Leading Remote Teams in a Crisis, Part 1: 6 Best Practices for a Strong Foundation

When it comes to focusing on the customer, Amazon leads the way. So, it’s no surprise that Jeff Bezos has great advice for leaders trying to do the same: “We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.”

With everything going on in our world today, we should consider his words carefully. Great leaders will increase their flexibility and change the way they lead during a crisis. What should you change in your day-to-day leadership given the current situation?

1. Take Care of Yourself, First

First and foremost, take care of yourself. Without a strong you, none of the rest of the advice in this post matters. A great starting point is to use extreme empathy—empathy for yourself, your family, your team, and your organization.

It is a good time to remember not to be too hard on yourself; instead, acknowledge that this is a tough time and we will get through it together. Try using positive self-talk and affirmations to get and stay in the right mindset.

2. Lead by Example

It is also important to remember to practice what you preach. Your team is watching and will follow your lead. This will require you to flex your emotional intelligence muscles to be the best version of you at work and at home.

To help stay on top of this, you may want to prioritize time to take breaks to do things that energize you. You may find that connecting with a trusted colleague who is a good listener or sounding board can help you when things get really tough.

3. Manage Your (and other’s) Time

To try to avoid feeling overwhelmed, be diligent with your time management. Strike a balance between being visible to your team and being effective in completing necessary tasks. If you are able to set a schedule and stick to it, your team will know when they can reach you.

Another time-management tactic is to make sure you are spending time on the right things. Analyze what you were focused on before the crisis. This will help you determine what you should stop doing, what you should start doing, and what activities need to continue.

With a clear focus on what you need to spend your time on, you will reduce the risk of having that gnawing overwhelmed feeling.

4. Know Your Team

Having a deeper understanding how your team and customers are doing is also valuable input to ensure you are leading thoughtfully and empathetically.

Ask your team how they feel, actively listen to the responses, and probe if you need more information or details. You can also gather this data during daily huddles, where you can ask the team to share yesterday’s accomplishments, today’s focus areas, and successes (no matter how small).  

The team can also provide valuable information on customer input and challenges.

5. Confront the Challenges

Where possible, surface and solve challenges in one-on-one meetings or smaller groups. It is meetings and listening sessions like these where you can identify what else your team may need from you, other ways you can support them, and learn more about their days. They most likely are juggling unusual challenges (like multi-tasking with family at home) and may need more help than you are aware of (like additional flexibility in scheduling).

In addition, some employees find working remotely more difficult and would prefer to be in the office where they can work in a traditional setting to get the job done. Good leaders acknowledge and address these details, even if just in conversation.

6. Take Time to Recognize Team Members

Extra recognition can help lift your team’s spirits and keep them focused on what matters most. Sharing positive verbatim as testimonials for the great work they are doing can help your team and ensure that you are listening to the voice of the customer.

Good news is always welcome! Conversely, staying on top of potential problems can make work easier, too; review escalations more frequently to see what needs to be handled differently. Ultimately, this effort will help your customers and your employees avoid situations that are unnecessarily difficult.

Be Flexible, Be Strong, Be a Leader

Leadership during a crisis is not easy, and, when you are leading remotely, you have an even bigger challenge on your hands. Taking care of yourself, proactively managing your time, and having a good grasp of how your team and customers are handling the situation can help you follow Bezos’s lead of being a leader who is flexible on details.

Check back next week for a companion blog detailing some operational considerations for being the best leader you can be during a crisis.    

Crystal Collier

Authored By Crystal Collier

Crystal Collier is an Executive Customer Experience (CX) Consultant with PTP. In her notable career, she has been a pioneer in employee engagement to enhance a company’s CX. She is devoted to transforming CX by improving the interaction between employees and customers in a variety of industries, including interactive entertainment, insurance, automotive, retail, internet and multi-level marketing. She is a featured speaker on customer experience and employee engagement.

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