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While lots of general advice circulates about how to manage remote teams during Covid-19, it tends to ignore advice tailored specifically for new managers.
Whereas seasoned managers may already intimately know the working styles of their teams, new managers might not know their team members interpersonally very well, and don’t have their years of management experience to rely on. Here are five strategies to thrive as a new manager during Covid-19:
1.Not all team members require the same management style
One new manager tendency is to manage all employees the same way. Rather than applying a “one size fits all” approach, take time to get to know each team member and ask how they work best. The best way to do this is to lead with empathy, questions and trust. Ask your team members how they work best in a remote setting. Then, ask them what they need from you to be successful at their jobs.
2. Coach, don’t “do”
For individuals who have recently shifted from an individual contributor role to a management role, it can be confusing to flip off the “do” switch. Asking open-ended questions is a good way to guide your team to discover their own solutions, rather than focusing on task execution oneself. As a new manager, a great question to ask your team is: do you want me to hear you, help you, or solve it?
3. Avoid over-communication on video calls
Since we’re missing organic in-person office interactions, remote communication can feel more formal and time consuming. It’s tempting for new managers to schedule many (Zoom) meetings so that they feel more in control. Make sure you’re not scheduling needless meetings when information could just as easily be conveyed via instant message or email. But, do make sure you’re scheduling regular weekly 1:1 sessions with each team member. Regularly checking in, from every standpoint, is a valuable management tool.
4. Parse out what’s an actual problem versus a Covid-19 problem
New managers won’t have in-office work history to use as a point of comparison. So, if you’re experiencing problems with an employee, it will be difficult to tell if the problems are Covid-19 related versus typical. Make sure you ask questions about the person’s normal working style, and ensure you’re doing baseline emotional check-ins. If your employee has extenuating circumstances at home right now (i.e. they’re homeschooling 3 kids), you’re going to need to know that and support them accordingly.
5. Don’t wait for a performance review to give feedback
New managers tend to be conflict averse. But giving feedback doesn’t have to be negative, and it doesn’t have to feel conflictual. Commit to giving regular, casual feedback more frequently. Give both positive and negative feedback often. If you’re remote, this could either be via instant message or phone.