By Bennett Fisher
In a matter of weeks, our entire world was turned upside down. But, as our obsessive checking of the news faded and we all slowly began to adjust to these new times, the challenge of effectively managing our virtual teams became real. Here are 3 things we can all do today to maximize high performing teams and alignment during this challenging time and beyond:
1 – Set shorter-term goals
Setting clear goals is the single best thing we can do with our teams right now. In this time of extreme uncertainty, we are all craving structure and direction and teams will look first to their managers to provide that.
For many managers, the mid to long term landscape might be a bit hazy as we all wait to better understand a post-COVID world. So, pick a point closer in time where you have more clarity and can exert more control. It’s ok if that point is only a quarter away or even a month away.
Once you select that point, work backwards. What are the top 3 things the team should be doing over the next month or even the next week to help the team achieve its objectives? Make it actionable at the individual level. The key is to make goal setting bite-sized and so everyone feels they can control the outcome and be successful.
And don’t forget – write it down, make it transparent to everyone on the team, and track your progress! That allows the team to hold each other accountable and be supportive.
2 – Give feedback early and often
The next big thing we can all do as managers to more effectively lead our teams right now is to create an environment of open feedback. Make sure everyone knows it's ok for them to give, receive, and request feedback from anyone else at any time.
Feedback can take many forms. It could be around how a team member is progressing on their goals or how they are performing overall. It could be calling out a notable accomplishment or a specific area to improve. It could be as simple as giving someone a shoutout for a good deed or a job well done.
Whatever the form, try to keep feedback relatively short and helpful. It doesn’t have to always be positive but it should always be constructive and it should be easy for the person to consume.
The idea with feedback is to create an atmosphere where the team is constantly communicating across all dimensions which leads to a better performing and more aligned team dynamic.
3 – Do your 1-on-1s!
1-on-1s are the simplest and maybe most important way for managers to establish and keep an open line of communication with their teams. I can’t think of a more important time than now to be asking your direct reports how they are doing and how you can help.
Obviously, the ways in which we have all historically done 1-on-1s needs to change. Gone are the walking meetings, coffee chats, and beers after work. Welcome to the world of Zoom meetings and the good ole phone call. Point being – the medium can always change, but the practice of doing regular 1-on-1s should not.
How often should managers be doing 1-on-1s with each of their direct reports? The short answer is weekly, if possible. Bi-weekly is ok, but I would try to do it at least that often. If you cannot dedicate at least 30 minutes every other week to your company’s most valuable asset then it may be time to take a fresh look at the org chart and change your priorities as a manager.
Whatever your cadence though, remember to record the key information about the meeting. Tracking that and how it evolves over time will provide incredible insight into how you can more effectively manage your team going forward.