Co-Founder & President of Pink Lily, one of the fastest-growing online retailers of women’s clothing in the US.
I’m going to make a potentially unpopular statement: Productivity and performance are still hugely important, even in this extraordinarily difficult time.
As the co-founder of a multimillion-dollar e-commerce startup, I understand the difference between the work it takes to just get by and the work it takes to soar. And I want my team to soar.
Of course, we’re all suffering under the weight of stress and trauma right now. We’ve lost over 200,000 Americans. We’re living in a state of perpetual anxiety and fear. There is no certainty about how this will all end. And in our work lives, most of us are being forced to manage our tasks from home, often while juggling kids and personal responsibilities. It’s a lot.
But if we want our economy and society to remain afloat, we must continue to work — and we must work hard. We must take a lesson from our grandparents and great-grandparents, who used times of extreme difficulty, like the Great Depression and world wars, to take more action, not less. They worked harder than they ever had before in order to keep their way of life strong. I feel that we must take a page from their book and bring a renewed sense of vigor to our business performance, despite all that’s happening in the world. Here are a few ideas for doing just that, all while working remotely.
1. Make sure the team is set up for success.
This may sound obvious, but if you want top-notch performance from your team, you have to ensure that they have everything they need to deliver that performance. At my company, this translated to setting clear expectations from the outset of the pandemic for what is needed and expected in terms of continued productivity. We didn’t leave any room for guesswork or assumptions. We told our team members that despite the chaos swirling around us, we still needed to continue to deliver an exceptional product at a fast speed for our customers. Empathy and understanding are important in difficult times. We’re also operating a business and keeping all our jobs and lives afloat by staying profitable.
In addition to laying out clear expectations and guidelines for work during the pandemic, I recommend taking a closer look at your team’s remote work equipment. Do they have access to reliable technology? Think quality laptops, high-quality webcams and video monitors, access to shared drives, etc. It’s worthwhile to check in with your team on the status and efficacy of their equipment because we’re all leaning so heavily on it at the moment. Once you’re sure that everyone is well situated to give their best, you can move on to the next couple of ideas for maintaining or growing your sales.
2. Lean into software and emerging solutions.
Even before Covid-19 struck, our business community had access to remote work and remote collaboration software options. Slack, Asana, Trello and others have been around for some time, and these tools have helped us to create a brave new world in virtual workspaces. We’re now able to connect and manage tasks easily, seamlessly and in real time with colleagues around the world.
If you’re not already utilizing one of these software options, I encourage you to pull some estimates. Even if you’ll only be relying on this technology for a relatively short period of time to manage performance during the pandemic, I think it’s more than worth it. Relying solely on email or phone when such intuitive and efficient options exist is limited thinking. On top of using existing communication and collaboration software, consider checking out a few of the emerging solutions and ideas for supporting remote team engagement. Companies like Assembly are actively enhancing remote team culture, and businesses are utilizing a range of creative ideas such as engagement boosters and team-building activities to keep their teams hyper-engaged and optimally productive.
3. Increase accountability with daily check-ins.
Just as important as setting the team up for success and leaning into new, creative solutions is stepping up your one-on-one communication with your colleagues. In the past, you may have had a weekly all-hands meeting to touch on important projects and ensure tasks were on track. Now, due to the distance between team members, the shifting sands of our business community and economy, and the effects of social isolation, you will likely have to increase your cadence and intensity when it comes to checking in. In my experience, employees need more concentrated, frequent and personalized attention in order to remain at peak productivity levels. Many people are feeling disconnected and unmotivated in this strange and unprecedented time. To combat complacency and inaction, managers, leaders and business owners must take it upon themselves to check in daily, if possible. These check-ins don’t have to last long — they should be just long enough to ensure essential tasks are being completed and to reiterate the value that each employee is bringing to the organization in a tough time. It may seem like overkill, but in most cases, your team members will deeply appreciate this level of personal attention and engagement.
We’re all living through a historically significant experience, and someday we’re going to look back on this time and recall what went well, what went poorly and what we learned. This is a challenge that we all have to get through together in the best way we know how. My hope is that all of us, as business leaders and founders, will step up and take on the burden of responsibility for our teams, making it easier, simpler and more pleasant for our employees to do their jobs exceptionally well. They’re counting on us.
Forbes Business Development Council is an invitation-only community for sales and biz dev executives. Do I qualify?