Since the heady days of the turn of the century, with Y2k, the internet boom looming, and a digital learning major in my Master of Education Program with TCNJ, USA, I’ve been leading, teaching, learning and living via remote settings from my workspaces in Indonesia, Venezuela, USA, Spain Germany, UK, Switzerland and back to Australia. Fast forward to our current setting and I’m relaxed with the ‘new normal’.
Need some leadership tips on getting the best from your new remote lockdown workspace?
MOST IMPORTANT IS MINDSET – no need to panic, take a deep breath and trust that you and you’re team have got this. Don’t listen to the plethora of noise out there in the marketplace exhorting you to take up this course and that program to ‘learn’ how to navigate this new environment. It does mean some changes to methodology but this new remote life of ours does not have to mean drastic and never before seen changes to your approach – it means keeping it real and keeping it human with some tweaks to fit the new context
Leaders who are agile enough to shift and pivot with changing contexts are the ones who will thrive and cultivate human growth despite new and changed conditions.
ONE. Don’t treat it as a completely new and unknown space it’s NOT. Whether you lead or manage a team in person in the office, or from a digital set up, the basics about keeping it HUMAN remains the same.
It’s all about connecting with others and fostering robust, genuine and consistent relationships with your people – keep this relationship building central to your new remote setting and you’ll create strong and healthy communities online.
TWO. How do you build this relationship online? The same way you do it in person – take time out before jumping into the ‘work’ that needs to be done by ‘shooting the breeze’ with your people.
Figure out where your camera is and LOOK INTO IT (not at yourself!) – that way you are looking directly at the person when you talk to them – a key strategy for genuine connection and intent to really listen.
Ask them the same questions you would when you are in person, how are they going with life outside of work, what have their family and/or friends been up to lately, what tricks have the fur babies been performing, how’s their set up at home treating them…? You get the idea, just general human, non-work stuff.
THREE. A fun new addition for our current lockdown life could be to share your workspace set up with your team, take your laptop or phone camera on a quick tour of your workspace and let your team in on all your secrets! This will encourage reciprocal sharing from the other side.
When we work in person with others, we take for granted how important knowledge of each other’s physical spaces are to connecting and collaborating on a human level. Our physical spaces, the way we set them up and the objects, both work and personal we bring in to decorate our space with, are key insights into us as unique individuals.
When we collaborate in person, we pick up on these cues instantaneously and implicitly and utilise these to build relationships, innovate and get great work done.
So with just a little bit of planned intent, we can bring this into the remote space and reap the same rewards.
FOUR. In fact, our new remote set up gives us greater insights into each other as HUMANs than working from an office space ever did. We have our full range of personal objects that decorate our home space that we can now, if we choose, bring into our workspace.
Think about the background of your video setting when you are about to connect in remotely with your team. What fun and personal item could you surreptitiously place in the background, not enough to distract but just enough to peak people’s interest and give them an insight into your character and personal background they wouldn’t normally get to see.
Place a special object into this background and let people check it out and ask you to elaborate on it. When you do this, you are letting people in to meet the Human you – this is vulnerability at it’s best and one of the quickest ways to break down barriers and build genuine relationships. Be playful with this and encourage others to join in with their own background regalia. To take it to the next level, commit to switching up these objects every time you meet so there is something new and interesting for people to notice and talk about.
This is resilience at play, remaining realistic yet positive with the challenges that life throws at us, committed to taking advantage of the new situation and finding ways it can positively impact on our work to take us forward into a new realm.
There’re more tips to be had here, but this, I suspect, is enough for now. Stay tuned and I’ll share more insights from my years of international adventures and how you can take advantage of remote leading, teaching. learning and living.