7 Critical questions a leader should ask during lockdown

As we struggle to come to terms with our new socially distanced working world many of us are unable to interact in the way we would normally in an office environment. With workers being furloughed or working from home a leader’s natural instinct for identifying issues and spotting inefficiencies can be eroded severely. I am going to give you 7 critical questions that you should be asking team members during lockdown.

Key to efficiency and organisational survival is communication, it was ever thus but its even more important now! Communication is a two-way flow both upwards and downwards, which helps leaders in this current predicament. Trust is a key ingredient in a leader’s success and trust comes or is earned through “radical candor”. Whilst you have some time it is worth reading the book of the same name, written by Kim Scott.

Radical Candor is the combination of honest challenge and genuine care. It is vital that a leader maintains trust through displaying both, even when separated from the team. The following questions are ones that a leader should regularly ask team members to ensure the flow of information is both upwards and downwards and it will help to reinforce the communication chain during lockdown.

  1. Are you and the family well and how are you coping?

This may seem an obvious question but the obvious can often be overlooked. It is a vitally important initial question as it shows both concern and an appreciation of the situation. It also enables the team member to expose any major issues that a leader may not be aware of without the workplace networks.

  1. Do you know what the organisation is trying to achieve? And how your role fits into that success?

It’s amazing how quickly people lose touch with what is going on when they are isolated. A leader needs to ensure every one of his team understands the bigger picture in terms of what the organisation is trying to achieve. They will also feel empowered and valued if they can connect their work to that bigger picture.

  1. Do you know what is expected of you in terms of your specific outcome and the timescale it is required in?

Without day to day direction some team members may lose motivation and deviate from the requirement. Understanding what specific outcome is required from them, what success looks like, as well as the timescale it is required within, can keep team members focused and productive. This is particularly important in the absence of the closer supervision that they may be more used to in an office environment.

  1. Do you feel appropriately supported in your role and in your workspace?

Working from home can be challenging and lonely. Challenging with childcare and domestic duties playing up against productivity and efficiency. Working from a shared kitchen table can be both distracting and painful as ergonomic requirements are ignored for efficiency and large computer screens are in short supply. Home working needs clear working policies and guidelines as much as an office does. It also needs to be fully supported in terms of secure communication and collaboration.

  1. Do you need more direction from me?

Its easy to peer over someone’s shoulder in an office to ensure they understand the requirement and are correctly carrying out their part in the overall plan. Leaders need to ensure that time and effort is not wasted on nugatory work through a lack of their own direction.  Checking stuff regularly is difficult when working virtually this means that clear unambiguous direction is needed.

  1. Do you feel connected to and part of the team you work with?

Many people go to work for its social aspect and often they draw their energy from having others around them. Home working is not an ideal environment as loneliness and the absence of camaraderie and banter can lead to a feeling of separation and isolation which can in some environments lead to stress and depression. Leaders need to make an extra effort to ensure their teams remain connected.

  1. Are you worried or stressed about anything that involves your work?

Covid-19 is new and unprecedented, people are genuinely concerned about their families, money, the future and their jobs. A leader must be able to reassure their team members and stop such concerns from becoming debilitating. The leader’s presence and confidence can be both empowering and comforting in such turbulent times. Leaders must also be able to identify when stress becomes an issue.

A leader should demonstrate that they are genuinely concerned and genuinely care, the trust between the leader and the team will build and with it so will the effectiveness of the team. This is vital when working remotely when trust can be challenged through negative assumptions.

If you or any of your co-workers or team members are struggling I am available for a chat, either virtually or over the phone. There is no charge or obligation when getting in touch with me. If you feel I can help or be a support then you just need to pick up the phone or drop me an email.

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