How can you best lead a remote team during a crisis?

Covid-19 Advice | Employment & Skills | Interview
Chris Paton

BLM caught up with Chris Paton, Managing Director of Quirk Solutions, to find out more about how leaders should be reacting, during the Covid-19 crisis.

What advice would you give to business leaders, during this difficult period?

The tendency from many will be to try and gain even more control over their teams to work out what to do but I believe this is the wrong approach.

In times like this we need to utilise everybody in the team and empower people to take control and make their own decisions, within the boundaries set by the business. This ensures that the team can become more agile.

Secondly – and this one may sound counterintuitive – many people are trying to work out what impact this will have on their long-term strategy, whereas what you need to be doing is focusing on the next two days, two weeks and two months and being laser like on how you get through this challenging period.

What is your advice for how you can best support staff who are remote working?

There is a chance that people are going to feel fearful about working from home and in some cases, feel a loss of purpose as the job they are doing has radically changed. Leaders should be wrapping an arm around their teams to make them feel as though they have a purpose.

This doesn’t’ always have to be related to work either. Even if it’s giving them something to help the Covid-19 effort – just something they can focus on, which will help their physical and mental wellbeing.

How much contact time would you say is required, when dealing with remote teams?

You will need to have much more contact than you would normally do with your team members and you will need to be careful to see who is struggling more than others, during this period so they receive more contact time.

Businesses may put in place a blanket policy, but it really does need to be tailored to the individual. For some people a call everyday might not be enough but for some it might be too much.

What advice are leaders coming to you for, during this time?

One of the most common things I’m being asked is how can leaders stay fit and healthy during a time like this. There is a tendency to rush into dealing with a crisis and work flat out but with this approach you’ll be burnt out in a week or two. It’s better to pace yourself and take this approach from the outset.

I’m also being asked by leaders – ‘how can I start to work out what I should be doing and when I should be doing it?’

Leaders should still be making decisions and that’s what they’re there for but why should leaders do all the thinking? During this period, why not use your staff to generate ideas and give them a sense of purpose.

What is your advice to salespeople and teams during this challenging time?

It’s important to try to keep your product or service on the radar of potential buyers but during a period like this, when sales may dip, is could be a good opportunity to start enrolling on more training.

Many businesses are running too hard all the time and haven’t often got any bandwidth to think about strategy or training, whereas now seems like the perfect opportunity.

A final thought?

It would be nice to see some of the new working practices stick when we get back to normal, particularly when it comes to online and virtual work, so we don’t have to travel as much as we usually do.

I also hope that when all of this is over, we continue to support and care for those in our community like we are now, as it’s been amazing to see some of the people driven initiatives that have been launched to help people and businesses.

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