Lead Your Remote Team
About half-way through this week’s “Aim Higher” panel discussion, I found the perfect metaphor for all the expectations we have for how technology is going to save us while working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic:
The mute button.
We were discussing how some people really need to know how to use it during video conference calls. But then we acknowledged that sometimes we forget that our mute button is still on and we start talking and go on and on, having these great thoughts, until someone texts us or gestures frantically and we realize, “Oh. I’ve been blabbing away silently for the last two minutes.”
It’s not a big deal, and we’ve all done both those things. But it’s a great reminder that the technology itself is never going to save us or fix our problems or do our jobs.
It’s More than Technology
Imagine if COVID-19 had happened 10 years ago.
Video conferencing wouldn’t have been an option for most people or companies. We’d have been lucky to do simple audio conference calls most days. 20 years ago? Work-at-home would be one-on-one phone calls and, for some folks, emails. In the year 2000, not everyone had a PC in their homes yet or a laptop to take with them. 30 years ago? Think about the average office of 1990. Memos. Xerox machines. PCs with massive CRT monitors and dot-matrix printers. Voice-mail. How much of that could have been replicated at home and for how long?
The point is that the technology isn’t the point. You can’t replicate the office experience remotely and you shouldn’t try.
Replicate the Human Experience
What can you replicate? The human experience. Everyone on my panel emphasized that idea in one way or another. If you did something with your team back at the office that worked well, Drew reminded us, find a creative way to do it remotely. If the technology you’re using isn’t cutting it for a tough conversation, Tammi said, try it again a different way and give it more time and attention. If someone is going through a tough time and you would have gone the extra mile in real life? Find a way to make that happen even more so when you can’t be there in person.
Leadership has never been about technology. From the age of Caesar to the moon landings, the same skills apply.
One thing I will suggest during this time, though: give your teams, and yourself, an additional helping of grace. This is a hard time for everyone and, for many it’s terrifying. If you have to set high expectations, do so only for how much you’re willing to be human and vulnerable and kind. Yes, you have to take care of your business. But these days, more than ever, that means taking care of your people first.
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Photo Credit: Djurdjica Boskovic