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Leading Culture During COVID-19

Entire offices, corporations and industries have made the unprecedented shift to a virtual existence in light of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe.

Many wonder how this will impact the corporate culture they have worked so hard to establish. The truth is, the principles of maintaining culture don’t change because we are online but the emphasis does. The same principles explained in The Culture Fix™ apply for leaders to lead a culture online or in the office. In fact, keeping true to your CoreVals™ may be more important now than ever before.

Many businesses have been completely remote, or at the very least had virtual employees, long before today. At Waer Systems we hired Zimbabwe-based Teresa, a software engineer. Because we used our CoreVals™ to influence our hiring process, we were able to sustain a relationship as a team by utilizing technology. Now, 15 years later, Teresa is head of operations at Waer and is building up a Zimbabwe-based office of three to four employees.

At Lextech, one of our biggest Culture Czars™ happened to live in Ecuador. Felipe never set foot in our office, yet was one of the most glowing examples of our CoreVals™.

Though many have been able to navigate this virtual world, you may be feeling the change after working from home for the first few weeks.

Read on for some key pointers on maintaining your corporate culture in this new normal.

  1. Initiate a more meaningful check-in: In lieu of asking, “how are you?” at the beginning of a conference call, it is important to maintain one-on-one check-ins from the CEO or another member of the leadership team. But it doesn’t stop with that. Instead, try asking questions that will elicit real, conversational answers. “How are you feeling,” “How is it working at home” or “Is there anything we can do for you” are great examples of questions you can use to start these conversations. Listen to that answer, follow up and show an interest. Trust me, it will make a big difference.

  2. Shout out often: When you catch someone committing a CoreVal™, remember to shout them out! Where you may have saved these for your town-halls in the past, in the world of virtual workspaces it is just as easy to acknowledge them via group email or in an online community like Slack.There are also online tools like TINYpulse or Bonusly that you can explore for a fun and interactive way to continue this process online! Note: TINYpulse is currently free for 3 months for companies who have made the shift to remote!

  3. Increase your meeting rhythm: Maintaining culture in a COVID-world where we are all remote requires overcommunication. Increasing the frequency of your company-wide forums, town halls or meetings is an important place where people can meet and tell their stories. A lot of what we do when we build culture is building trust, and one of the things you can do to accomplish that is sharing your personal life and telling those stories from this time we are all sure to remember for years to come.Make these meetings mandatory, and kick them off with something positive related to your CoreVals™. Not everyone can harvest energy without personal interaction and everyone needs facetime these days!

  4. Use technology: From Zoom to Google Hangouts, there are many options for group calls using video. Come as you are, but require the use of video. One of the great advantages of these video calls is peeking into the life of your colleagues—and leaders. This leads to sharing a bit of your personal life and eventually, establishing a deeper trust.I have been working with Rob Saunders of Novel Co-Working and when in person, we start our session and get right to business. However, at a recent Zoom meeting, I had the pleasure of meeting his children who were going about their business just as we were going about ours. Meeting these kids, spouses and even pets is exactly the light-hearted (yet important) sharing everyone needs right now. If you and any of your colleagues are struggling with the long stretches of solitude, keep your camera on so that you stay in the room with a colleague as Felipe did with us from Ecuador for hours in the day. Use your usual technology or check out an app like Sococo where you can create an entire virtual office. Sometimes the white-noise of your colleagues is all you need to feel connected.

  5. Keep the element of fun: It is so important to continue to keep the element of fun in your workplace, wherever that may be. Host a team happy hour on your video chat platform, share fun articles or videos, even host a virtual game or recently published “Conference Call Tips,” a funny video montage that you don’t want to miss. You can even place a fun background on your Zoom call! One prankster came to a call with a tower of toilet paper behind her!

By following these pointers, your business may come out of this with a stronger sense of culture than before. Soon the day will arrive where we will be able to pack up our home offices and head back to our workspace and second family. But for now, stay organized, positive and most importantly, communicative, and you will continue to lead a strong team with an even stronger culture.

This article was originally published on the EO Global Octane Blog.

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