisis triggered by the pandemic situation worldwide has presented a humongous challenge in front of the corporate leaders of today. Research reports indicate that on account of COVID-19 triggered interventions such as remote work and skeleton crew, employees are more likely to face anxiety, stress, and burnout. 

The results have started shockingly manifesting themselves wherein almost 46% of company executives, out of 1000 respondents in a recent Deloitte survey, have expressed fears of a reduction in performance efficiency due to this situation. 

Tuning in right - Getting on the track

The situation has gotten worse at an alarming rate and your team members fear that their future has been hanging in the lurch for more than a year. The relentless waves of the pandemic are further shaking their confidence and adversely impacting their mental health, presenting an unprecedented challenge in front of you. In the wake of this situation, your teams seek calm, strong, and trustworthy leadership more than ever. 

It goes without saying that this new normal requires adjustments that extend beyond the workplace. In such a situation, your prerogative should be empathy towards your employees’ lives, through guidance and constant support. 

It is imperative to be compassionate with your team and prioritize their emotional well-being. This fundamental leadership principle will help you make better decisions to ease the mounting pressure and instill confidence in your team members.

How must a manager react in the face of a crisis?

Well, first and foremost, it is important to recognize the crisis beckoning you and your organization – this pandemic has, by far, had the most far-reaching consequences ever witnessed during our time. Hence, only after you come to terms with the implications would you be able to provide a fitting response. 

Pre-defined crisis management plans have been rendered redundant by this calamity. It is, therefore, of utmost importance to constantly improve your actions and respond as the situation unfolds. Here are some insights that you may find useful, to begin with: 

Organize a network of teams

If you are feeling overwhelmed and are unable to make decisions quickly in the face of this situation, consider organizing a network of teams to lessen the burden.

All corporate leaders face challenges in developing a response due to the sheer uncertainty of the situation. So, the standard top-down response system will not work. It would be painstakingly difficult to be solely responsible for collecting, data, processing it and making immediate decisions.

To enable an effective response mechanism, create an empowered network of teams who can discover and implement solutions to the dynamic challenges. As a leader, your role would be pivotal in ensuring perfect synchronization between different teams instead of micromanaging their daily activities. 

The focus should be on promoting a secure environment in the organization, wherein the employees can openly ask questions or raise their concerns without any fear of repercussions. This will encourage healthy debate that will further strengthen the networks’ response to the crisis.

Instill calm and optimism

Once you have created a network of teams, the next step is to instill a feeling of calm and optimism in the team members. This can be achieved by creating a well-defined architecture for decision making, wherein suitable individuals make decisions at different levels with clear accountability. 

If the decision-makers make any mistakes, they must be able to learn from the experience. This is where the quality of deliberate calm comes to the fore as it allows leaders to have humility but not feel helpless in an adverse situation. 

Another desirable quality in these times is bounded optimism, which allows the leaders to find a solution to a problem while recognizing that the problem beckoning them is serious and can only be solved by collecting more information.

Be decisive in the face of uncertainty

Time is of the essence and one cannot wait for all facts to emerge before deciding the course of action as these uncertain times require an immediate response. The need of the hour is to focus on the continuous collection of data and monitor the result of the response, instead of relying on intuition for decision-making. This will enable you to assess the situation from multiple perspectives, and then you can act according to what you believe may happen next. 

Maintain your calm and avoid any overreaction to new information. Once you have decided on things that are to be done, you must take decisive actions to foster confidence in your team during times of uncertainty.

Protip

Use platforms like HuddleUp for your managers to identify key development areas basis the team feedback and get a customised playbook and microlearning to lead effectively

manager playbook

Maintain transparent communication

Acknowledging a crisis and its magnitude is not a sign of weakness. Instead, if you exhibit an unrealistic optimism around the situation, then others will start doubting your level of understanding and ability to manage the crisis. 

To this end, it is important to ensure a seamless flow of information and welcome feedback from the team members. This will enthuse confidence in individuals that the management is in control of the situation and enable them to offer their best efforts to the cause. Keep the information flow unobstructed even after the situation is better, as it would help with quicker recovery from the impact of the crisis.

In a nutshell...

The coronavirus pandemic has been testing the leadership and management across all organizations. Although the pandemic has plunged us headlong into unforeseen challenges, it has also given leaders an opportunity to reflect on how to actively demonstrate inclusive and supportive behavior for teams.

Some of these recommendations may come more naturally to you than others; but as we continue to grapple with the ongoing repercussions of the pandemic, the best leadership approach is to emphasize the ones where you feel strong, and practice those that feel more difficult. 

Having to navigate through the crises may test your leadership, but it also helps you come out of your comfort zone and enhances your ability to lead through hardships.