(As published on Stuff, September 8, 2021: HERE)
There’s an elephant in the room for many business owners and senior managers at the moment: should the people in my team be relaxing at home or should I be keeping them busy? And if I do keep them busy, what can I get them to do?!
I have plenty of clients who have had these same questions.
I think the first thing you should be doing is asking them if they want to take the lockdown as a holiday — this might be a win/win for both of you, allowing them to happily sit on the couch watching Netflix and allowing you to relax, knowing they don’t need “managing”.
For your team members who do continue to work through, I think it’s important to moderate your expectations around productivity.
As well as the challenges that come from working from home (juggling it with homeschooling and sharing the communal dining table, in some cases), some people are also fighting very real battles around being in lockdown. Being lenient and allowing a bit of chill time is a good idea as Covid has been such a rollercoaster and resting the brain and looking after wellbeing goes a long way to giving you very positive future ROI.
That said, now is a great time to get your team to be proactive and do things that they usually don’t have the time to do, even if it’s for less than a handful of hours a day.
Give each team some improvement areas to work on
This is a good time to take a bird’s-eye view of the business and see where you can improve, especially around people and processes.
You can decide on these tasks yourself or do some group brainstorming using Zoom or a shared Google doc. Ask these questions:
- What has been going well in our team of late?
- What has not been so good?
- What are our current frustrations?
- What should we have fixed in our team that we still have not addressed?
- What are we not taking maximum advantage of in our team that we should be?
- If we could do anything (literally anything) for our team to be able to work together better and to achieve greater things, what would we do?
After answering these questions, identify the top three to five things that would make a real difference to your team performance. Then spend the rest of lockdown making progress on those three to five priority focus areas through solving what the issues are, working on better ways to do things, changing processes, upskilling, communicating as a team etc. These projects have one thing in common: for your team to perform better in the eyes of your internal and external customers.
Nominate a specific work-related project for people to work on, either individually or as a group
Is your website copy overdue an update? Are there case studies or testimonials you’ve been meaning to get to? Do your pitch documents need finessing? Are there any admin duties that your team has always been too busy to get to but need to do? Is there a new product or service you’ve been eyeing up but have been too busy to research and put together a business case study for? Competitor studies? Now is the time! Get on top of all those niggly jobs that always tumble down the priority list but are important.
Use this lockdown time to get each individual in your team to consider how they can get better with their own personal job performance
Get them to consider how they can address their personal weaknesses or personal opportunities. What personal habits or self-beliefs does each individual have that’s holding them back? What new, good habits would be really impactful? What areas of knowledge could they upskill in — both personally and professionally – to improve how they do things? Depending on how open your team and company culture is, you could have everyone share their individual focuses to increase accountability to do something about their areas for improvement.
The best sports team have totally open feedback where each team member can suggest areas that others can improve, for the benefit of their team. They literally sit in a circle and share constructive and positive qualities on one another. It’d be great if your culture was open enough to have each person in your team really wanting to know how others thought they could do better. Once they’ve decided on what their personal challenges and opportunities are, there is a mountain of resources online that can help, from webinars and YouTube to online workshops. They can even download relevant books from the library app, Libby.
Encourage your team leaders to do some self-learning on how to be a better leader and manager
You could get each person in your team and business to identify one or two things that they are going to do some personal research on to improve their own skills. This could be things like lean, strategy, innovation, customer experience, culture, finance, KPIs, management, negotiation skills, people skills, emotional intelligence, health and wellness, budgeting, and money. As a leader, you could lead the way and nominate what one to two things you’re going to do some self-learning on. Take this self-learning to the next level and encourage all in your team to share their assignment with the rest of the team at a set date in the future, talking for 10-15 minutes on what they learnt, what others might learn from it and how what they learnt will change how they do things. People are more likely to complete tasks if they know it will be seen by others at a certain time.
If they’re up to it, challenge your team to do a similar review on themselves about their life outside of work
They might assess how they perform as a parent, a partner, a friend, a family member, community person or whatever. Get them to ask what they are personally doing well and where they need to focus more to improve. You might even do this sort of thing with someone else that you trust: someone from your team, your partner, another family member, friend etc. Sharing where you can improve with others in theory will help you to be more accountable, especially if there is two-way checking in on progress being made.
Sometimes this focus on their performance and what-could-be elevates them out of the current negative situation and gives them the “why” that’s so important in business and life. The quietness of lockdown is a great time to truly consider what is going well and what you could be doing better, as well as things to start doing that will help you be more successful as a team and as a person. Just remember to be realistic about productivity and allowing for more downtime than normal.