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Be the best for your team

Written by Phil Hobden on Wednesday, 01 April 2020. Posted in Leadership, People

It’s fair to say that the current pandemic has changed the face of small business both in the UK and globally.

Be the best for your team

It’s fair to say that the current pandemic has changed the face of small business both in the UK and globally. More importantly for many businesses to survive and carry on operating, It’s changed the way that many businesses work. Remote working has moved from being optional or a perk of some roles to being essential and for many that’s a big change both for the employees and for the leadership.

I’ve worked remotely in various jobs for years. Be it front line sales or in my current role of Head Of Education, I’ve always operated a home office.  Comfy chair, desk and space to work.  As well as a door that closes.  But for many these will be the first weeks that they have ever worked from home. 

And that’s throwing out many questions, concerns and challenges. It’s also led to a host of new questions on Linkedin, on forums and in mentoring groups. Simply “How Do I ensure my team is working when they are at home?”.  Or the worse version of this: “How Do I check Up on/What software can I use to ensure that…”

Simply put… if this is your concern then I’d be more worried about your own confidence in your hiring choices than your staff.  Every member of your team was hired for a reason.  If you are that concerned about how productive they will be remotely, I'd suggest that this reflects more on you and your management style than anything else.  Honestly you have more important matters than making sure your staff are sat at their desk for 8 hours straight.  

The honest truth is you don't need to monitor/spy/micromanage them.  What you need to do is transpose your way of working as close as you can to the current situation and create a sense of ‘the new norm’,  If reports are right this could be what things look like well into May or June.

I can tell you that your employees are probably more nervous about working from home than you think.  If it’s their first time working from home it’s pretty daunting.  Support networks (both personally and professionally) just aren't there.  That 2 min chat whilst making a coffee, that smile as you pass someone, that joke that makes you laugh.  It’s all gone.  They will be as concerned about being seen as being productive as you will about whether they actually are. 

Now imagine that same employee see’s you online asking how to track every keystroke they make…

In short there needs to be a sense of trust.  They honestly need to believe that you trust that they have ‘got this’.  That confidence will in turn forge a shared trust and, even better, higher productivity. 

You also need to accept some simple facts - they may end up starting a bit later or finishing a bit earlier.  But that’s okay.  I’ve rarely ever spend a day working at home where I wasn't more productive than if I’d been in the office.  You also need to accept that sometimes things happen.  This past week alone I've probably met more of our employees and partners' family and pets than ever before.  Not to mention seeing people have to dive away because of a child falling over, an oil delivery arriving, a teenager asking for a phone charger or a persistent postman.  But this is fine.  When it happened live on BBC we all laughed but in reality this is the new norm as we adjust to having family at home alongside us.  But I can assure you whatever industry you work in this is happening all across the country. Better still as long as it isnt a half naked flatmate walking in the background (and yes I have had that happen also) people aren't really THAT bothered.

The quicker we can embrace this, empower our staff and create a ‘new normal’ the better and more productive our teams will be.  Letting them know that you are installing KeyStroketarcker1.5 on their machines will do little more than decrease moral and add to the sense of ‘big brother’ watching them.

So what does our new Normal look like? At Capitalise, as we moved to fully remote working, we’ve tried to replicate as much of the day to day normality as possible.  With some added bits to enhance moral and the sense of togetherness.

  • A Daily Stand-up hosted via Google Hangouts, replicating the stand-up we host every morning in the office.  And, as usual, it’s an open invitation so anyone can join.  Mix it up - add a hat day or fancy dress day.  
  • Slack.  The best and worst thing about modern business.  But simple Slacktiquette is key.  Insisting that every message that’s relevant is acknowledged with an emoji or comment.  Same for phone calls (answered or returned as soon as possible). 
  • A Watercooler Hangout.  A place where, at any point during the day if you NEED IT you can jump in and speak to others from the company.  A virtual coffee machine or kitchen table.
  • Weekly catch ups as usual.  Try and run BAU as often as you can.  Weekly check ins, quarterly reviews or meetings can be moved to Zoom or Hangouts.  Try and reinforce the ‘new normal’
  • Finally keep in social.  If you can buy your team lunch once in a while.  Or have beer Friday where you can all get together (virtually), have a beer and decompress. 

I've said this for the past few weeks now but this situation gives people and businesses a chance to be their very best selves. We’ve already seen missteps by well known companies throughout this (Sports Direct, Virgin, Wetherspoons and others) that could have significant ramifications when business returns to normal.  This is a time for us to empower, encourage and support you teams into being their best and that isn't by making them feel you don't trust them.

About the Author

Phil Hobden

Phil Hobden

Phil Hobden - Head Of Education at Capitalise

With a background in financial services & the Fintech accountancy market, Phil has worked for some of the largest and most innovative businesses across these sectors. As Head Of Education for Capitalise, Phil leads the external accountant training programme as part of our vision to bring back 10,000 trained SME finance advisors to the UK.

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