While I am always preaching the value of leaders thinking about the long-term, there are several things leaders can do in the short-term to keep their organizations working the best they can today—and be better prepared for tomorrow.

  1. Be mindful that not all workers are used to working from home. For example, not everyone has been a road warrior and knows to be careful about conducting business over a public wifi. Review the basics with people who may not know these. Also be aware that some people have high affiliation needs. Look for ways to keep the social networks strong even if they are at a distance.
  2. Be very clear about work output expectations. It takes clarity to make this remote thing work. Be clear about who is working on what, and by when. Schedule frequent 1:1 time to make sure people are doing well with their functions and things are not getting missed.
  3. Be understanding about the fact that people are carrying a lot more stress: Stress about their jobs, stress about their finances, stress about their personal welfare and the welfare of their families. If your healthcare covers it, recommend that people take full advantage of EAP (Employee Assistance Programs). People that had never considered that resource may find they it is quite useful to them at this time.
  4. Maintain your performance habits and make sure the rest of your team is too. Take regular breaks for healthy meals. Keep your workout and exercise habits. There are plenty of options for at home workouts. Show that you have discipline and keep doing those good things that you know make you work at your best emotional, spiritually, and mentally.
  5. Tailor your communication style with your team. People will assess risk differently. People deal with uncertainty differently. Some will need more of your time and might need to talk things through or just need you to listen.
  6. Be especially rational. While it is a truism that logic makes people think and emotion makes them act, do your best to take the emotion of fear out of your decision-making processes. For example, be especially methodical about evaluating the risk profile for each option before making a decision. This means looking at all potential risks, the severity and probability of each risk, and the preventive and contingent actions that can be taken for each risk. The option that has the best benefits and has the best risk profile is the one to go with.
  7. Make all your meetings count. Many leaders are in more meetings than ever. Make them effective with a clear agenda and expected outcome. Minimize the amount of time spent on information sharing and maximize the amount of time making decisions, problem solving, or planning for the future.
  8. Use the phone. Organizations are great about getting the official email out, but nothing replaces the human touch of phone or video. Let your people see and hear from you directly.
  9. Develop a sense of community. Ask how you and the organization can help. How focused can people be if they are worried about water and toilet paper? Set up systems of internal communication that also take into account how the team can help one another during this time.
  10. Consider how you can help your customers and clients. They are experiencing their fair share of uncertainty and confusing. Reach out directly and see how you can help.
  11. Communicate what has been identified as potential risks to operations and proactively solicit “what else should we be thinking about?” People love being asked their opinion and there may be a few more things lurking under the rocks that have not been turned over yet.
  12. Ask about the future. Ask your people near-term forward-facing questions like “what are the key things we need to prepare for when quarantine restrictions are lifted and we are back to normal?” That will inform your plan to ramp back to normalcy when it does come.
  13. Ask about process weaknesses. This experience has been a heavy stress test on nearly every organization. Make sure process weaknesses are noted. They will be sources of ideas for future innovation.