When it comes to leading teams that thrive, the world in which leaders do this has undergone seismic shifts. Some of these shifts include portfolio careers, technological change and of course, the transformational shifts brought on by COVID-19. Almost overnight, the office-bound workforce globally relocated to their homes – and have kept working that way since.
There had already been a challenge for leaders to ensure the wellbeing of their staff when they gather in the office. The challenges of increased screen time, sedentary lives and social isolation was a growing problem before the COVID-19 crisis. This can be an even greater challenge when staff work from home. Digital technologies and a global workforce blur the lines of work and rest, enabling people to work anywhere at any time. This in turn is making it harder for workers to detach themselves from their work and can have a negative impact on work/life balance. So, what can leaders do to help their teams thrive when they work from home?
Be aware of the challenges of working-from-home
While workers today seek flexible working options, there are both opportunities and challenges that come with working-from-home. Isolated workers can miss out on the collaboration that comes from working with a team of people. In the last two years, face-to- face and interpersonal interactions has become a rarity as people increasingly work from home. Being aware of these challenges can help leaders engage and communicate with their teams whilst working from home.
The emerging generations are the most technologically savvy generation of workers to date. They have been shaped in the digital era and have only ever known the world of smart phones, apps and social media. They are using technology in very productive ways, but they are also best placed to witness the downsides of technology and how screen time and social media can diminish rather than enhance community. The Deloitte Millennials survey shows that while this generation is warm towards technology and its productivity, they are more negative than positive when it comes to the impact it is having on making workplaces less human. More than half of those surveyed (53%) said they were pessimistic about technology’s impact, particularly around a diminishing culture that enables social interaction.
The changing nature of work, along with what the workplace looks like, means workplace leaders need to adjust and adapt their strategies about how, where and when they will prioritise work wellbeing.
Remember the four I’s of leadership
Five words that define this era’s team members are: digital, in terms of the tools they use; global, in terms of the outlook or perspective they bring; social, in terms of who influences them and shapes their attitudes and decisions; mobile, in terms of where they live, work and connect; and visual, in terms of how they process content. Even though workers may not be gathering in the physical workplace, these aspects of leadership still remain important.
Leaders need to motivate and lead in a world of message saturation, information overload and decentralised teams. In order to cut through, they have to find engaging and innovative ways to connect and respond.
An effective leader will do well to take into account these four aspects of engagement: Interest, instruction, involvement and inspiration
Interest: creating interest gains the attention and focus of team members. A popular saying in education states: ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear.’ Learning can only occur when there is attention and the prerequisite of attention, is interest. Leaders need to create interest in their teams before communicating tasks and objectives.
Instruction: this is the stage where the leader delivers the content. A key focus of instruction is equipping the team to ensure the members are set up for success.
Involvement: after the interest is gained and the instruction delivered, the team needs to be involved in applying the learning. The best leaders get their teams engaged in the work in collaborating towards an outcome.
Inspiration: effective communication transitions the focus from what you want them to do, to why it is important they do it. If the interest and instruction engage the head and involvement requires the hands, inspiration is of the heart. The communication of great leaders is both rational and emotional.
Another strategy leaders can use to inspire their teams is storytelling, as stories engage people. Author and business executive Seth Godin said: ‘Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make but about the stories that you tell.’ Utilising stories is an effective way for leaders to cut through message saturation to educate, engage, inspire and motivate their teams, even as they work from home.
McCrindle are a team of researchers and communications specialists who discover insights and tell the story of Australians – what we do, and who we are.