Navigating the New Normal: Leading Remote Teams During COVID-19.

Founders First Capital Partners holds regular webinars to help small business owners sustain their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently we held a webinar on leading remote teams in the “new normal” of the pandemic with a panel of small business experts: Ron Smartwood, President of HR Prime, Greg Decker, CFO Consultant for Optima Office, and Lexi Williams, Small Business Consultant and Accounting Partner at ADP.

As a founder of many businesses, I’ll highlight key points with my perspective here, but you can listen to a replay of the webinar on the Founder’s First website.

First and foremost, I can’t emphasize enough that we’re in an extraordinary time that affects our businesses and our personal lives — and the two are not so easily separated these days. We’re all feeling the same things: Worry, anxiety, panic, helplessness, frustration, anger, grief, and loss. Add in difficulty concentrating and trouble sleeping, and it’s not a recipe for business success.

Smartwood’s advice was to take a step back and realize we are all going through this together. “But you have to take care of yourself first,” he said.

He offered tips from U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a year in space:

  • Follow a schedule and keep a routine
  • Go outside (it’s harder to do in space than it is on Earth)
  • Get a hobby (binge-watching Tiger King doesn’t count)
  • Keep a journal
  • Make time to connect — virtual connections count more than ever
  • Listen to experts when you need advice
  • Remember we’re all connected — astronauts see the world as it really is… one community
  • And wash your hands — often

Adapt to the virtual workspace

When it comes to your business, how you work is going to be different now. Where possible, employees are working from home. How you adapt to the virtual workplace could make or break your business. You may have to change your style as a leader. Zoom, WebEx, and videoconferencing are here to stay. Take advantage of them. Right now they are your best way to see body language and take nonverbal cues from your employees.

Keep up the accountability

With everyone working remotely, accountability, productivity, and deliverables become even more important than ever. It’s not the time to be a hands-off manager. You need to make sure you set goals and follow up regularly. Miss having those one-on-ones or even coffee appointments with key staff members? Do them via video chat. You can still schedule those morning coffee meetings before the day gets hectic, even if you can’t meet in person.

Make your meetings work for you

Don’t give up on your all-hands or larger meetings to keep everyone on the same page. You just have to regulate them more when you do them via videoconference. Break them up into multiple, smaller meetings if you have to. Make sure there is a moderator to keep things running smoothly with the technology. Coach employees to stay on mute and press the spacebar to talk. And just like you would with your normal meetings, have an agenda, take notes, and be sure to follow up.

Be aware of new requirements

You also have to be flexible and on top of new employer requirements for COVID-19, Williams pointed out. New government regulations provide for an additional 80 hours of sick time plus extended leave. For more details, watch a replay of the webinar, which also covers questions and answers about PPP loans.

Look for more webinars and other resources from Founders First as we continue to help small businesses navigate the coronavirus.

Kim Folsom is the founder and CEO of Founder’s First Capital Partners, LLC and the FoundersFirstCDC nonprofit.

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