As I watch teams and leaders handle this sudden shift to remote work, I see many of them facing problems in time management.
This was a question I was asked on Linkedin and I decided to share my experience and some tips for you that might be facing the same issue.
(I focus my practice on real-life situations, so if you have a question of your own just let me know and I would love to answer them).
There are 3 things you must have in mind if you want to help your team organize their daily routines and feel a sense of ownership regarding their tasks and how they plan these:
- Having a digital mindset
- Developing digital skills
- Creating structure
Set your leadership mindset to coaching style
We are at the beginning of something new, it’s the start of a new cycle that still needs to be perfected. This is the first thing you need to have in mind when thinking about remote practices.
Old strategies might not work anymore, senior employees suddenly have junior-level needs and each one is dealing the best they know with the freedom of remote working.
It is time to create and you have a great opportunity to do that with your team.
The sense of ownership for one’s time can be developed by encouraging participation in the creation of new structures and working agreements that will meet people’s real needs.
As a leader, you will have to assess how each member of your team is managing their time and understand the obstacles.
There are some issues that most of the team will have in common, like knowing how to prioritize tasks, others will be specific problems you will have to address with them individually. Family and health issues are these problems that if not solved or mitigated might have a huge effect on productivity and well-being.
Remember, you are creating a new structure, it takes a little time to become a habit. People should be able to assess the efficiency of the processes and not be afraid to speak up when they find something is going wrong. Leaders must be accessible for people to feel comfortable to check in on their understanding of the priorities and to negotiate deadlines
Involve everyone in the challenge of building a new way of work and you will see how the team changes attitude from complaining to suggesting.
How to set your mindset to a digital world » Leadership 4.0
To set your mindset for acting as an orchestrator or coach you must challenge your own ideas of your role as a leader. Ask yourself what you value most about being a leader and what is your true purpose regarding the team.
Most leaders are trapped in the command and control mindset and have a hard time accepting that they are not the solution providers anymore.
Understand that in the VUCA World there is no one right answer and your role is to lever collective intelligence to find the best solutions.
Adjust you support and help your team get there
As I said before, digital practices are new for everyone and that might reverse the way of knowledge. The level of delegation you give will have to be adjusted to the level of digital skills and time management maturity people have.
Senior and experienced professionals might need more help to become digital savvy or even to manage their time without strict office rules.
The first thing you need to do as a leader is to assess the team’s digital skills. That will also demand that you assess your own.
The latest MIT Sloan Leadership’s Digital Transformation Report shows a huge gap in leaders’ digital skills (figure 1) even though “88% state that having a critical mass of digitally savvy leaders matters, to a great or moderate extent, to their organization’s ability to win in the future.”
That means that leaders should first look at their own difficulties in dealing with the digital environment before they demand that from anyone else. How curious are you about the features your video tool provides? Do you use any digital collaboration tool? How do you schedule meetings? Still, sending emails to everyone?
After this self-assessment, it’s time to check on your team.
When you map the team you will find out that some people don’t adapt well to the freedom remote working provides, so they need a little bit more structured setting and some rules put in place for them to be productive.
On the other hand, you will find out that some people thrive in the digital scenario, and are curious about new tech tools. These people probably won’t need such close observation and may even help others with the newly adopted tool.
Keep in mind you are not alone and don’t have to do it all by yourself. You can use this as a co-creation activity with the team.
How can you assess your team’s needs for your support and develop digital skills? Practical tips
For the assessment, I recommend using the Hersey & Blanchard situational leadership model focusing on how digital-savvy the team is.
Again, if your mindset is straight to help them develop these skills, you can set up a meeting with them and assess this together. Some of my clients are also using structured online assessments for having strong data on digital skill development and needs.
After that, you may find it useful to use a development technique like peer coaching, internal workshops, or even online courses depending on the team’s needs.
Create a group work around finding new tools for collaboration. Encourage people to be digitally savvy and curious to try different things. The leader can take 4 tools that are currently in the market and ask for people to make presentations on their benefits and how that could be used to improve work, for example.
Provide Structure for Remote Practices
Rethink processes, communication, and rules to adapt them to remote practices having one question in mind – Does this practice favors asynchronous focused time?
The key is to have as many asynchronous activities as possible. Live meetings should be reserved for situations where you must read facial cues and body language, or when it is essential for having a fast outcome, such as urgent decisions. Some good examples are one-to-one meetings, giving critical feedback, negotiations, and giving bad news, like layoffs. All those situations where you think that empathy is necessary, you want a deeper connection or you think the outcome will benefit from fast interaction.
Still speaking about synchronous work, meetings must be more objective than ever and only include people that actually need to be there.
If you must interrupt someone’s focus time you better have a good reason, their input must be mandatory.
Don’t include people that just need to be aware of what is happening, you can use other ways of communicating that asynchronously, like emails and intranet broadcasts.
I could talk over and over about meetings because, in my opinion, that is where we can see how the team works together, identify gaps and guide people in the right direction. So, it should be a moment where the leader is worried about how they can best help the team achieve goals, not only be informed about projects’ status.
I have seen huge leaps in productivity and proactiveness just by adopting a meeting structure.
The structure also concerns working agreements and clear communication.
When you have tasks flying in every hour of the day it is very difficult to understand what is urgent and what is not.
Unless you define with your team how to make that clear you will have trouble aligning efforts. Tasks may come unplanned, but that does not mean you have to stop everything you are doing and tackle them.
Some tips for building digital environment structure.
Follow a meeting structure
Each kind of meeting can have a different structure. The important thing is to choose the ones that best fit your purpose and focus on how you can help the team achieve results. For project status meetings ask yourself this – ‘Does this structure clearly show my team the progress that is being done, the obstacles we need to overcome, and the tools we have to do that?’
Establish rules for communicating the urgency
Creating codes that indicate how urgent the matter is may be very helpful. You can define specific channels, like chat for urgent matters, email for things that can be done in a week or two.
Establish working agreements
Define with your team some ground rules like how much time do you have to answer and email, how often you will have the meetings, what should be done if someone is delaying the process.
Chose a tool for managing asynchronous work
There are many tools for process management. I use Trello to organize my agenda, move tasks around the calendar, and communicate with my team. It is also very helpful to manage asynchronous work with different teams.
You need to help your team get organized, understand priorities, and get more focus time to be productive and happy at work and all that must be made in a new setting.
Companies that thrive in the digital revolution are the ones that are fast to adapt to a new way of working, communicating, and understanding leadership and teamwork.
There are many tools available, but they will be useless unless you prepare yourself and your team to be digital savvy and build the communication and process structure that fits your needs.
I have been helping companies improve their productivity and communication for over 10 years and I can honestly say that it all starts by setting the right mindset and leadership style.
Count on me if you need any help with that.