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It is hard to concentrate right now. Really hard. Kids at home, breaking news lighting up our phones every few hours, concerns over family and friends, supply chain disruptions, stock market worries…whew! Even the most dedicated workers are having trouble staying focused on the job at hand. If you are managing others during this unprecedented time, your approach also requires a different strategy. Management as usual is unlikely to be successful given you and your employees are not as connected. Here are three tips for staying focused and connected through this time of exceptional distraction.
Pinpoint daily behaviors and goals. With so much uncertainty about the future, it is helpful to focus employees on what they can do today. Small, achievable goals help us all have a sense of control, when so much around us feels out of control. This means moving from outcome-based management to behavior-based management. Ask your direct reports to pinpoint some important behaviors and daily goals that will help move the business forward. Since many people are working from home and business has been disrupted in numerous ways, what your direct reports should do today and this week may be very different from a month ago. Working with them to pinpoint the most important behaviors will help provide focus, and ensure what they work on is impactful.
Make frequent contact. In this time of isolation, we need social contact now more than ever, particularly to stay focused on work. This is not about micromanaging, rather, it is about checking in regularly to support direct reports. Ask what is working and what is not, help them problem-solve struggles they may have with working from home or with pinpointing and achieving their goals. Ensure that they have resources necessary, and offer any support you can provide.
Increase positive reinforcement. The distractions we all face are immediate and certain. Work too often has future and uncertain consequences. In order to help work compete with the distractions, significantly increase your use of positive reinforcement. Use daily check-ins to ask about and reinforce daily behaviors and goals. Be transparent about what you are doing. There is nothing wrong with talking with your team about the need for increased positive reinforcement. We all need to have something to feel good about right now. Point out that our accomplishments at work during this difficult time can provide some of that much-needed reinforcement. Invite direct reports to think of other ways to share and celebrate daily achievements.
Even though our sense of being out of control is at an all-time high, by staying connected with your direct reports and focused on what they can control each day, you not only help reduce stress, you build in some much needed positive reinforcement to help make their days a little brighter.
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