I’m not sure about you, but working from home has got a lot less fun in the last few weeks. I think it is partly because the drama of the last few months has worn off and we are now all a bit exhausted. Or maybe it is because my daughter has gone back to nursery so I don’t have the extreme concentration and need for high output in a few hours, followed by playing for hours with a toy fire station. I know this is a luxury that most working parents don’t yet have.
As business owners, we have been right in the thick of it for ages. Who to furlough, who to make redundant, who to bring back. We are making life-changing decisions for our team, and with great power comes great responsibility.
And along with all this responsibility, we kinda need to get it right every time, whilst overcommunicating with our teams, being empathetic, leading with passion and energy and rethinking our business strategy so we can keep our businesses afloat and hopefully profitable, either now, or in the near future.
And if I’m finding the motivation starting to wane, I’m not surprised to hear from friends and colleagues that they are also finding things tough For many of us, there has been no point in bothering with booking or taking a holiday in the past few months, so the pressure has been on, and turned up high, for 4 months now.
Motivation for the summer months
As I’m writing this, I’m looking out of my home-office window onto gorgeous sunshine. It is a time of the year when we would be typically expecting a slow down in business, lots of the team taking holidays, and lots of KPIs and milestone projects being set for September or October, not for now.
But this year is anything but normal.
In fact, this year, it feels like the lull is over, and things are starting to pick up pace again with reopening gathering pace and businesses and people being absolutely ready for some semblance of normal life to return.
So how can we take that desire for normality back into our businesses?
- Let’s be clear what we are workingtowards, and then map out the journey
At People Puzzles, we have done a lot of scenario planning over the past months, and have revisited our business vision, why we exist, our purpose and our value proposition. The Coronavirus crisis has created the catalyst for change around some things that had been left undefined for too long.
By taking opinions from senior members of the team across the business, and using that to review our proposition and systems, it allowed us to zero in on things that would bring a significant positive change to the business ‘ for us it was all about our messaging and use of digital marketing.
We are now in the process of reviewing our 1 year goals ‘ which for a change will run July to July instead of January to December ‘ and then our quarterly KPIs. The clarity that quarterly achievable goals gives us is miles ahead of the general vague goals we used to set ourselves!
- Let’s work to help our team understandthis, and be motivated around achieving it
Once there is clarity about business long and short-term goals, it gives so much clarity to everyone working within the business. It gives the context to decisions, and empowers people to get in on making the big picture happen within the detail.
With the world and the economy changing so quickly around us, we definitely need to be clearer than usual about direction of travel.
Practically, that may mean sharing your Strategy on a Page document, your quarterly business and personal KPIs across the business. And in an ideal world, those documents would then help everyone to adjust their own quarterly objectives to ensure all the goals across the business align to achieve the business targets. This isn’t anything new, but in my experience we are great at talking about it, but less good at actually doing it!
- Let’s meet face to face if and when wecan, safely
I attended my first face to face senior team meeting this week, in my business partner’s garden! It felt really good, and miles better than another video conference. There was a multiple umbrellas situation at one point due to a rainstorm, but the progress we made, and the feeling of all being on the same page at the same time made a significant difference.
If you haven’t yet had any face to face meetings with the team, it is time to think about when this will practically possible again, and what you are going to use the time for.
- Let’s be really clear that we havedifferent people in different places, and they will all need somethingdifferent from us as business leaders
For some, working from home has been brilliant. For others it has been a test of patience, family life and perhaps even marital harmony. We cannot assume that everyone has had the same experience during Coronavirus, both work and personal lives have been impacted significantly.
Whether you lead a big or a small organisation, it is important to think through how you can treat people as individuals in this next phase of work. Some have slogged through the last 4 months, working hard and need a break. Some have been juggling caring commitments with work, some furloughed, some have been very unwell or shielding. Mental health has suffered too, with some experiencing real fear and anxiety that will take a long time to work through.
And our challenge is that we are looking to get the best out of our team members, in order to grow and recover our businesses.
Finding the mojo
If you are exhausted by the past four months, I’d really encourage you to share your thoughts ‘ appropriately. That may be with a business advisor or coach, a peer group of other business owners, or other members of your senior team. It is completely normal to be feeling that way after the year we have had!
Think about trying to do a few things that give you energy ‘ a few days of annual leave, a bit of sport, or a (socially distanced) catch up with friends. Even though our teams may sometimes think we are, business leaders are not robots who find making life-changing decisions for others easy or enjoyable. There is an emotional cost for us of restructuring, changing and rescuing our businesses.
Put together a communications strategy, so that you can be confident you are sharing the right stuff with the team. Share the positive stories and things to celebrate when you can to bring back some optimism. Keep saying thank you to the team, especially those who have worked hard over the past months. Consider a gesture that you can afford, perhaps an extra day of annual leave or a small gift as they have also gone above and beyond for your business in past weeks.
Above all, make sure that you don’t get burnt out and fed up, as you still have a really big job to do in the weeks and months ahead: continuing to lead your business through the current economic turmoil into, hopefully, a much brighter future.