By Joel Radziewicz
When the coronavirus crisis became a full-blown quarantine, many mangers thought the biggest hurdle would be maintaining productivity, but for the most part, their teams have demonstrated a keen ability to function and adapt to this new, dynamic environment.
In fact, it turns out the biggest obstacle many managers and business owners are facing with their teams is maintaining clear lines of communication. And with so much uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it hasn’t been easy.
Readjusting Your Focus
Right now, the distance between managers, owners and their teams requires more conversation and dialogue than ever before. As business owners and managers, we need to readjust our focus, and it starts at the top. Employees should not be left wondering, “Who do I talk to? If I have an idea and want to discuss it with my boss, how do I accomplish that?”
Rather than being reactionary, which is the natural inclination at a time like this, we need to focus on opening new windows of dialogue and making sure our employees know we’re able and available to help. We need to redefine our priorities, and communication should be at the top of the list.
It’s the People, Not the Numbers
Amid all the financial and economic chaos right now, it’s easy to get distracted by every new piece of information, but business owners and managers need to stay focused on the human aspect of the crisis rather than the black-and-white numbers that typically drive decision making. Managing your team is all about balance. Your employees are driving revenue, so connecting with them should be the priority at the moment, not the bottom line.
Most likely, your team members are juggling working from home with newfound responsibilities like dealing with their kids and spouses. You probably are, too. Not an easy feat. Your employees may be anxious about their toddler bursting in on a conference call or the dog barking, so let them know that right now, all of this goes with the territory and most people understand. Even network news anchors are broadcasting from basements with kids on their laps.
One way to stay connected is to choose a night for a weekly happy hour on Zoom with your team and their families. It’s a time to see everyone’s faces and have some laughs so they don’t feel so detached. This will go a long way toward showing your team how important they are!
Make Tech Easy
For many small and medium-sized businesses, technology and communication can be a struggle. The good news is it doesn’t have to be!
- Choose one person who is tech-savvy to help get things set up or hire an expert.
- Use what you need to get by. You don’t need to shell out large amounts of money for technology or programs.
- Choose the medium that provides the easiest form of communication. It can be as simple as texting.
- Don’t overdo technology! There’s a threshold. Set up a daily schedule for your team through a text, or use an appointment app.
- Tell team members to text managers when they have immediate concerns or questions.
- There is always going to be a security risk with any technology. Just be smart about using it.
Essential Businesses with Team Members in the Field
For businesses with employees who work in the field, such as home health aides, plumbers, landscapers, and electricians, daily routines have changed. Rather than checking in at the office for morning meetings and scheduling appointments, people are adopting new technologies to create schedules, sign papers, and more.
Managers need to be able to communicate with their employees, and people in the field need to feel they aren’t being ignored. Everyone’s struggling with changes in schedules and meetings and dispatching teams, so be as patient as possible as the quarantine continues.
Working Outside the Comfort Zone
Leaders need to acknowledge that things are different right now. For many young businesspeople, they have no frame of reference for this. They have never seen a depression or recession in their professional lifetime.
There has also been a huge cultural shift. Employees are out of their comfort zones, so it’s important they understand they are not alone at sea.
Leaders are working with people accustomed to doing a specific task, but this may change while they’re working remotely. Increased workloads and increased responsibilities may be part of it. You need to show your team that you are confident in them. They need to know that while these may be uncertain times, you will figure it out together!
Collaborate and acknowledge that while we may not have done this before, we need to now. Have meetings to talk about technology and communication methods you’re using. Get feedback from your team.
The job of leaders and managers is to lead. Show your team the new plan, identify and explain the changes, and help manage their expectations. There may be a readjustment of focus, but you’re there to support them.
Hope and Assurance
Now more than ever, people need hope and assurance. It’s super important. If you don’t have good relationships or good communication with your team, you’re going to have a problem. We have to believe this is a temporary situation. Lots of people are in bad situations. It may be a few weeks, or it may be longer, but it’s going to change. We will come out of this!
I’m very passionate about the human element in business! Your team members are your best asset. Send the message we’re all in this together, and let’s all hunker down and do the best we can!
Joel Radziewicz is the Managing Partner at Shyft Careers.COVID-19