Guest Post by Kevin Eikenberry
One of the most common questions we hear from leaders who switch to remote work teams is, “How do I know if people are working?” It’s an understandable question – you’ve just moved from a situation where you could walk around the office and see people actively working to a situation where your team members are working in their own homes, out of sight.
The answer is simpler than you might think. When people share that concern with me, I typically ask: “How did you know people were working before?” Chances are your comfort previously was connected to the fact that you could see them. But unless you were looking over their shoulder, you didn’t know exactly what they were doing then either, did you? These newly remote leaders aren’t worrying about outcomes. They are focused on activity, and are worried their team members are watching tv, doing their laundry or snacking instead of working.
When leaders clarify their expectations about working from home, the stress and anxiety will go down for both the leader and their team. And as an added benefit, productivity will rise.
Hopefully most of the expectations you had for your team members were clear to them before they moved to work from home. This article is meant to address the specific challenges leaders face when they switch to remote work teams. Here are four things you can do today to clarify your expectations of your newly remote team members.
1. Get Clear Yourself.
What do you expect? You can’t make them clear to others until they are clear to you. The example above points to part of the change when people are working remotely. Activity (being at the desk being “busy”), shouldn’t be the goal. For the most part you aren’t paying people for activities, you are paying them for accomplishments. Getting that clear in your mind is an important step in getting clearer accountability for your remote team members.
Get it clear in your mind, then write it down. Putting words to your thoughts will make it clearer for you, and therefore easier to share with someone else.
2. Clarify How Work Needs to Be Accomplished.
Chances are the work needed and the quality level hasn’t changed because someone is working from a new location, but how the work needs to be done could be quite different. Think about how people need to collaborate and communicate and how the nature of your expectations might be changing as people work remotely. Those changes could include how and when people communicate with you, too. Determine what these new expectations are, and then you are ready for the next step.
3. Have a Conversation.
Once you are clear on your expectations, now you need to share them with others (whether a group or individuals). The best way to make them clear is through a conversation. Ask people how the transition to remote work has been going. Ask them where they have found challenges and frustrations. Some of their issues and concerns may mirror the gaps you see, making the explanation of your new expectations instantly understood and accepted. By creating a conversation you will gain the clarity you both need and likely get more commitment to the expectations.
Recognize too that they may have new needs and expectations from you as their boss, too. Make sure to ask for their needs during this conversation.
4. Keep the Dialogue Going.
How you and your team experience working remotely will adjust as you adjust to this new working arrangement. That’s why having one conversation about expectations, however successful it is, won’t be enough. Make expectations an ongoing part of your conversations with team members, perhaps as a part of your ongoing one-on-ones. Doing this will allow you to adjust the expectations as well as giving feedback on the progress of meeting them.
Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and learning. He is the Chief Potential Officer of the Kevin Eikenberry Group and has spent nearly 30 years helping organizations across North America, and leaders around the world. He is the creator of the Remarkable Leadership Learning System and the co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute.
Kevin is coauthor with Wayne Turmel of the The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. He has also authored bestselling books Remarkable Leadership and (coauthor with Guy Harris) From Bud to Boss: Secrets of the Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership. He has partnered with Linkedin Learning to create online courses, including Leading at a Distance and Leading Virtual Meetings.
This is excellent advice. The best way to stay engaged and make sure employees are working is to consistently stay in touch. Not in a way that it’s overwhelming or to make the employee feel like they’re micromanaged, but in a way where they feel like they’re being supported and trusted to produce. At the end of the day, we want good production, not any set amount of hours in front of a monitor.
Well said, Denny. Thank you for adding to the conversation!