Of the countless new challenges on the minds of leaders’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, learning to navigate the leadership of their teams, while employees are remote, is high on the list. Corporate leaders are currently finding themselves in the unique situation of managing careers while working from home and trying to develop their teams in a totally remote way, often for the first time.
A few questions we’ve heard leaders asking in light of the current situation:
How do you keep employees on a growth trajectory?
What does remote career coaching look like?
How do you give constructive performance feedback that you are most comfortable giving face-to-face?
How do we empower our teams to stay motivated?
In an effort to help leaders answer these questions, we interviewed a few leaders at Credera and asked them the question: “What is one best practice for managing the careers of your team members during this work from home season?”
We believe their insights will be helpful as we all learn together how to lead remotely, whether your organization’s shift is temporary or long-lasting.
Managing Partner, Houston
“A few thoughts… First, stay positive and hopeful; as leaders, a big part of our job is to provide vision and hope. Second, be a community builder and great listener; team members want to be heard individually as well as continue to feel a part of their work communities. Third, break down more complex and slower-moving opportunities into weekly milestones … most team members feel rewarded when accomplishing something and it’s important to have a weekly sense of accomplishment. Help your teams remain in the present but also think big picture … your career is like a book and isn’t defined by an individual chapter.”
Senior Director of Talent Acquisition, Houston
“During this season, it’s easy to make 1:1’s about checking in on well-being and tactical updates. Although those topics are important to cover, it is vital to keep 1:1’s with team members focused on career development topics so that the entire team comes out on the other side of this pandemic stronger. I do my best to time-box my 30-minute bi-weekly 1:1’s so that up to 10 minutes are spent on checking in and establishing connections while working remotely and up to 10 minutes are spent on any tactical needs or questions. The remaining time (at least 10 minutes) is dedicated to career development: asking questions to stimulate critical thinking, ensuring opportunities for leadership are available when desired, and resolving problems and challenges together.”
Principal, Data & Analytics, Dallas
“Keeping our team connected and engaged through this pandemic is critical. As a leader, I’m encouraging activities that aim at keeping my team both emotionally and mentally engaged. Emotional engagement can look like our fun, 30 minute, daily “Hallway Chat” video conferences with our practice where we ask a “question of the day.” Mental engagement can look like giving team members a side project to keep their minds engaged if they aren’t on a project. Our activities are aimed at developing our team and our culture from afar.”
“My best practice for managing careers remotely isn’t really earth-shattering… I make it a priority to simply make time to check-in and focus on my people. Even a quick message to see how someone is doing will help to drive engagement and act as a reasonable substitute for the casual hallway or coffee break type conversations that are a huge part of us understanding how our people are doing. In addition to the casual check-ins, I think it’s critical to REALLY carve out time for in-depth conversations that go well beyond that person’s current project and workload.”
Managing Partner, Denver
“Acknowledging that short-term professional goals and pursuits (e.g., promotion, bonuses, projects, etc.) timelines and expectations are evolving … we need to be encouraging, honest, and realistic about how trajectories, velocities, and goals have likely changed. Also, spend extra time with leaders who are exerting significant effort to care for their teams … it is easy for leaders to ignore their own health and emotional needs … we need to encourage open and safe dialogue and sharing at the executive ranks.”
Principal Architect, Open Technology Solutions, Dallas
“I would say one best practice for managing the career of my team members during this time is to encourage everyone to make a plan for how they are going to use the additional time (time they would normally spend commuting). Some examples include reading up on an emerging technology, reading a book, connecting with contacts on LinkedIn or simply investing in some quiet time to reflect on the day and thinking about one thing they are grateful for. Making the best use of this time and focusing on the positives elements of the current situation is key to not letting this time be a hurdle to their continued career development.”
Director of Operations, Dallas
“As this pandemic interrupted normal job priorities for several of our team members, we adjusted our regular team touchpoints to rapidly communicate changes and allow the team to volunteer for new tasks based on their skills, interests, and personal goals. These fast pivots had the positive side effect of allowing some team members to stretch mental muscles that they don’t often get to exercise and learn about new areas of our business. I’m even more confident than before in the strength of our team after watching them rise to this extraordinary occasion.”
“An unexpected benefit of this current situation is that many are being forced to learn how to better manage and communicate with what was already becoming a more geographically distributed team. This is a great opportunity to build good habits and discipline for providing coaching and feedback. I have found that it is actually much easier now to create dedicated, focused time with team members that does not get interrupted by the unplanned “drop-ins” that occur in typical office environments. We should all be taking advantage of this time while we have it. Require the use of video – it helps communicate and interpret intent, it keeps both parties accountable and focused on the conversation and prevents the temptation to multi-task.”
Principal Architect, Microsoft Solution, Dallas
“Make sure you’re staying visible to your teams. Intentionally reach out and maintain relationships with your project team and members of your practice. Use the extra time that you aren’t in your car to leap forward in your career. Find something that you’re passionate about that also pushes the firm forward and differentiates you and learn more about it. Use your new knowledge to create an offering, do a lunch & learn, or write a blog series.”
I believe in Credera’s people now more than ever. Our leaders truly care about putting people first and continuing to develop their team members. It’s not just a value on the wall, it has been lived out in the tough moments of an economic crisis. I hope our leaders’ practices and learnings will be helpful to you as you navigate investing in your people during this time.