Leading from Home

by Karen (Ewing) Lindsey

Leading a company, organization and people from home can be more challenging and add more risk.  Communication can be tougher and the lack of visibility up, down and sideways can make it more difficult to coordinate work and manage expectations.  These challenges can lead to misunderstandings, inefficiencies, and costly errors.  Here are some tips to help mitigate those challenges and risks.

  1. Provide Crystal Clear Expectations.  Providing clear expectations is part of the job as a leader and all leaders know that.  Still, surprisingly, many don’t do it well.  In my practice as an executive coach, this is one skill that often needs refinement.  It is often taken for granted and over time can get sloppy with important details missing which leads to inefficiencies and expectations not being met.  When delegating and providing expectations, make sure the scope is clear including the parameters (what’s included and what’s not included), level of detail, and formality of the end product (nice presentation, bullet-pointed notes, or a rough idea).  Provide the background for the assignment including why it is needed, what it will be used for, and who the audience will be.  This will make it easier for those doing the work to make assumptions and judgments more closely aligned with what is needed.  Finally, the deadline should be agreed upon, specific, and crystal clear.  “ASAP” is not clear enough.  If the expectations others have of you aren’t clear enough, get clarity.  Ask questions to get the information you need to successfully meet the expectations others have of you.  Working from a distance makes it even more important to get and provide complete and clear expectations.
  2. When in doubt, Communicate.  While we’re working from home, we’re missing the hallways conversations, side discussions before a meeting begins, and drive-by spontaneous communication, all of which helps the informal flow of information and ideas that can add value in an organization.  After every meeting and every conversation ask yourself what needs to be communicated, when, and to whom.  Keep notes to help you remember to share information.  Consider a communication plan that layouts how, what, and by whom communication will be disseminated.  If you’re not sure if something got communicated, do it again. 
  3. Reinforce the Vision.  Many are forced to, or better yet, have the opportunity to work more independently being isolated working from home. Now more than ever we have to count on the people in the organization to make some decisions on their own.  By constantly reinforcing your vision (hopefully you have one, if not, ready my book J) you help ensure the decisions that are being made and work that is being done supports the vision of your organization.
  4. Manage Meetings.   Being so distant to one another right now might create an urge to schedule more meetings just to stay connected and stay in touch.  Now with so many video conferencing options available it makes it even easier to schedule meetings and see each other.  This can be a good thing but, like most things, too much of it can become a bad thing.  We can get so over-scheduled with meetings we can’t get our work done and get fried by the end of each day.  Often, we somewhat mindlessly follow our schedule of meetings without considering how important each meeting is to attend.  Be very thoughtful about the meetings you schedule and attend.  Balance the need for meetings as a method of communication against the time commitment needed from those being invited.  Give even closer consideration to the need for each meeting, how long each should last (don’t just assume 1 hour), the agenda, and who should attend. 
  5. Support.  These are stressful times personally and professionally.  Emotional intelligence skills are needed more than ever.  Pay attention to how you’re feeling and acting based on those feelings. Give yourself a break when you need it and ask for help or support.  Pay attention to how others might be feeling and adjust your behavior to provide the empathy and support needed.  We’re all in this together.

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