How to lead teams from home during the coronavirus pandemic

Employees working from home due to coronavirus face an uncertain future, so leadership is more important than ever.

Donatella De Paoli, Associate Professor from the Department of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour at BI Norwegian Business School, thinks that we can all learn from the current changing work environment caused by the coronavirus.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen a massive increase in working from home. Having adapted our working habits and businesses with screens, means they have become a key part of communication and connection in the workplace.

With this in mind, Professor De Paoli has five tips for how leaders can effectively lead their teams when working remotely during this global pandemic:

  1. Focus on Relationships – The current situation requires leadership which places importance on good relationships and is based on trust. The focus should be on how the team can get along: good dialogue is vital as well as understanding how people are coping mentally.
  2. Adapt the Level of Control – Leaders need to use the right levels of control with remote team members. There are two main approaches for leaders working digitally: one more controlling and the other more accepting of autonomy. The most appropriate approach depends on the work; short deadlines might require more control, while work with more relaxed deadlines show better results with less control and greater autonomy.
  3. Be Present – Computer screens create distance and hamper two-way communication in meetings. The quality of communication also declines as we cannot read body language through a computer screen. Turning on your video camera can ensure you are more present and focused on virtual meetings.
  4. Vary the Means of Communication – One-way communication through email works for keeping the organisation up-to-date, but leadership aimed at building relationships requires two-way dialogue. Use digital platforms which enable informal social interaction, experiment with new ways to communicate and do not be afraid to be personal.
  5. Co-create Leadership – To De Paoli, leadership is co-created: effective leadership includes making it clear that every person is responsible for ensuring tasks are completed. When we are physically isolated from each other, team members should engage in greater self-management.

If companies are to succeed during and after the pandemic, traditional and centralised views of leadership must be replaced. The coronavirus pandemic will change how leadership is understood and practised. These five tips will help leaders coordinate effective teams while working from home and maximise productivity now, and in the future.
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