Today’s leaders are living in unprecedented times, and it’s looking like the new normal is figuring out how to engage our workforces in ways that are new to all of us. When engaging a remote, distributed, or part-time in the office workforce, any deficiencies in organizational prioritization, accountability, communication, technology, or workflow becomes greatly magnified.
Although many organizations were operating with a distributed workforce before COVID-19, no organization was immediately prepared for the wrath of the pandemic. Between escalating cases, office closures, and navigating through daily disruptions to focus, strong leadership has never been more important. COVID-19 has forced leaders to shine a light on parts of the business that simply do not work as well as they need to in this new reality. There are some best practices, as well as common pitfalls to avoid when navigating today’s current market conditions that will help you engage employees, operate in momentum, and achieve peak performance.
Momentum is what every leader wants in their organization. If a remote or distributed workforce is new to your organization, the leadership team may be noticing a drop-off in team performance, an increase in employee burnout coupled with communication breakdowns. Most organizations had a system that operated well in a pre-pandemic world but is now insufficient for the remote, distributed, part-time in the office world many of us live in. Business leaders seeking organizational momentum need to begin with deepening their acumen in understanding the human condition. All humans have one of four basic human needs: the need for Certainty, the need for Uncertainty, the need for Connection, and the need for Significance. When you understand these needs and formulate your human system to meet people’s basic needs, your organization will have a solid foundation to withstand any market condition.
Certainty is a fundamental need for most human beings and an incredibly important factor in getting your organization to Momentum. Certainty means more about security than rigidity. As much as possible, have standing daily meetings, bi-weekly all-hands, and cross-functional team meetings that provide organizational clarity, focus, and communication. A regular cadence of connection points provides individuals with the opportunity to connect and operate in collaboration with one another towards the common goal. When people get off track, which is easy to do these days, regular meetings provide the framework, structure, and opportunity to recalibrate. The frequent communication of the organization’s vision, priorities, successes, and challenges gives people opportunities to get re-invigorated, connect to the organization’s focus, and get back on track to succeed.
Leaders need to do their best to check their assumptions about people and progress. When an organization starts to experience forward momentum and positive results, there is a tendency to back off the structure that helped get them there. This is the worst thing you can do. The structure in place are what enabled scalable success and momentum even during times of uncertainty. Managers and leaders need to dig in and get curious about where things are and who needs help staying on track. Until the organization is operating in the state of stability, organizational leaders need to operate as if nothing is handled, meaning nothing goes without saying. Clarity with instructions and taking time to ensure people on the team understand the vision is vital to sustained success. Once people know what is needed, make sure to communicate and reconnect them the vision often. Most people need to hear something seven times before they commit it to memory. The workforce is a human system, and like any other critical system needs to have redundancies in place. A hospital doesn’t rely on the grid to provide power to people who are on respirators. There’s a backup generator for the backup generator to leave nothing up to chance.
Connect with People
To keep up and accelerate the momentum, leaders need to be checking in with people. Not only should leaders be sharing the status of the organization’s priorities; they should also be listening to questions employees have about changing focus and new priorities. Many leaders of robust organizations are making it a top priority to have regular calls with their people during this pandemic. They use those check-ins to inquire about how the employees are doing holistically, with work, personal life, etc. Progressive leaders are making the most of their time with their team members, building personal connections, and getting curious about how they can support their employees in being and staying successful.
Opportunities for Significance
Leadership and management need to give employees seeking significance plenty of opportunities to work on new initiatives and game-changing innovations. When people work remotely, it is easy for them to feel unseen by their boss and invisible to the organization. When management encourages people to bring problems worth solving to the team meetings and inspires team members to ideate solutions, everyone’s engagement raises. Leadership needs to make sure to acknowledge successes, even if baby steps. People who hinge their happiness on success measures often need to hear that the organization and its leaders appreciate their contribution.
Need for Uncertainty
This could be described as the need for fun and adventure. People who have a need for uncertainty are going crazy working in the confines of their own home for elongated periods. They need to talk to a variety of people, work on a variety of challenging projects, and regularly experience themselves as going where no man has ever gone before. For these people, organizational leaders and managers need to find a way to stimulate the part of the brain that seeks variety, challenge, adventure, and fun.
Understanding the four basic human needs is vitally important when shaping a peak performing organizational culture. Integrating strategic people practices, employee engagement strategies, and systems that enable productivity and efficiency are absolutely required to shape the best place to work, a corporate culture that thrives and an organization that moves forward.
Interested in learning more about how to shape an organization that can weather any storm? Join us for a one hour FREE GOT CULTURE webinar on Thursday, August 27th at 1:30 PM PT.