A Beginner’s Guide to Working From Home For Managers

A Beginner’s Guide to Working From Home For Managers

 

If you are a manager, you have probably been given the task to keep your department and its employees functioning at a high level in the midst of this unprecedented time.

If your company traditionally resides in a physical office, you have the added challenge of figuring out how to lead and manage your team while working from home. And my guess is that you have received little training and direction on how to accomplish this.

I understand what you are going through. 

Back in the fall of 2018, I moved from Texas to Nebraska. The organization I was working for (before I started SWCo) was very gracious and allowed me to work remotely for them through the end of that year.

I knew this transition wouldn’t be seamless, but I also didn’t realize just how difficult working from home would be especially when you are a manager. What made my situation even more challenging was that I was the only person working from home. Everybody else worked in our two office locations. 

As I navigated through how to lead my team remotely and stay connected with the rest of the organization, I realized one important lesson that has forever changed the way I approach working from home and remote teams.

Working from home exposes both organizational inefficiencies and communication shortcomings.

My guess is that many of you are starting to see this. Issues that seemed small or you didn’t even know existed within your company are popping up and hurting your productivity.

The silver lining is that you (as the manager) can use this opportunity to make improvements to both your organizational efficiency and communication that will not only benefit you now (working from home) but, most importantly, will increase your and your team’s productivity when you get back into the physical office. 

In order to be an effective manager working from home and lead a successful remote team, here are a few areas that you need to be excellent in:

 

Communication and Technology 

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest challenges I faced when I started working from home was that I was the only person working remotely. As a result, we didn’t have the necessary resources in place to maximize my effectiveness as a manager.

As you navigate this journey, the first step is to think through your communication strategy. There are 4 key communication areas that you need to think through:

  1. Internal Communication: How do your employees communicate with one another?
  2. External Communication: How do you communicate with clients (and anyone else outside of your organization)?
  3. Collaboration: How do you collaborate on projects? (I also include meetings in this area.)
  4. File Sharing: How do your employees access key files and documents?

As you think through your strategy or methods for each one, you also need to consider what technology is out there to help you accomplish this strategy.

Here are some resources, methods, and systems that will help you accomplish your communication strategy:

Internal communication 

Note: If you don’t have an internal communication system and simply use email right now, I would highly recommend you take this time to research the tools listed above and consider moving to an internal communication system. When implemented with excellence, they are highly effective and increase productivity. 

External communication 

For this area, you probably don’t need to make any changes. Pretty much everybody uses email and phone calls. But you do need to think through what hardware your team needs. 

Are you going to be providing a laptop, tablet, etc. for your team? Are they going to use their cell phones for calls or do you have a VoIP system that they can use?

Collaboration

File sharing

 

Communication Expectations 

Most organizations (and managers) don’t do a good job of communicating their expectations or “rules” around communication in a physical office setting. Most of the time an employee or manager just walks up to someone’s desk and interrupts them. (Which is not the most effective method, usually.)

Of course you can’t do that when everyone is working from home. So you need to develop other strategies that go beyond just calling and texting every time. As the manager, you need to let your team know your expectations when it comes to how they communicate using the tools above. 

For example: If something is not urgent, what tool do I use to communicate? Is it an email, text message, phone call, or carrier pigeon? 

Author and leadership guru, Carey Nieuwhof, has a great outline for what working from home communication expectations look like. Here are his team’s expectations:

  1. Most things: weekly one on ones (video call)
  2. Big things: weekly team meeting (video call)
  3. Important, can’t-wait-for-the-next-meeting communication: Slack
  4. Urgent questions: Text
  5. Important and complicated urgent questions: Phone call or quick video call
  6. Email: ONLY for interaction with outside clients (people not on your direct team)

If you would like to get more specific about your communication expectations, I highly encourage you to read Carey’s blog My Top 7 Rules For Leading a Digital Team.

 

Managing Work From Home Employees

One of my soapbox issues is using time to manage employees. Meaning that you measure an employee’s productivity and “success” by how many hours they log. I actually know of one company that makes their full time, salaried workers clock in each day. That’s so demotivating. 

If an employee’s productivity is directly correlated to the amount of hours they work, then people who work 60-70 hours per week should be the most productive. The problem with this logic is that it’s a myth. Research has shown that once a person starts exceeding 50 working hours in a week, their productivity begins to drop significantly. 

Effective managers don’t focus on the amount of hours an employee works but the amount of productive hours they work.

I know many of you are thinking, “This sounds good. But you still haven’t answered the question. How do I ensure that my employees are working and not watching Netflix all day since I can’t physically be around them?”

Here are few things to think about:

Manage work not people

If the expectations are clear on what your employees need to get done, when it needs to get done, and what excellence looks like, you don’t need to manage them. Their work will speak for itself. Most of the time when our employees are not getting their jobs done the problem is not with them, it is with us, their managers. We don’t do a good job of clearly defining what projects need to get done and their completion date.

Give your people meaningful work. Show them why this project or task is important to helping the company accomplish its mission. Communicate clear expectations while also giving them latitude to provide their insight on the work. And then get out of their way to let your people actually do their work.

1:1 meetings

I’m a huge fan of 1:1 meetings and I think every manager should have them with their direct reports. I recommend having these meetings on a weekly or biweekly basis. If you already do 1:1’s, just move them to a Zoom meeting. If you don’t, then this is a great time to start them. 

The 1:1 meeting is where you check in with your direct report to see how they are doing and get an update on the progress that they are making. Ask them about the benefits and difficulties of working from home. Ask how you can better set them up for success. 

1:1 meetings are the antidote to micromanagement.

 

Have Fun

You can still connect with your team and have fun, these times just need to be moved virtually.

If your team normally does a happy hour on Thursdays at 4pm, have everyone grab their favorite drink and hop on a Zoom call at that time.

If you have Slack, create a channel for random, fun conversations where people can post memes, videos, and gifs. (Just be sure to communicate what is appropriate.)

Connection is not dependent upon proximity; it’s dependent upon intentionality.

 

Tweetable Lesson

 

Resources

A Beginner’s Guide to Working From Home For Employees

A Beginner’s Guide to Working From Home For Employees

A Beginner’s Guide to Working From Home For Employees

My guess is that you have become one of the countless employees around the world who have been forced to work from home. For some, this has been a seamless transition, for others it has proven more challenging.

I started working from home back in the Fall of 2018. I thought working from home was going to be amazing…and it is now. I love working from home! But just like any change, there are growing pains. 

Here’s the best advice that I can give you: 

Working from home doesn’t cure weaknesses; it magnifies them. 

 

Most of the struggles that I had when initially transitioning to working from home were because of my own shortcomings. If you lack discipline in an office, you will lack discipline at home. If you don’t manage your time well in an office, you won’t manage your time well at home.

One of the best things that can come from working from home is the opportunity to form productive habits that will benefit you both now and when you return to the office.

In an effort to help you have a smoother transition than I did when it comes to working from home, here are a few tips…

 

Create Your Workspace 

One of the best aspects of working from home is that it gives you the opportunity to become more self-aware and learn what environment is most conducive for your personal productivity. 

This is where working from home gets fun!

You get to make the decision on your workspace. You are not assigned an office, cubicle, or workspace. You get to be the boss of that. (Unless your spouse or kids overrule you. Sorry, I can’t help with that.)

If you’ve always wanted to work from a place with a view, you can sit by a window. If you’ve always wanted to sit in a comfortable chair, you can work from the couch. 

The most important aspect of choosing your workspace is asking yourself this question, “What space makes me the most productive?”

Your answer might depend upon what you are working on.

One of the benefits of this “workspace flexibility” is that you have the opportunity to move around. If you need more focus or deep thinking time, then you might work from the office, basement, or a place with minimal distractions. If you need to be creative, you might choose to be on the couch, kitchen table, or even outside if the weather is nice.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works for you!

One final note: We turned one of the spare bedrooms in our house into an office for me. I only work from that space. Here’s why: It simulates the start and stop time for me when it comes to work. I go to the office and start work and then leave the office when I’m done for the day. The way I’m wired, this helps me stay focused and motivated. Plus it keeps from thinking about all the things I need to get done around the house. That might not work for you and that’s great. Know yourself and choose wisely.

 

Plan Your Schedule

In my opinion, this is the most vital aspect to working from home.

You need to create boundaries around your work time by creating a schedule. Many employees who work from home get lazy and unproductive because they don’t have a schedule motivating them to start working. 

When creating your schedule the most important piece is having a start and end time. (Just like you did when you went to the office.) For me, I start work between 8:30am-9:00am and end work usually around 5:00pm or 5:30pm. I’m not strict on those times, but they do keep me focused. 

If your manager gives you latitude, don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to your schedule.

Are you a morning person? Consider starting work earlier, with an earlier end time.

Are you a night owl? Sleep in and start work later. 

I’ve said this before, but the most important aspect of scheduling is making it conducive to your personal productivity

There are a few other aspects to your schedule that I want to cover, but I’m going to wait and include those in the “Have Fun” section. 

Of course, what we’re talking about here depends upon the expectations of your manager. So make sure you check with him or her before completely customizing your work schedule.

Speaking of communication, you also need to communicate with your family. Your spouse and kids need to know what your work schedule is so that your time can be guarded. If you have kids that need more parental guidance during the day, rotate who is watching them. Some good friends of mine do this in 2 hour blocks. One of them watches their son for two hours and then tags the other person in. It’s a great break!

 

Choose Your “Dress Attire”

This is completely up to you! (As long as it is appropriate.)

If you don’t have any meetings and want to wear your PJ’s all day, do it. The key is to dress to your day. If you have a meeting with a client or co-workers, then you should dress appropriately for those meetings.

For me, I still get “dressed up” for working from home. Here’s what I mean. My attire is very casual. I usually wear jeans and polo. The reason I do this is because I believe in the quote “Dress for success.” I feel more prepared for work, focused, and ultimately productive when I get out of my pajamas and dress in work clothes. 

I’m not saying that if your normal work attire is a suit, you need to wear that at home, but I am saying that even while working from home you need to select your attire based upon what is going to help you do your best work. 

 

Have Fun!

Don’t forget to have fun and still connect with your family, friends, and co-workers while working from home.

One of the things I learned early on when I started working from home was that I had to plan breaks in my day. I didn’t get the normal social interaction like I had in the office. So I had to be more intentional about connecting with people.

What does that look like in our current situation? Here are some practical suggestions:

Grab lunch virtually with your co-workers. Or plan a quick virtual meeting to catch up with your colleagues. Keep your Thursday happy hour but do that over a Zoom meeting where each person drinks whatever is in their fridge.

The same goes for family and friends. Don’t be afraid to connect with them during “work” hours. The goal is not to work 8 hours a day. The goal is to get your work done. 

If you are doing your job with excellence and not letting any balls drop, give yourself the freedom to take off of work early to hang out with your kids. Or go for a walk in the middle afternoon with your spouse. Have a virtual coffee date with a friend mid-morning. 

Remember: discipline equals freedom. The more disciplined and productive we are, the more freedom we earn to spend time with those we love.

One quick note: If you or your organization need any help as you transition to working from home, then click on our contact form and send me a message. I look forward to talking with you more on how we can help equip your team for success.

Tweetable Lesson

 

Leading In Uncertainty

Leading In Uncertainty

 

Leadership, (or the lack thereof), is revealed through adversity and uncertainty. The measure of leadership is not found in how one leads in security and success; it’s how one leads in uncertainty and chaos

Right now, we are living in uncertain times. Our generation has never experienced a pandemic like this and the effects it has had (and will continue to have) on our medical, economic, and social systems. 

When the dust settles, the curve flattens, and we look back on this time, we are going to see two types of leaders. The true leaders who rose up and had a significant impact on their workplaces and communities. And the other category. The fake leaders who were merely pretending to lead will crumble due to their lack of maturity and courage. 

The question is “Which type of leader will history say you were?”

Here are five tools to help you lead both yourself and your team effectively through uncertainty:

Note: I’m going to focus on leading your team but all of these tools can be used to lead yourself and your family.

 

Confront the Brutal Facts

Great leaders run to problems, not away from them. It doesn’t mean they have all the answers figured out and it doesn’t mean they aren’t fearful. It simply means they have the courage to lean into the unknown and figure out the best path forward.

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, calls this “confronting the brutal facts.” He says, “All good-to-great companies began the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality…It is impossible to make good decisions without infusing the entire process with an honest confrontation of the brutal facts.”

A leader must have the courage to accurately diagnose their current reality even if the information comes back bleak. It’s like getting a checkup at the doctor. We have to know exactly what the data is telling us before we can start coming up with solutions. 

Once we know our current reality, the next tool is communication.

 

Transparent Communication 

False hope is de-motivating and demeans your employees. Leaders need to trust that their employees can handle honest but difficult truth. When you know your current reality, you need to provide transparent communication to your team. 

How do you practice transparent communication? Use these steps.

    1. Straight talk: Don’t beat around the bush and use too many words. Be concise and to the point. When communicating in written form, use short sentences and paragraphs, and bullet points.
    2. Be authentic: Be real with your team. If you don’t have answers right now, let them know. They will appreciate the honesty. Most people don’t expect their leaders to have all the answers. It’s actually refreshing.
    3. Be confident: You can communicate that you don’t have the answers while still being confident. Where does your confidence lie? Not in yourself. It lies in your team. You can be confident that you have the right people to figure out solutions.
    4. Confirm your commitment to the team: Remind them you are committed to them as individuals, not just employees. Andy Stanley says, ““People won’t give their best unless they know their leader is committed to give his best.” 
    5. Create opportunity for open dialogue: Once your team hears “the brutal facts,” give them the opportunity to vent, express their worry and/or frustration and work through their emotions.

It’s important to recognize that you need to communicate to your team before you come up with solutions. The longer you don’t communicate and stay silent, the more uneasy they will feel. Sometimes the best communication can be: “We are not quite sure how we are going to navigate this unique situation. For now, we are going to give everyone paid time off and we will let you know by the end of the week our next steps.”

This moves us to our next tool which is finding solutions

 

Find Solutions

Involve your employees in the process of finding solutions. When they are informed of the current situation that the company sits in, then they can be a part of the solution. And they might surprise you with their ideas. Also, when you involve your employees in the decision-making process, they will be more bought in.

Remember, in times of adversity some of our best innovations and ideas come out.

When it comes to finding solutions, whatever solutions you decide upon, your key leaders need to be the first ones to make sacrifices. In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe, Sinek tells the story of when Barry-Wehmiller, a large manufacturing company in the Midwest, was faced with the problem of having to save 10 million dollars due to the 2008 recession. Instead of conducting layoffs, CEO Bob Chapman created a furlough program. Every employee, including him, would take 4 weeks of unpaid vacation. They didn’t have to take the 4 weeks consecutively. But they each had to take 4 weeks total by the end of the year. This allowed everybody to make a little sacrifice and saved both money and people’s jobs. 

Another example is Gary Kelly, CEO at Southwest. His first solution was to immediately take a 10% pay cut. Of course, this one solution will not completely solve all of their issues. But it’s a start.

 

Keep Communicating

During these uncertain times, it is almost impossible to create a plan or solution for the next month, let alone for the next 3 or 6 months. The best thing you can do is create “mini-plans” or solutions for the next two weeks. This gives you time to continue the process of confronting the brutal facts and making the necessary adjustments each step of the way. 

Remember, if you don’t keep communicating, your silence is loud. Your team will start believing the information they read on the internet or hear on the news. (Which is not always bad.) But your job as a leader is to control (not manipulate) the information so that your team has the most accurate information to make the best decisions for themselves and their family. 

Our final tool doesn’t occur last in the process, but is a mindset that we must have throughout leading in uncertainty. 

 

Stay Positive

Earlier I mentioned confronting the brutal facts. Just because the situation looks bleak or is unknown doesn’t mean we can’t see the positive in any situation. We must put into practice the Stockdale Paradox.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins tells the story of Admiral Jim Stockdale who was the highest-ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the Vietnam War. Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his leadership of his men during this time. He fought for the rights of prisoners, created internal communication systems so prisoners didn’t feel isolated, and even exchanged secret intelligence information with his wife through letters.

Collins got the opportunity to interview Stockdale and he asked, “How on earth did you deal with it (being a P.O.W.) when you did not know the end of the story.” Stockdale replied: “I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end.” 

Collins and his team came up with the Stockdale Paradox: Retain faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. 

That’s what great leaders do. They lean into the unknown no matter how bleak it looks and also stay positive knowing that they and their team will not only survive this adverse season, but find ways to create a new norm and thrive in the midst of it.

 

Tweetable Lesson

 

On a personal note, I know that these times are difficult for everyone and especially business leaders. I started the Shawn Welch Company because of my passion to help equip leaders and their teams by maximizing their potential through leadership development. If you would like more resources on how to lead during this uncertain time, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. All of our initial consultations are free. I would love to start the conversation on how we can help you lead with significance during uncertainty.

How to Lead with Significance: Compassion

How to Lead with Significance: Compassion

 

As many topics as there are in the world today that people think differently on (and there are a LOT), I think we can all agree on this: at the end of our life, we want to be able to look around and say with confidence that we made a positive impact on those around us. As leaders, we want to lead with significance. Our families, our teams, our ministries.

If you’re just joining us, today is our 7th session. But before we get into that, let me point you in the right direction, if you missed any of our previous sessions. You can start catching up at the links in the Resources section below.

Today we are talking about our sixth leadership quality and how to deal with annoying people. Because let’s face it. We all have people around us that are difficult to lead and interact with. In this session, I discuss two techniques that will help you manage this type of relationship.

 

 

Game Plan

Today’s Game Plan has a couple parts. If you lead a team, a family, a small group (and remember, we are all leaders) – try these exercises with those you lead:

  • Know their story: What do you know about those who you lead? Do you know what makes them them? 
  • Encourage and praise lavishly: Do you offer encouragement frequently? Lavishly? If not, start by getting to know what would encourage each person. “Encouragement languages” are things like:
    • Quality time
    • Words of affirmation
    • Acts of service
    • Gift giving

The kicker: now that you’ve given it some thought, gotten to know the other person – take action. Pick 1-2 people this week to put this into practice with. Then come back and tell us what you learn. I bet you’ll find that as encouraged as you make the other person feel, you’ll find the return even greater for yourself.

If you’re interested in learning more about our new one-on-one leadership intensive, Leading With Significance, where we talk about this quality and go into greater depth in your leadership development, use our Contact Us form to let me know and we’ll be in touch.

 

Tweetable Lesson

 

Resources

How to Lead with Significance

How to Lead with Significance: Vision

How to Lead with Significance: Accountability

How to Lead with Significance: Integrity

How to Lead with Significance: Self-Awareness

How to Lead with Significance: Humility

Contact Us

How to Lead with Significance: Humility

How to Lead with Significance: Humility

Deep down, I think all of us want to lead with significance. At the end of our life, we want to be able to look back and say “I made a difference in this world and in the lives of those around me.”

Leaders who make significant contributions have several qualities in common. Today, we’re talking about the fifth quality that those leaders possess. It is the quality that is present in both criticism and celebration.

 

 

Game Plan

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. How do you respond to criticism?
  2. Do you celebrate when other people succeed?

 

Tweetable Lesson

 

Resources

How to Lead with Significance

How to Lead with Significance: Vision

How to Lead with Significance: Accountability

How to Lead with Significance: Integrity

How to Lead with Significance: Self-Awareness

Contact Us

How to Lead with Significance: Self-Awareness

How to Lead with Significance: Self-Awareness

We are almost halfway through a series on how to lead with significance. So far, we’ve discussed the first three qualities that all great leaders possess. Vision, accountability, and integrity. If you missed any of those sessions, you can catch up at the links in the Resources section below.

In today’s session, I share about what the ancient Greeks can teach us in regard to leadership and how it relates to the next quality that helps us lead with significance.

 

 

Game Plan

This Game Plan is a three-part exercise:

First, refine your strengths. Take a strengths assessment (there are plenty of good assessments out there), and then focus on them. Work to be sure they are qualities that you are continuing to improve.

Second, compensate for your weaknesses. Your weaknesses will never be your strengths. Know yourself well enough to know what these weaker areas are.

Lastly, minimize your blind spots. It’s important to “know what you don’t know.” To take this up a notch, ask those who are closest to you to help identify your blind spot areas. That may be a spouse, a significant other, or a close friend. Consider asking your supervisor or manager at work. Better yet, if you’re a manager, ask your direct reports. Give them the freedom and permission to be honest and vulnerable with you. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

If you’re interested in learning more about our new one-on-one leadership intensive, Leading With Significance, where we talk about this quality and go into greater depth in your leadership development, use our Contact Us form to let me know and we’ll be in touch.

 

Tweetable Lesson

 

Resources

How to Lead with Significance

How to Lead with Significance: Vision

How to Lead with Significance: Accountability

How to Lead with Significance: Integrity