The principles of leadership have not changed because of the recent crisis and the abrupt shift to remote work. This situation has simply put a spotlight on the ever-present importance of effectively leading small teams. One important job of every team leader is keeping everyone on the team motivated while they work from anywhere… you might say, “together in spirit” while “apart in body”. How?
Extrinsic rewards such as bonuses have their place, but let’s start with the idea that most people (and certainly the people that you should have on your team!) want to succeed. They want to know that they have achieved something individually, and they want to know that they have contributed to some group achievement, such as the successful completion of a project. Sometimes we miss the first step in this – defining what “success” means and sharing that definition to all.
The US Army leadership manual includes the statement “leaders provide clear guidance so subordinates and others understand the mission and their commander’s intent”. Likewise, on your team. You may not be securing a building while being shot at, but you are trying to accomplish an overall goal while circumstances arise that seek to prevent you from completing that accomplishment. The more your individual team members understand about the objectives, the better.
So do not hesitate to make explicit your goal of having a particular amount of revenue next month. Describe how a product must launch by a certain date for that to happen. The “what” and “how” matter, but so does the “why”. Keeping your people engaged was always the cornerstone of business success, and the importance of engagement only grows when people are working away from the office.
Once you’ve communicated the overall objectives of a project or operation to your team members, assign their individual tasks. Here’s the important thing – get the idea, and make sure your team members get the idea, that success means nothing more or less than completing their task so that the overall objective can be achieved. It doesn’t mean being the first one to set their status to “available” each morning. It doesn’t mean being the fastest to reply to text messages from the boss. It means achieving outcomes.
There are software applications to help define these overall objectives, break them down into component tasks, and then track them to completion. However, before your organization chooses a tool, make sure it chooses the mindset – everyone knows the objective, everyone knows what task they need to do individually to contribute to achieving the objective, and everyone knows that what matters is outcome. Ensure you’re continuing to apply this key leadership principle whether your people see you in person or on a Zoom call, and you’ll remove one of the common roadblocks to successful “work from anywhere” transitions.