The Coronavirus has changed many things about the ways we do our jobs and has created the need for many of us to work from home. In fact, many leaders and employees may be exploring the world of remote work for the first time – and even if they have worked remotely in the past, they may not have done so with as much intensity as the current situation has required.
As leaders, we can feel challenged to balance the need for productivity with maintaining emotional support for our staff, recognizing the challenges and stressors that they are likely facing on a daily basis.
Following is a four-point strategy that we have found useful and may help bring about positive outcomes for leaders and staff alike.
The CURE Method
In this time of anxiety and uncertainty it is important to establish and maintain a strong connection with staff members if such is not already in place. Try the following:
- Begin remote meetings by doing a roundtable check-in with all participants so that each person can discuss their status and feel included in the organization’s activities.
- As team members convey their thoughts, acknowledge each individual’s comments to reinforce that the person has been heard and their contributions are valued.
- Create a comfortable interaction that encourages employees to share. The information that they provide will likely extend beyond a few simple, polite remarks and become an important means by which leaders can gather data and be aware what is happening within the organization.
It is also valuable for the leader to provide updates about him or herself both personally and professionally. Consider these techniques:
- Share a story of a recent personal experience or challenge. This can place staff members at ease by sharing in the same manner that they have been asked to do, and also create a smoother transition from individual issues to business-related topics.
- Provide updates about the organization and current goals and expectations. Most employees need and want both structure and encouragement. Leaders can maximize results by balancing the support of staff members and addressing their concerns while simultaneously addressing the tasks that need to be performed and outcomes to be produced.
- Incorporate a mix of announcements and requests for input in the meeting. Rather than just stating the organizational objectives, it may produce a better result if you can explain what is to be accomplished and seek input from staff as to how that may be best achieved. In this way, there will be more ownership on the part of employees and any potential obstacles that may not have been known or considered can be discussed.
The process of facilitating the flow of data in all directions should not be an isolated event, but rather an ongoing activity. Continue the dialogue with these ideas:
- Keep a running list of important topics to discuss. A more frequent information exchange is likely to facilitate better outcomes.
- Maintain a consistent meeting schedule. Depending on the availability of the participants, it is usually prudent to set a regular interval for the remote meeting so that all parties can plan and prepare accordingly.
- Consider rotating facilitation of the meeting. Allowing the meeting to be run by different people over time builds important presentation and interaction skills of employees. By doing so, the leader still maintains his or her control and decision making authority over matters that are discussed while providing an opportunity for staff development that could produce future leaders.
Although “continual improvement” may be a phrase that has been around for a while in the business world, it still has validity. Explore responses to this approach:
- Build rapport with staff ensuring that everyone is on the same page with a common understanding of what is to be accomplished.
- Encourage participation by all through an evolving series of discussions about how potential obstacles can be overcome and activities can best be accomplished.
- Practice a style of interaction that encourages and values input. If employees feel safe in offering comments and suggestions, leaders are better able to maintain awareness of the needs and issues within the organization and address matters promptly as they arise. Ultimately, team members will be more likely to be helpful, focused, and engaged.
The four-point CURE method is an approach to enhancing the effectiveness of remote team meetings. Through use of the concepts and strategies discussed, more successful staff engagement can be achieved. Although the needs of an organization and its employees can sometimes be viewed as mutually exclusive or in competition, they are in fact complimentary and such balance is vital for maintaining cooperation and collaboration.
The current situation that dictates a different manner of interaction between leaders and employees can be viewed as a challenge or difficulty, but it can also be viewed as a valuable opportunity for staff at all levels to pilot new skills and strengthen communication that promotes productive interactions and organizational success.