Well this is new. My staff are scattered all over the paddock as I slide my bowl of porridge aside making place for my laptop. Here we go, google – “How to manage your team while working remotely?”. Not only is this new, but it is here to stay (for the foreseeable future at least). Managers, employees and the like are going to have to adapt. Quickly.

It is ok to feel vulnerable and take time to listen, reflect and let it all work out – to reach out and find one another. Today, right around the world, leaders, managers and parents are all scrambling to make sense of so, so, many things. Having your staff working agile, remotely, WFM, whatever the term is, is not something many of us have experienced before. That’s fine. Embrace the change and use it intuitively to find a way to better your productivity, enhance your business outcomes and motivate your employees.

I introduced remote working at my previous company twenty-five years ago. Initially it was “seat of the pants stuff”, but it worked out well in the end and I have never looked back. Hopefully you will find some of the experiences I share useful.

Here are my nine tips to working from home:

  • Understand what it means to work.

What is it that you do, exactly? You started out as a clerk at a law firm. You were drawn to the law because you find the complexity and intrigue of drafting contracts appealing. Now you have a department with twenty staff. You are a manager. There is a vast difference. Do you know what this means, particularly given the current lockdown and post-corona workplace? Find that. Write it down. Analyse it. Study it. Reflect and work out what your new priorities are.

  • Measure the right things.

Yup its that simple. Measure what matters. Measure the right stuff and you create magic. Measure the wrong stuff and, well you get what you measure – the wrong stuff.

Many years ago, I recall sales staff being measured on whether their cars were clean and well serviced, their petrol slips were in on time and their sale sheets were up-to -date.

Guess what? Great administrators. Clean cars, petrol slips in on Fridays and sale sheets up-to-date.

Measure sales against target. Guess what? You get sales against target.

Work out what your business needs most, and measure that.

  • Manage by objectives [MBO].

Manage outcomes not processes. If your best sales rep is setting sales records sitting in a cabin in Montague why drag them to office to see if their car is clean? Stop it. Now.

Set your staff an objective, clear and concise. Define the standard required. Set a timeframe. Ask them to repeat it so they are clear about what you require of them. Get them to keep you appraised of their progress. Make sure they have resources to achieve their goal. Let them achieve their goals. Go. Celebrate. Thank them. Gratitude goes a long way and gets you results ungrateful leaders never experience.

  • Do not be afraid to delegate.

Did you become a manager to feed some poor issue of self-esteem? Do you love having an office full of fearful staff you can laud over while fueling your ego? Well the terrible news is: a virus just upset your life.

Yes, you may be trying to rekindle your desire for power by checking your staff are online and measuring their time sheets. This will have a negative impact on your business. It results in lost talent, unmotivated employees and measures the complete wrong thing. Measure their objectives and delegate their tasks. You do not need to check up on them at all times, nor do you need constant reporting back. Let go.

  • Don’t motivate, Inspire.

Why would you send out emails at 22h00 expecting an immediate response? Why would you keep a young parent on the phone until twelve at night and expect loyalty?

The best leaders (and those that will succeed in the post-corona environment) are those that inspire trust in their staff. “I trust you to get the job done”, sounds so much better than, “I noticed from the server that you logged out at 16h55”. Inspired staff will get it done because you have enabled and empowered them. You have provided them with clear objectives and you have delegated effectively. The rest falls into place. Do not micromanage, inspire.

  • Move from ego-centric to eco-centric

Staff do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Do you check in with your staff to see how they are feeling? Their world has just exploded and you’re asking for petrol slips? No. An eco-centric leader is inclusive, understands how the broader eco-system is connected and the role they play with others not at others.

You are going to have shift the needle and work out a style that is consistent, fair and predictable. If you’re not sure look up the term authentic leader – you are going to need these skills from yesterday already.

I love Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, who said, “there go my people, I must follow them for I am their leader”.

  • Draw up a new set of standing operating procedures.

True north just shifted. Re-chart your course. Base it on getting the job done. Make it clear. Share it with everyone for comment. Adjust. Implement. Set clear boundaries. Successful leaders get their kicks out of empowering others to achieve their objectives, not telling people what to do and checking whether they worked on Saturday.

If you don’t re-calibrate north you will be left behind. Darwin never said evolution was a case of survival of the fittest. He said those that survive will be those that are best able to adapt. So, adapt. Start by drawing up your operating procedures, circulate them with your staff and find a method that works effectively for all. Get everyone’s buy in – this makes it everyone’s project, not just yours. The days of your staff waiting for you to come down the Mount with tablets are over. Co-create relationships.

  • It is going to be OK.

As mentioned, over twenty years ago I introduced both flexitime and agile working. The result? We increased productivity. Attracted talent on salaries way below the market average. People wanted to work in an environment where they were trusted and had flexibility.

This is not something new. You do not need to do much; technology sees to it. Many people are used to working in what is referred to as the “gig economy”. They are used to working from home. So, utilise this. Maximise the skills involved not the time involved. You don’t want busy staff – you want effective staff. Get a better understanding of what it means to be effective. Embrace it.

  • Find out what’s really bothering you?

Is it grief at losing work rituals ingrained over many years? Does the fear of not getting up, dressing up, showing up – sitting in the traffic listening to yet another prank call, parking in your reserved bay, chatting to staff about Saturday’s game cause you anxiety? For generations this has been the DNA of the workplace. It’s gone.

Grieve if you must but work out where you are in the cycle; denial, anger, depression, acceptance, meaning. Find someone to talk to. The best leaders are present, they self-reflect and internalise before crystallising their thoughts. Then they act. Now is our time. Now is the time for authentic, reassuring, comforting empathetic leadership. We owe it to those we lead. And to ourselves. You got this.

If the above was helpful, or if you would like any further information please contact Saige Business Consulting on info@saige.co.za

Keep a lookout for our webinars launching this week.