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Graham Birkenhead, March 20 2020

Leading the Home Team

COVID-19 has changed the world we once knew.  

But we are adapting – this is what we humans are good at and what made us the dominant species. Don’t worry, we will quickly learn how to live with this strange new world, and how to make it our new normal in order to get on with life and with business.

So here we are - Week 1 of the new reality and business leaders are experiencing great uncertainty about what is really happening and what will happen. We at KCL are seeing some impressive leadership emerging as leaders adapt to keep their businesses going while caring for staff.  We see tough decisions being made too. 

So now, we are all Social Distancing. People are being asked to work from home – indeed, the Kingsford team are now fully working from our homes. Where possible, it’s the right thing to do. Certainly, there are challenges - but there are many solutions.  

First, the easy one – “Connecting”. 

This is the immediate and obvious challenge. Fortunately, there is an abundance of Software as a Service (SaaS) applications that make working from home easy.  As long as you have internet access and a computer (or tablet, or smartphone) you are good to go.  Many of these remote work applications allow you to work off-line, and then resync when you reconnect to the internet. 

At Kingsford we spent a great deal of time investigating what works best for us. You can see what we use here: 

(If you’d like to understand our rational for these choices please do call us!)  

But technology isn’t the hard part.

 Leadership & Management - The Hard Part

Leading, inspiring, coaching, nurturing and managing your people remotely is different.  For your staff, some are already doing this remote working – at least some of the time. Some will find this easy and straightforward; others will find it more challenging. 

While together in the office, people are in constant contact, they can respond to each other in the moment, spontaneously.  Now that people, including their managers, are separated, the game has changed.  The way we work and the way we work together will need to change too.

 Four Things for Leaders to Note.  

1.     There is no such thing as an average person. There may be typical behaviours for a specific trait (such as the typical person needs 8 hours sleep per night) – but when all those traits are added together, humans are very diverse.  This diversity will be one of our largest challenges, and will also prove to be one of our greatest opportunities for improving how we work in the future (and that's a subject for another blog). 

2.     This is a leadership challenge. not just a management one; leadership is all about one living thing influencing another living thing.  Read my blog about the Rock and the Bird which illustrates the difference.

3.     The home can be a challenging working environment. People act and react differently in the home than they would in the office.  They have different distractions, demands, constraints, and normalised behaviour patterns.  This is especially so when other family members are also working from home and kids are off school. You will need to accept and make allowances for this.

4.     Situations like COVID-19 and the measures that are being put in place to manage it, leave people feeling that they have lost, or are losing, control of their lives. This can generate stress.  On top of that, people are worried about being paid, paying bills, getting the virus and then what would they do?  The psychological wellness of your people is under threat. 

Six Things Leaders Can Do.  

1.     Maintain Belonging and Connection

At KCL – we have Slack open and we chat with each other throughout the day – sometimes we decide we need to go to voice and video for specific issues.

 2.     Schedule Regular Team Check-ins

At KCL, we have 3 team chats a week scheduled – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – we use Zoom for a video call so we can all see each other. We bring our own coffee.

3.     Chat One-on-one

 4.     Think Team. This is a time for really taking care of each other and watching out for each other. You should also set out the expectation or permission, that it is OK for your people to feel confused, frustrated or even scared, and to reach out. It is OK to talk about those fears because everyone, to some extent, is going through the same. 

 5.     Share Vision and Direction.  

 6.     Identify Single Source of Truth.  

 Kingsford Team – we are here for you.

We at Kingsford are here to work with small and mid-market businesses.  You are the backbone of the economy and will be a key component of the recovery from this crisis.  As we all work through this, we will bring you insights and ideas based on what we see companies doing as they adapt, as well as from our own wealth of experience and expertise.

 There is a new reality coming over the horizon. The pent-up demand from this enforced hiatus will require all business to step up, to step up to meet existing needs and also to satisfy the demands created by the new reality.  For some of our ideas on what that might be – read Andrew’s latest post:  14 days From Now.

If you want to discuss or have questions about how to deal with some of this – just give us a call. 

No strings.

Written by

Graham Birkenhead

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