With the current Covid-19 lockdown taking place in many countries, many managers are finding themselves in a situation where they now have to lead their staff remotely using video conferencing software. The easiest thing to do is to let time slip as you and your team are trying to cope with this unprecedented situation. However, before you know it two weeks will have gone by and neither you nor your team will have found a routine. Their productivity will have diminished and to some degree their interest.
You must take action now to keep them motivated and occupied during this period, even if it is so you can all hit the ground running when you get back to the office and normality. So, plan straight away to meet with them online in the next few days. Organise to meet first with the whole team, then with each employee individually.
Here are 4 tips to help you as a manager with getting started on this. If you have never used video-conferencing software before, this article will help you, though you will still need to watch a video or get some coaching to know how to master the application you use.
These are the four tips:
1. Schedule Your Meetings Now And Make Sure Each Team Member Is Aware
Decide on how often you are going to meet with your team, both as a group and with each of them individually. The best option is to have the meetings on the same day and time throughout the week. You may want to have a video-conference meeting with your team twice a week. Decide the days, the time and then let everyone know. Send out a calendar invite today. Once the team meeting is decided upon, set a time to have a meeting with each of your employees individually. This is important, as it will give you a time to talk through their tasks and goals while they are away from the office and what they need to achieve each week (see tip 3.) It will help you to help them continue to be productive. Get them used to this, get them thinking about using this time productively, and you may find that a lot actually gets achieved during this period.
Practical: Make some notes now. Decide and write down your team video-conference meeting time and day/days. What day soon will you have your first team video-conference meeting? Then decide on and makes notes on your individual meeting time and days.
2. Decide On The Right Video Conferencing Application And Ensure You Have Mastered It
Many people are now using Zoom for video conferencing, but you could also use Skype or Google Hangouts, as well as WhatsApp (for between 1-4 people only.) Decide whether you are going to start with a group conference with your team first or one-to-one meetings with each employee. If one-to-one video calls you could start with just using Whatsapp, and then move to another application. Either way, start making a plan on what applications you will use. Once you have decided, make sure you master them yourself. You will lose the impact of any meeting if the first 15 minutes are spent trying to set it up and get everyone tuned in. Get some online coaching from your IT department, or go to YouTube and learn yourself (for Skype, try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgcEfK6wCTo, for Zoom try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ik5o6WptX0.) Mastering the technology will allow you to have a smooth meeting from the start (as well as possibly impressing your team!) Group conferencing will take longer to learn, especially in terms of setting it up so that you manage to have a smooth start to any first video conference meeting.
Give yourself a day or two to practice, either with a friend, relative or another colleague. Then try it with several users until you are confident.
Practical: Choose your software. I would select ‘Zoom’ or ‘Skype for Business’. Practice using it, firstly for an individual meeting, then with multiple participants joining in.
3. Start With A Solid Foundation – Have a Checklist & Plan Your Meetings
Write out a checklist of procedures and goals for your employees that they should complete each week. This will help to avoid miscommunication and confusion that may result from them working at home away from the office, plus you not being able to check-in consistently with them each day as you would usually do. Laying this foundation will also give your video-meeting a good start which you can work through and will give a solid base for future meetings. They will be clear on your instructions and how you expect them to proceed during this time. You can then move on to discuss other individual goals and projects after that.
Practical: Make a checklist of tasks that each of your team should complete every week. Then under individual names, write their own goals and projects that they should be working on.
Secondly, make sure you have an agenda to work through for your video-conference team meeting. Prioritise your agenda with the important and urgent points first, then urgent second, and the less important and less urgent last. Choose one of your team to take action minutes (rotate it each week) that they will pass on to you to circulate (for this, I suggest supplying them with a minutes template to keep the written minutes consistent.) In your individual meetings, go through each team member’s action points with them to see how they are getting on.
Practical: Write an agenda for your first video-conference team meeting.
4. Use A Coaching Framework Like GROW For Your Individual Meetings
Essentially, this is talking through two or three goals that they need to achieve that week, always putting the onus on them. Use the GROW (Goals, Reality, Options, Way Forward) framework, which you can use like this:
Goals – “So, tell me something you intend to complete this week” or “What is one of your goals for this week?”
Reality – “And where are you at with that at the moment?”
Options – “So, what are the different ways you could achieve that? Give me 3-4 things you can do to get that done.”
Way Forward – “So, summarise for me how you are going to achieve (whatever the goal is.)”
Have a similar conversation about each one of the employee’s goals. To understand this more or to read another similar conversation in action, buy and read chapter 7 of “The Six Conversations Of A Brilliant Manager” (the one titled ‘Coaching (Conversation #1’What can you do about that?’))
Practical: Write ‘Goals, Reality, Options, Way Forward’ on a card to keep in front of you to remind you of the framework as you go through it with your team. Practise using it with a relative, friend or colleague.
These four tips will help you get started on the remote management of your employees until you are able to get back to the office. Once you all get into a routine, you should find this a productive period, despite the difficulties, and it will help you and your team move forward quickly once this Covid-19 season has finished.
Trust this will help you. If it does, please post a testimony – it would be good to hear. Also, feel free to post any questions or comments below.
If you would like any management or leadership coaching during this period, feel free to contact me for further details and to set up and initial video-conference call.
 Sears, A (2019 RedDoor Publishing)