WFH (Working from Home) – manager’s nightmare?

Is this your question: Now that people are working from home, how do we make sure they are productive?  The Covid-19 lockdown is revealing what managers truly believe about people.

If Participative Management has been a ‘thing’ for decades, where everyone in an enterprise explores optimum productivity as a mutual goal, why is it that in today’s digital era (when employees are far more educated, on average), there are STILL layers of draconian supervision. It is still more common than you may realise.

The challenge
Even in the digital era, some still see the management role as a prize, not an obligation to facilitate a collective pursuit of peak performance – a state in which everyone wins or no one wins.

The opportunity
Could this pandemic ‘shut down’ be the chance to hit the re-set button – to recalibrate how you work using those leadership skills that keep people connected and effective because they willingly choose to empty their tank for the collective good?

This is a checklist of drivers of productivity that I have found to be common to high performance anywhere, whether people are together in a physical workplace or working remotely:

  1. Use a Performance ‘stock take’ ritual:  Plan,  Monitor,  Review, Improve – repeat
    The remote work version applies as well whether you are using Skype for Business, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or any other tools. Not: Have you done XYZ? But rather: What’s up with XYZ? Or better: What’s working well with your plan? What isn’t working well? What are your thoughts about that? What do you need help with? Who is best to help? What are your next focus areas?

    Anyone can run these performance catch ups in a small group e.g. by rotation. The ritualistic, repetitive element is crucial as is making them short and relevant. As people self-manage and report back to their work group (not ‘up’ to ‘the boss’), they calibrate within the social pressure of equitable contribution, this being the real manager of productivity. (See next point.) The team can challenge and guide each other so that everyone performs to their potential for everyone’s benefit.

  2. Negotiate social contracts
    Everyone carrying an even load is important or some will disengage. A team agreement (the collective obligations for the team to fulfil its purpose) is an example of a ‘social contract’ that effectively manages collective effort. Where people report to the team on their contribution, they are quickly exposed if they are not pulling their weight
  3. Reveal purpose
    Keep people connected with why the organisation/team exists; this ignites internal drive which in turn fuels focused performance.
  4. Highlight impact
    Remind people of their impact. There is a story about a group of engineers who designed early-cancer detection equipment, who were taken to meet those whose lives had been saved by early detection. You don’t have to have people physically in front of you to make these links. In fact, through your questions, you can ask people how what they are doing is helping others, and in what way. They can create and share their own stories. The feelings of positive contribution are a great antidote to stress which is so prevalent right now.
  5. Value Autonomy (within a performance partnership) Fundamental to productivity is that people can express themselves in their daily work – put their own individual mark on it. When people are working remotely, this is more important than ever as there are so many distractions.
  6. Encourage problem solving
    People are problem solving machines – brains thrive on problems. Managers need to ensure people know what problems need solving – some are hidden – and how the problems impact the wider context. Now more than ever, a collective effort is needed to solve existential business problems. Involve people.

    This pandemic is an opportunity to make the most of the human capability at your disposal.  Seize the moment to permanently reset the team for ‘performance to true potential’. Their health and sanity may depend on it at the current time (and yours may too.)

About Cherri Holland

Fascinated with business, brains and how to use the brains on the payroll to make business buzz.
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