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7 ways leaders can change their mindset to lead and motivate their remote-working staff

As remote working has become the norm during the coronavirus pandemic, businesses need to ensure their leaders are well-equipped to successfully manage and drive productivity in their remote workforce. With the pandemic likely to affect how and where people work for some time to come, we asked an expert for their advice on how to effectively lead and motivate employees when everyone is working remotely. 

Annie Slowgrove is the founder and CEO of Fearless Engagement, a consultancy specialising in executive coaching, senior team development and culture coaching for corporates and SMEs. We asked her about how to effectively lead and motivate employees when everyone is working remotely. 

For many, the current pandemic crisis is an uncertain time unlike any other. For those new to senior leadership roles, it’s something they have never experienced, nor even considered. This crisis is leaving a profound mark on our world, and during this time leaders need to pause.

I don’t believe you can respond to this crisis like you would in a routine emergency. Even if you had a predefined and agreed disaster recovery plan for pandemics, nothing could have predicted the human cost of COVID-19, and the speed at which it travelled across the world.

No matter how critical the emergency has been in the past, this one is different. During this crisis, which is characterised by unfamiliarity and massive uncertainty, effective responses need to be largely improvised. 

As a leader, when things seem most uncertain, the instinct can be to try and take a firmer hold of things, to show you’re in command and have control. 

That’s not going to work right now. 

So, how can business leaders adapt their own mindsets to help manage their remote working teams? 

These are completely unprecedented times. They demand a completely different approach. Holding on tighter to the way you’ve always done things is not going to work. 

They shouldn’t follow a predetermined response plan. Instead, they should look at the way in which they behave and develop mindsets that will stop them from overreacting to current developments. They need to look forward, not back. 

Let go of the belief that a command and control response will engender stability. It will not. Instead, create a network of teams across your organisation, empowering others to create the stability you’re looking for. They need to be highly adaptable teams, united by a common purpose that’s relatable and simple. For example, ‘we will get through this; together’. 

Leaders also need to recognise the fear and stress this has caused – and continues to cause – their employees.

This is an emotional time, and you need to choose your messaging to reflect that. Use emotive and inspiring language, not commanding and informational words. Above all, make your communications fit your purpose.  

As part of that, there are seven key changes to their mindsets that leaders should make right now while their teams continue to be managed remotely:

  1. Accept that this is a crisis like no other and don’t try to control it through plans that worked in the past.
  2. Set clear priorities and empower others to discover and implement solutions that serve those priorities.
  3. Be empathetic to the human cost. Our economy will recover, our people may not.
  4. Be optimistic and positive in your communication, and don’t be afraid to respond in an improvised, rather than a fully prepared or scripted manner.
  5. Accept that pushback is inevitable with any type of major change. It’s normal, so see it as be a positive sign, evidence that people are hearing and engaging with your message. Work with it not against it.
  6. Adapt to what is needed and be willing to adjust the game plan as facts change and events unfold. 
  7. Embed the belief in yourself and others that ”WE” will get through this  -  together! 
WHITEPAPER
A new world of work: a guide for business leaders

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