How to stay close when your team is far

Suddenly your job as a manager needs to combine the roles of business leader and therapist. In regular times people are happiest when they can combine working from home and the office – they don’t like working exclusively from either. With the gauge stuck at ‘home’ for an indefinite period, there are three things you can do right now to support your people and organisation.


1.  Individualise


We are not all coping with lockdown in the same way. Some of your team members will be juggling work with home-schooling while others may be living on their own. Treat each person on your team uniquely to see them through. Consider their personalities; how have they dealt with setbacks in the past, and are they self-starters? Find out what’s happening at home and what might get in the way of work. Most importantly, show empathy: understand how each of your team members is feeling and don’t judge. Play-back what you hear and ask what they need from you.  


2. Connect


Social media can’t ease the isolation we are feeling. You have to create a sense of togetherness using video or the phone. Use the informality of the times to get to know your people well. They will relax and open up once they’ve seen your taste in wallpaper or the kids climbing on your shoulders!


Share a lot. Your impulse may be to go quiet but be sure your team has never wanted to hear from you more. And create water-cooler moments. Call without an agenda (semi-spontaneously, but know when not to disturb), gossip a little and get your team together frequently for short bursts.


3. Adapt


Our world has been turned upside down, so things can’t stay the same at work. Be flexible and ask the same of your team. Discuss what would help your customers and other colleagues, and experiment. If you have downtime, set learning goals and encourage your team to eschew superficial development: read a book or get time with people who are usually hard to pin down. 


Alternatively, you may need to find workarounds to get new tasks done. Share duties to demonstrate no job is too small and let your team get their work done however they see fit. Create short-term certainty by discussing plans for this week, or just tomorrow, and suspend long-term individual goals. In a situation as unprecedented as this, make sure your team feels you are in it together. 


Learning in lockdown. We are running free 30-minute espresso workshops for managers on this topic. Find out more at

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