Each Monday my staff and I gather for our Monday morning meeting. Prior to Covid-19 we met in person, but now we meet virtually. We have a long checklist of tasks that we review to prepare for the week and to review the month ahead.
This week while working remotely, we got a good laugh when Keri, the Director of Operations, shared that her husband Ed keeps “checking on her” around 11am each day. Prior to the pandemic Keri spent one day a week working in the Concordia offices and the other days she worked from home. Simultaneously, Keri’s husband worked out of an office in D.C. Keri wasn’t sure what this check-in was all about, so she asked Ed.
Ed reported that he regularly schedules time in his day to walk through his department in order to have an opportunity to casually check in with his staff. Now that he is working virtually, he continues the walkabout, but has shifted his attention to his wife and kids. His family is taking some time to get used to this new interaction!
For anyone who has attended my leadership programs or received coaching from me, I am a big fan of management by walking around. It’s great to pop in and see how your employees are doing, to chat informally, and to hear about their projects and their lives in real time. So, now that many of us are working remotely, how can you do this?
- Schedule team check-ins at the start or end of each day.
- Use a group chat feature to send a short message each morning or evening.
- Arrange one-on-ones with your direct reports frequently — at least once a week.
- Send funny anecdotes throughout the week.
What methods have you and your team found to stay connected while working remotely?
Is it better to inhale or to exhale?
It takes a second before you realize the answer is, “you can’t have one without the other!” Asking a question in this way is called “polarity thinking.” It encourages the brain to think one way or another, without considering alternatives that might be better.
The technique works effectively with two-year-olds. “Would you like to take your bath before dinner or after dinner?” For most toddlers, they answer either before or after and not, “Gee Mom and Dad, I don’t want to take a bath at all. I want more play time.”
Here are some examples of polarity questions versus open-ended questions:
- Do you want to include the information about the storm water project or delete it?
- What are the benefits of including information about the storm water project?
- Have you decreased the entertainment budget or the sales budget?
- What did you find in your budget analysis?
- Do you recommend Pierre or Jamal for the job?
- What did you like best about Pierre and Jamal as candidates?
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with polarity questions. Sometimes having fewer choices is helpful. The point is to be intentional about your questions based on what you want to achieve by asking them.
So, would you like to read this blog and send your feedback today? Or would you prefer to forward the blog to a colleague, and comment tomorrow?
I remember being in organizations (physically present, I mean!) and hearing that question. It meant… I want to talk to you briefly about something. It’s not a big deal. It won’t take an hour, so we don’t need a formal meeting.
It was a way, pre-Covid, to talk informally. Even if the “stop by” didn’t happen that day, the two colleagues knew that something needed a bit of discussion and more effort was made to connect.
While I have always known that those informal conversations were important, during this pandemic I am learning just how important. During coaching calls I hear, “I haven’t talked to him about it. It’s not important enough for a meeting. It’s not that big of a deal.” And yet, it is.
Here are some suggestions for how you and your colleagues can have more informal discussions, before issues escalate, as office workers continue to work remotely:
- Use Slack or other messaging tools in your business.
- Use the telephone and establish processes for using the phone without impeding on personal lives.
- Change the default on your video conferencing. Do you always need an hour? Will 10 or 15 minutes do?
- Schedule daily check-ins of 15 minutes with your direct reports.
What are some ways you and your colleagues are staying connected?