VERA CAUSA GROUP NEWS

Newsletter Edition I - May 2020

 

We know your workdays look very different than they did just a few months ago. Managing remote teams and keeping your staff motivated when you’re not together is a task you haven’t faced before.  And, despite the sudden popularity of video meetings, it can be difficult to achieve the productivity levels you once had when everyone was in the office working together.

 

We hope these tips are helpful to you. What are you doing to maintain morale and improve communications in your organization? We would love to hear about your great ideas! Contact us at info@veracausagroup.com. 

Maintaining Morale and Focus
During a Crisis

 

 

Exhibiting Strong Leadership

A crisis often separates the good leaders from the bad, and right now our country needs great leaders. Leading through a crisis requires the keen ability to take on a long-term view and simultaneously manage the present moment. It's your job to anticipate and plan for today, tomorrow, next month, and for the "new normal" that awaits us when the country starts to reopen. Being a good leader means you trust your people to make tough decisions, and you resist the temptation to micromanage everything. Here are some tips for great leadership during the pandemic: 

  1. Don’t shy away from this crisis.  Lean in. Although you may feel like crawling into bed and hiding under the covers, your team needs you now more than ever. 

  2. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Especially in uncertain times, people need to see and hear from their leaders.  You don’t have to have all of the answers.  Be willing to share what you know, and seek the answers when you can. 

  3. Take ownership and be decisive.  Strong leaders take ownership of problems and work with diverse thinkers to find the best solutions.  During a crisis, you don’t always have the time to gather all of the information you want to make the best decision possible. Seek understanding of issues, collaborate on solutions, make a decision, and adjust when required.  An imperfect decision can be better than no decision. 

  4. Be calm and courageous. Your staff and the public are watching you. During a crisis, people want a leader who understands their concerns and fears, keeps cool and communicates in a way that avoids panic, is courageous enough
    to make hard decisions – and instills a realistic level of hope for the future.  

  5. Demonstrate how much you care. Everyone is struggling to understand how to operate within the current social distancing guidelines. The processes and systems we have relied on to build structure in our professional (and personal) lives have been totally uprooted – causing a lot of fear and chaos.  Good leaders care about the concerns and fears people have. In times of crisis and in good times, share who you are and what’s in your heart. Your community and employees need to know you care. 

 

Staying Connected by Setting up Communication Structure 

The solution to uniting people as valued members of a cohesive team lies within you. This starts with a clearly articulated mission that instills the work with purpose. Help each person understand how they fit in and contribute to success, even if their tasks seem menial. 

  • Hold short, weekly “All Hands” meetings to check in and help people feel like they are part of a unified team and keep everyone on the same page. 

  • Conduct weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member to keep communication flowing, stay on top of case management and to give people a sense of structure. 

  • Gather people together in small team meetings, less than 10 minutes, three times a week to help people stay connected and informed. 

  • Allow people to share their concerns, fears and successes. This is especially important as team members are trying to balance parental duties, technology challenges and the overall uncertainty of the world in which we live right now

 

Setting Clear Expectations 

Over the years, you have spent a lot of your time setting expectations for your organization. Now is not the time to divert from your strategies. Whether your staff is working remotely or small teams are in the office, it’s important to set clear expectations to keep people focused and working towards common goals. Set clear expectations for working remotely on the following issues:

 

  • Schedules, work hours and respecting people’s time

  • Team member availability

  • Communication systems and response times

  • Deadlines

  • Roles, tasks, and key projects 

  • Process and system updates (like court schedules)

Effective Communication Via
Video Conference

 

Social distancing is not just challenging our ability to stay in touch with family and friends. It's impacting our ability to manage. Even the tightest knit team can become dysfunctional due to distance. To solve this dilemma, many leaders have turned to video conferencing. Video calls have been used in corporate America for years, but are relatively to new prosecutors.  

The following tips will help you use video conferencing in an effective manner.

 Why Is It Important to Meet With Your Team “Face-to-Face?” 

 

Your folks need to hear from you, particularly in times of crisis.  It is understandable that many employees will be experiencing anxiety related to the Covid-19 pandemic and hearing important information directly from you can help reduce their fears.  Also, video conferencing is an excellent way to continue ongoing training and to supervise the work of socially distant team members.

What Do I Need to Get Started? 

 

First, decide on a good video conferencing platform.  You want a system that is reliable, easy to use and secure.  Many offices are using Zoom right now, and it is a good choice so long as you take appropriate security precautions.  Other solutions include Blue Jeans, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Go To Meeting and Google Hangouts.

 

Once you’ve selected your platform, it is important to have a “practice call” with your team to make sure everyone learns how to use the video call platform you've chosen.  Don’t assume that everyone understands how to use the software.   Anyone who has ever waited for various participants to successfully join a call knows that the practice call is time well spent.

 

Finally, we recommend that you establish a consistent meeting time – for example every Monday at 10:00 a.m.  It is important to have regular meetings during social distancing, and repeated use of video calls will normalize this methodology.

 

How Do I Avoid Looking Goofy on Video Calls?

 

A recent episode of Saturday Night Live featured a spoof (above) of an office Zoom call and all the things that can go wrong.  While it was hilarious, it also pointed out a lot of the common issues that get in the way of effective video call communication. The good news is that these six tips will help you look polished and professional:

  1. Set your camera height at eye level.  This can be easily accomplished by stacking books under your laptop or monitor.

  2. Make sure you have a source of lighting behind the camera.  Avoid being in front of a window because the backlighting will make it difficult to see you.

  3. Take steps to minimize audio and visual background noise.  Move to a quiet place, and try not to have a cluttered background.

  4. Look into the camera when speaking.  The common mistake here is that people speak to their monitor instead of the camera.  This will make you look disconnected from the conversation.

  5. Wear appropriate work clothing – at least on top.  (Hey – we’re not judging.)

  6. Extra credit – consider an auxiliary mic to help your voice sound clear an non-echo-y.

 

Finally, Remember Your Etiquette:

 

Most of us are familiar with the basic rules of meeting etiquette, and those rules still apply in video conferences:

 

  1. Circulate an agenda before the meeting.  Stick to that agenda.

  2. Begin and end the meeting on time.

  3. Set a time limit for the meeting (we recommend under an hour for video calls) and stick to it.

  4. Avoid answering emails, internet shopping or any other type of multitasking while on the call.  People can tell if you are paying attention.

 

There are also some specific etiquette tips especially for video conferencing:

 

  1. If you are on a video call, please use your camera.  It can be awkward if some participants are on camera and some aren’t. 

  2. When discussing confidential information, please take measures to ensure that participants are wearing headphones or are in a position to not be overheard.

  3. Mute yourself when you are not speaking.

  4. Mute the audio and video if you must step away from the meeting temporarily.

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