Leading when your new office is the dining room table or the garage

Recent weeks have put everyone’s leadership skills to the test, demanding agility and rapid response to keep pace with changing conditions and regulations. We’ve even had to improvise on our ‘office’ arrangements to find the best place in the house for virtual meetings.

In ordinary times, we are not good about making agreements when a team forms, whether for a specific project or the long haul. Working remotely, as we are today, adds another whole dimension … and makes those agreements more difficult and more crucial.

If it feels like all eyes are upon you to see how you’ll handle this sudden shift, you may be correct. People will remember how you handled the complexities of leading remotely. So, how can you be most effective? I encourage the leaders I coach to go back to some basic best practices.

  • Be fully present. Keep in mind that while you may not be in the same room, you are still making a personal connection and need to be actively engaged. This is not the time to multitask. More than ever, the person (or group) on your screen needs your attention.

  • Set common goals. Make sure expectations are clearly spelled out and responsibilities assigned. The lack of conventional structure can be liberating for some team members and anxiety-producing for others. Establishing specific outcomes, deadlines, and facilitating communication can allow the team to move forward. Make communications thorough and transparent. It’s not too soon to begin the discussion with your team about how you will manage the transition back to ‘normal’ operations.
  • Prioritize wisely and exercise compassion. Remote working conditions have made complex changes in the lives of your team and the usual measures of productivity may not be appropriate right now. Slow down. Anticipate imperfection. Intentionally narrow the focus to a shorter list of priorities or rallying points.
  • Leverage the combined creativity of your team. Don’t be surprised to see strengths and skills in your team that had not previously been revealed or unleashed. Celebrate and build upon these talents now as well as when you transition to the next phase. Seek out ways to make good use of this unconventional period. Could this be the right time to take skills building courses, from technical skills to public speaking? Or tackle necessary projects that have not been a top priority, reevaluate methods, or streamline workflows?
  • Remember the social side of work. Make time for the human side, community, the team online-coffee break, the non-work chat to check in, the time for laughter.

Every day is an opportunity to learn and grow and these days of remote work are no exception. While we can expect many aspects of life and business to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19, it’s likely that some level of increased reliance on remote communications will remain, and will continue to change.

Embrace the benefits new methods have to offer, the team member strengths that are revealed, and the time for projects that had been waiting their turn to be completed. Above all, remember to be human and overcommunicate; the leadership best practices that serve you well in ‘ordinary’ times will continue to serve you well today.

Nancy Owsianowski, Founder
RoundTable Consulting, LLC


Nancy Owsianowski is the Founder of ‘RoundTable Consulting’ where her relational, insightful approach transforms teams, leaders, and organizations. Find Nancy on LinkedIn or reach out to her to learn more about authentic leadership and her coaching, facilitation, and training services.


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