The four pillars of effective remote management during a crisis

We have entered a new age, one where « the paradigm shift is no longer an option ».

Are you suddenly faced with profound changes in your personal and professional lives?

Has your company been thrown into turmoil, forcing you to rethink your working methods?

Are some of you still working in the company while others are working at home?

Whatever your situation, these changes put the mind, body and social relations to the test while adapting daily life creates greater mental strain.

As a manager, you are particularly susceptible to double the pressure; on the one hand from your employees’ expectations and on the other, those of your superiors. Needless to say, this is the perfect recipe for plunging you into “pressure-cooker mode”.

Your daily goal: ease the pressure to help you manage in a pragmatic and practical manner using the four pillars of effective remote management during a crisis.

However, first we need to consider two simple but important factors:

Remote management during a crisis implies that preparatory work and prior actions have been carried out by your company in line with its culture and values.

Remote management during a crisis also implies that you have access to a dedicated workspace in your home. This space needs to be conducive to concentration and offer optimum conditions for communication. Some simple rules also need to be respected by you and other members of the household such as the times that this space will be occupied, when you are not to be disturbed, etc.

We will not be expanding on these points.

Now it’s up to you!

1st pillar: It is you!

Uncertainties about the current situation and about the future may be making you feel increasingly anxious. You may also sense the stress of your employees or superiors.

What’s more, your relationship to time has completely changed. You probably don’t spend as much time commuting or doing your usual activities.

Why not take this opportunity to slow down, recharge your batteries and relieve some of that stress (and that of those around you)?
Try putting things into perspective.

What if you used this time to rethink your management technique and approach, adapt to the way you work, your fears, needs and expectations?

How about using this time to review employee and management working methods, fears, needs and expectations?

The first resource is you!

How would you like to develop personally?

How would you like to develop your management approach during this time (communication, relations, objectives, etc.)?

What aspect of your intrinsic and extrinsic skills would you like to develop?

In uncertain times, you can lose your bearings, especially regarding your environment. This is the perfect time to get creative! Trust your instincts! Free your creativity. By setting the example and allowing your employees to do the same, you can help them to develop remotely, to unlock their potential and therefore their performance.

2nd pillar: Keep the lines of communication open with your teams

You may think this is stating the obvious, but we often forget the most basic rules: the further away you are, the more important it is to com- mu-ni-cate!

But communicate wisely.

That means defining a set of clear rules that are shared with everyone!

Social bonds can define us: «If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together», as the saying goes.

Are physical meetings limited or prohibited?

Prevent people from feeling isolated, agree on regular and specific meeting times with your management and employees, this could be for an informal chat, team meetings or project updates.

Use your creativity, or call on the creativity of others, for instance you could conduct a short survey to find out what frequency would suit remote workers.

Keep it short, simple and practical. And beware of falling into the conventional meeting ritual!

Make sure communication is precise (time, length, subject, target audience/participants, etc).

It is important not to cancel or postpone a planned meeting.

Communication must be short, clear and precise.

Meetings must be organised, regular and the content and format suitable (support used, name, etc), to make the message clearly understood. Take inspiration from company communication procedures used to canvas prospect or current clients.

Don’t forget that a message can be interpreted in a different way.

Here’s a tip: think in terms of «feedback» and «feedforward».

Feedback: Go back over what just happened: asking your employees or superiors to reformulate what was discussed in the meeting is a way to make sure they have understood the message. One less thing to stress about!

Feedforward: Asking for suggestions for future meetings will also enable you to look ahead in a constructive manner.

3rd pillar: Prioritise tasks / Clearly define responsibilities

When you are isolated from your employees and superiors, you may lack resources to coordinate teams, tasks and objectives and time seems to pass differently.

You need a clarification step.

You can:

Either use the clearly defined procedures and processes which your company provides to all employees for remote management. In this case, you will need to draw on key company resources without forgetting to integrate the elements of “uncertainty and duration” related to remote working which may need some initial adjustment.

Or define your own remote working procedures and processes. In this case, you can ask for contributions from your employees and superiors to help you define them. Why? This makes participants responsible for their own actions, which saves you time and fosters engagement.

At this stage, you need to select and focus on what is essential (for the team to work and the project to run efficiently) in order to manage activity in a minimal and targeted manner.

It is better to advance at a slow pace than not at all!

Given that these circumstances are temporary, but the duration is “unknown”, there will have to be some flexibility when it comes to the initial schedule and person responsible for certain tasks. Here you will have to manage priorities strictly.

What do you think are the key deadlines for your team or projects?

Which tasks must be completed imperatively?

Which ones are likely to drift further along the calendar?

Which targets should be revised?

Prioritising is a difficult task in itself. It can also be risky if you don’t apply the normal (and exceptional) rules and clearly define responsibilities.

The aim is to avoid widespread chaos but not radically change a method that has proved its effectiveness on a daily basis.

Work from a solid base!

Work on clarifying and/or defining the following with everyone involved.

«Who does what» during the crisis.

Decision-making (what is the scope and to what extent is an employee free to make a decision?).

4th pillar: Express appreciation

Distance can affect certain management reflexes, particularly when it comes to expressing appreciation.

You may have your own personal way of giving recognition to your employees, or maybe you don’t express recognition at all.

Be careful! Not giving recognition will work against you if you are not prepared to call yourself into question and work on the 1st pillar.

«Out of sight, out of mind»… Think about it.
The more remote your management, the more explicit is must be, and that includes giving your employees signs of recognition.
What are the usual signs?
They are many ways, both positive… and negative to signal recognition: a comment, gesture, mimic, pat on the back, an on-the-spot reaction, etc.

During a crisis, there are fewer opportunities and channels to express this appreciation and blunders can be made when acting in haste. The introduction of emojis in social media was mainly to avoid a message being «wrongly interpreted», but they do have their limits.

Again, you need to be clear and precise and make sure you time it right: if you appreciated something an employee has said or done, let them know exactly what it was that you appreciated in writing or tell them directly.

Take the context into consideration too in order to avoid any interpretation (in public or in private, whichever you think is the most appropriate) and the time spent. A positive message sent out of context and/or too late will have little impact. At best, it will be seen as clumsy, at worst it may be interpreted as ironic.

Don’t forget: positive messages are signs that our knowledge and savoir-être are recognised. They send positive energy and boost the motivation of your employees.

And don’t forget the two magic ingredients that make it all work: integrity and trust. Setting an example and embodying the rules you advocate are essential if you want to your employees to follow. Trusting yourself and others will open up the field of possibilities in terms of completing their tasks and taking initiative. In a nutshell, it’s the perfect time to use your resources and to implement new ones!
Have a safe journey!