Grow Performance Virtually

Don’t Blow It!

Jackie Freiberg

“As we work virtually from home, be warned, don’t blow engagement! Demanding too much connection and virtual ‘face time’ can backfire.”

Performance and engagement do not have to suffer since work as we once knew it is long gone. Now is the time to double down on driving high performance even if it has to be done virtually. Here are four standard practices shared by all high-performing organizations:

1.  Demand consistency of leadership

High-performance organizations make everyone accountable to the same leadership standards. That is, if you are a shaker and mover in the organization, but you’re toxic and dysfunctional, you won’t make it. Why? Because people notice that you do not model corporate values and culture suffers. Individuals may win games, but high performing teams win championships together.

Remind your leaders that people are looking to them for validation and reassurance. This time of uncertainty is calling for leaders who can balance their analytical skills with their people skills. We need leaders who can develop smart strategies while extending the empathy, hope and bias for action needed to make those strategies work.

2.  Promote alignment

High-performance organizations row in the same direction—that means everyone is strategically aligned and unified in accomplishing specific goals. More than ever, the leader’s job is to establish a north star or paint the big picture of what the organization will look like post-crisis. Give people a compelling reason to focus forward.

Leaders should be saying things like this: “This is our greatest challenge. This is our call to take our company to the next stage of good. We are made for this.” Then, show people exactly where they fit and what role they play in reaching the north star.

Even though isolated and distanced, it’s critical to engage in daily huddles and updates to connect the dots for people. When strategy and purpose are crystal clear, people find the courage to nimbly adapt to changing conditions and competing priorities.

With visionary expectancy, set a date in the future as a collective opportunity to look back in celebration of how everyone performed in getting the business through the hard times.

3.  Rethink Engagement

Do not let engagement suffer during times of crisis. Even though people are disrupted, isolated and distracted, they still hunger for connectivity—the human kind. Here’s how leaders and their people are finding ways to grow engagement:

  • Engaging in daily huddles and weekly lunches with colleagues on FaceTime
  • Extending empathy because life and work are now more blurred than ever
  • Normalizing (even welcoming) kids and pets in our meetings
  • Offering grace when we show up authentic, unplugged, emotional and even awkward
  • Hosting virtual happy hours and sipping “Quarantinis” together online

The good news is people are staying engaged in creative new ways.

But be warned—don’t blow engagement. Demanding too much connection and virtual “face time” can backfire and lead to unrealistic expectations, divided attention and heightened frustration. Allow people to opt out of virtual meetings without repercussions. Extend grace and give people the freedom to unplug to better navigate the blur of work and life.

4.  Execution is Everyone’s Job

Execution thrives when there is consistency in leadership and when everyone is aligned, engaged and willing to take action. Execution requires everyone to envision the end and work relentlessly to help the business rebound and rise out of hard times together.

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself and your colleagues in this time of uncertainty:

  • What practices defined above are in need of more attention?
  • Are we showing up consistently and giving direction and empathy as needed?
  • Is our strategy clear, is everyone rowing in the same direction?
  • Are people clear about their roles in achieving our vision?

In the chaos of these changing times, the survivors will be those who are leading with a strong bias for action, empathy in the uncertainty and a vision of victory for achieving a better tomorrow.

What can you do?

Ask yourself and your team:

  • What is our vision of victory?
  • What are the opportunities in the uncertainty?
  • What actions can we take individually and collectively to embrace the opportunities ahead?
  • Where do we need to extend more empathy in the midst of the blur?