Remote Leading as an SME Business Owner

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Leadership can be tricky at the best of times, but the ability to keep a team productive, disciplined and engaged over the next few weeks in lockdown, will be challenging for even the most experienced leaders among us.

The basics of guiding your team through a difficult time may be the same  leadership approach.. The challenge comes in when you have to lead from a physical distance.

This immediately rules out one-on-one contact. We know how running an SME relies on those quick meetings, catch-ups or formal reviews to check how your business is tracking. You need to tackle your remote leadership with a fresh new approach, keeping your employees as productive as possible and yet still keep the feeling that they are a crucial part of that bigger picture. The new normal.

Schedule outcome based Virtual Team Meetings

During this time of remote working, running effective team meetings will be your success or failure. This is your opportunity to ensure your team members are engaged, motivated and never lose sight of your company’s overall strategy.

Set a time bi-weekly for a Zoom/Skype call, scheduled at a time that is convenient for the whole team to attend. Take the time  for personal updates – how are they coping, how are their families, what are their frustrations with the current situation? The next focus should move quickly into updates from each team member – limit this update to just three or four things:

  1. Achievements for the past week that will proactively aid the company
  2. An update on their “project” or tasks for the week ahead
  3. Where they need help in order to achieve their weekly objective
  4. If there is isn’t enough work for your team, due to the current environment, use these meetings as an opportunity to develop the skills of your team using online free platforms.

Show your Appreciation and Care

Be considerate to your team. Each team member will no doubt be under enormous stress due to the uncertainty of what the weeks ahead will bring. Your leadership now is crucial and defining. You won't have the opportunities to show appreciation for the work your team is doing in person. You need to find new ways to ensure your employees feel part of your team.  Employees who feel appreciated will always do more than what is expected – which is exactly what you want to harness at this time. Show your appreciation and that you genuinely care about them and their contributions. Something as simple as a "thank you" text will go a long way.

Build Trust

Building trust with your staff at a distance starts with having or developing very strong personal relationships with your employees. The only way to really get things done is to have a clear idea of where each member is at emotionally through developing an informal personal relationship with each other. When you cannot see each other daily, the first channels of input are usually email, phone, and your weekly Skype or Zoom call. Remote leadership starts with a leader that really wants to connect with someone at a distance. If that willingness is not there, the process is going to be painful and the results disastrous. Investing in trust through building a really personal relationship with your team requires willingness, ability and repeated efforts that go beyond what you could do in the same office building.

There’s no manual on how to be an effective leader and business owner at the time of COVID-19. You will no doubt be confronted with many threats from a business standpoint. However, in times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, leaders make a huge difference. By staying calm, modeling good work practices, and communicating vision and reassurance, you can become a lighthouse in the middle of a storm. Remember to leverage the SMME grants that are in place and your FCBT team will be with you every step of the way.