I've been speaking with CEOs and business leaders around the clock as we head into our sixth week working remotely, with companies around the country on different timelines depending on when stay-at-home mandates were enacted. This is not easy.
No one knows how to lead through this. It's uncharted territory for us all. No one has the right answers, just best guesses, especially as many workforces have gone 100 percent virtual for the first time.
I conducted a webinar with Inc., sharing strategies of what LaSalle Network has been doing to remain connected to our people. Here are some of the things I addressed that have worked that may be replicated to keep your employees engaged and motivated.
1. Maintain normalcy.
As much as you're able, maintain the structure you had in place when working from the office. Our teams do daily morning standups and afternoon wraps, and those are still in place, being done via Zoom video. We still host the same company-wide meetings we did pre-COIVD-19. Your people need structure and as much normalcy in a time that's so foreign to everyone.
2. Use video.
This is so important and may seem trivial, but I require everyone to use video and turn their camera on for one-on-one meetings and company-wide meetings. Hold your people accountable to "showing up." They shouldn't be taking meetings lying in bed. So long as they're getting a paycheck, they're working and need to act that way. You wouldn't lay in bed if things were normal and everyone was working in the office. Also, looking into each other's eyes is more important now than ever before. People need that connection, with colleagues, and especially with leadership. I am in touch with at least 10 staff-level people daily, and our leadership team is, as well. They need to hear and see you.
3. Be transparent.
Not only do your people need to see you, they need to hear the truth...I've coined it as happy realism. Since we went remote five weeks ago, I have been doing a daily 10am video town hall with the entire company. I give them company updates, inform them on what we are or aren't eligible to apply for, how our business is doing, any economic updates, and anything I'm hearing from the business and industry leaders I'm speaking with. I try to give as much information as possible because that is what employees need right now. I am honest and transparent. I tell them "I don't know" because that's the truth. I don't ever want to say one thing and do another.
Employees need an escape from the stress and paranoia, and laughter is a virtual remedy. Have fun. Laugh. Your people need it. We've hosted virtual happy hours, ice cream socials, themed trivia and bingo nights, and we also hosted a virtual piano bar, where an employee's friend performed for us. Employees submitted song requests, and everyone joined and sang along, and employees' roommates and families joined, too. We've had teams recreate events that have been canceled. For instance, an employee who has been with us for a few months was having her bachelorette party, and with that canceled, her team threw a virtual bachelorette party. Just thinking about one another and how everyone is feeling and is impacted is so important.
5. Hold employees accountable.
We have a phrase that we've said far before this pandemic, and that is I am Accountable to You. As the leader of LaSalle Network, I am accountable to every employee and all of our employees are accountable to one another. Everyone has to answer to the bell. However, that doesn't mean you don't have empathy for your people. We know we can't expect parents to execute at the same level as employees without kids, so we've modified metrics for parents. Every one of your employees is managing this differently emotionally, and good leaders of people are talking to their staff and addressing those feelings honestly.
It's important that both employees and management teams have EMPATHY for one another. Being an employee at the moment may be scary and being a leader at times may be overwhelming. I was speaking with a CEO who said they didn't want to show vulnerability because their employees need to see strength. I disagree. I believe strength comes from honesty, vulnerability and preparation. Let's have empathy, show compassion and work together.
People want leadership, not know-it-alls. Be vulnerable and admit you don't know how this pandemic story ends. Be there for your people through video calls and texts. Don't rely on just emailing and don't just communicate through managers. Humanize yourself to your team. They need it. We all need it. This sucks. Don't pretend it doesn't, however, I'm choosing to be a happy realist. All you can control is your attitude.
I hope we can all celebrate together when it's all over.