Building Community In the ‘New-Normal’

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NewNormal

For leaders of companies big and small, there’s a looming question: ‘How do you carry on, business as usual, when circumstances are SO unusual’, when things happen so quickly, when we’ve never seen such happenings before? 

And ‘What if this is the ‘new Normal’, and this ‘Work from Home’, ‘Shelter in Place’ scenario becomes the defacto standard?’

Yes, the COVID-19 has hit all of us personally, socially, professionally and economically, and in ways deeply felt, and never before seen. 

I can’t see the future any more than anyone else, but I will share some thoughts on how you, as a business leader, can help build culture for your team and organization given the ‘WFH’ and ‘SPP’ directives, given these uncertain times.

  • Be organized and collaborative.
  • Be informed and act with prudence but don’t over-react and do un-productive, energy-zapping things.
  • Practice deliberate calmness and optimism, tempered with data and reason.
  • Connect with others emotionally, if not physically. Have more time for each other, for our people matter more than ever in these times of change.

During these strange new circumstances, we as leaders and managers must take measures to support our people – whether they are employees or partners, customers or teams. Below are some thoughts on how to maintain a feeling of community, a sense of culture, a belonging to a team when you’re Sheltering in Place or Working from Home.

Set up for Success

  1. Ensure that there is clear, inspiring, top-down communication around mission and values, timelines and goals, and that they are adopted bottoms-up, with questions welcome, and regular updates as appropriate.
  2. Work with Company leaders to commit to the success of everyone – from the top-down, from the bottom-up, at each and every meeting as a group, as individuals, in thoughts, words and actions – all the time, every time.
  3. Ensure that there’s full buy-in from everyone, and positive, productive energy from everyone. (Take measures to assess whether each person can consistently adopt this mind-set, for this is critical to the success of the individual, the team, the project.)
  4. Provide clear projects and timelines which fit the talents and abilities for each team member, and which fit into the larger mission of the product, team and organization.
  5. Promote a digital company culture, leveraging technologies and tools, data and information real-time so that everyone can be productive and connected.
  6. Adopt processes and standards that protect un-interrupted ‘work-time’ without chatter, as well as structured ‘project coordination’ time to share status, and ‘social/other’ time to build bonds between team members.
  7. Help each person separate work and home life physically, mentally, emotionally.

Establish Clear Standards and Processes

  1. Be open and authentic, compassionate and human
    • Focus on making positive and constructive remarks, comments and input, and ask everyone on the team to do the same.
    • Welcome input and feedback without judgement or consequence. 
    • Build trust to help people feel that they can share freely and safely. 
    • Forgive mistakes and transgressions. Help others to do the same.
    • Be compassionate, giving and vulnerable.
  2. Practice virtual meeting etiquette. Use the mute button, manage ambient noises. Get cameras and audio tools working well. Pay attention to intonations, facial expression and body language.  
  3. Honor everyone’s preferences around meeting timing, topics, length, etc..

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Thoughts on How to Creating a More Connected Remote Workforce

Build Teamwork

  1. Allow and encourage mindless chatting, ‘off-task’, but very relevant discussion
    • Spend meeting having team members share something about themselves or share how working remotely is impacting them.
    • Pose open-ended questions, with the intent of getting to know everyone better.
    • Brainstorm with each other how to address specific challenges around WFH.
    • Help everyone feel that they are all alone on doing their (very important piece of the project), but also they are all inter-connected and all on the same team.
  2. Create and use different layers of celebration and different formats for celebrating the different types of successes real-time and incrementally, short term AND long term; team AND company; milestone achievement AND bug fix, etc.,
  3. When practical, provide opportunities for in-person social gatherings, group trainings, cross-functional/cross-product gatherings, etc., so everyone feels part of the bigger team.
  4. Reward choices made to support the team AND individual progress on key initiatives.
  5. Reward initiative and drive around creating social and team initiatives – both online and in-person.

Build Relationships

  1. Assign a buddy-system to do periodic project-based, or role-based check-ins.
  2. Create regular ‘bonding’ time (by role, by buddy-system, by mentor/mentee, etc.,)
  3. When practical, provide opportunities for cross-functional/cross-product gatherings, etc., so everyone feels part of the bigger team.

Encourage Curiosity

  1. Welcome conversations about how company/team/product values are being upheld.
  2. Encourage and reward curiosity on how things are done, why things are done this way, why things are going well or not, why customers prefer one feature over another.

Practice Compassion

  1. Be curious about how people are responding to the changing requirements and processes, and how personal circumstances might be impacting work requirements.
  2. Be supportive of those who need logistical support to address WFH, SiP mandates.
  3. Regularly assess how WFP and SiP challenges are affecting individual team members and the team overall.
  4. Be flexible on timelines and deliverables while your team and their families adjust to new circumstances.
  5. Do the little things to let people know that you’re aware of their challenges and that you’d like to support them in navigating these challenges. It may be as simple as sending them a new webcam or mailing them a handwritten letter.

Build Engagement

  1. Reward people for bringing something to Share or Give at a meeting – data, tool, resource, learning, ideas, patterns, etc.,
  2. Reward process-improvement suggestions so that everyone has the tools and information they need to get the job done, the plan is clear on how to get what kind of support
  3. Encourage and reward team members who contribute to meetings, written communications, team projects – online or in-person.

This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but we will keep building on it. Your thoughts are also welcome.


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