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Keeping a Close Eye

This one’s for all those leading teams right now. Are you keeping a close eye on what your people are up to? With most of us working from home at the moment it’s hard to keep on top of what everyone’s doing, and you really need to have confidence that your people are doing their jobs so it makes sense that you’re putting in more catch-ups and tightening expectations. Right?

Not so much.

You see trust is something that works both ways. It’s often lauded as something that we need our leaders to be, when actually it’s also something they need to show. As tempting as it is to increase control in these extraordinary times, to provide reassurance and comfort to yourself that people are working hard, the best thing you can do is to trust your people.

A recently leaked email from the WSJ to their staff outlining expected working from home behaviours prompted many responses that showed just how insulting, annoying and demotivating this kind of leadership behaviour is perceived to be.

NEWSFLASH! The tiny minority of people who might watch a bit too much Netflix during the day are the ones who spend too much time on YouTube when they’re in the office.

We hire good people. Why wouldn’t we trust them? Right now, we need flexible working in its most literal sense: many people are juggling multiple responsibilities at home, and even those who aren’t are still adjusting to this massive change so leaders need to be comfortable that the 9 – 5 isn’t necessarily going to work for everyone.

Sitting at a laptop all day long is bad for your brain and your back. Back-to-back meetings leave you frazzled and without energy to tackle big challenges or think creatively. Expecting people to replicate office life is unrealistic.

So what can you do? Here are some of our ideas on how you can let go and trust your people a bit more:

1. Check in, don’t check up

- It’s important that you keep connected with everyone: we have a short daily hustle to see how everyone is and discuss priorities. It’s about checking in though, not checking up. These can be lonely weeks for some people so it’s good to make time to chat and share needs, but you don’t need a daily rundown of what they’re up to.

2. Find out how/when your people are working at their best

- Some people may find that can only work in shorter bursts now, or perhaps their day is stretched with breaks to accommodate family needs. This doesn’t mean that all semblance of a working day disappears but take the time to get to know what works for those in your team.

3. Focus on outcomes

- Stop equating effort with value and focus on outcomes instead of whether someone has been ‘active’ all day. This is the same as rewarding people for being in the office for long hours – who’s to say they’re doing worthwhile work? Presenteeism does not equal high productivity.

4. Make time to listen

- Now is not the time for a “Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions!” mentality. You need to hear from your people right now; listen to what they’re finding difficult, work together on solutions.

These are challenging times for us all, but for leaders, it is a time to dial up your empathy and let go of the need to control and micromanage. When we do come through this time your current (and future) employees will look back on how you treated them and how they were trusted to do the job you hired them for.

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