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Working from home and the people points game

I share my office space with a mad chocolate labrador called Lyra, well I call it my office but she thinks of it as her bedroom and either way she takes her job of sleeping very seriously. She can often be heard snoring and dreaming in the background of my calls. Her second favourite place to get some sleep is on the sofa, or it was. Until I was given a lovely new floor lamp.

She was very excited about its arrival, got involved with getting it out of the box and assembled, so far so good. The lamp now stands proudly in a corner near the sofa and for some reason that I don't understand, Lyra is convinced she can't jump onto the sofa anymore. It's just a small step up for her in reality, but she will sit and look at the sofa and cry. The only way she can get up there now is by taking a running jump from the other side of the room, which makes things interesting if you are already sat on the sofa! It's taking time, patience and some training treats to get her confident to get on the sofa again.

Cute though this story is, you may well be wondering why I'm telling you about a labrador and a lamp. Well, it reminded me that even when we know people in our teams well, when it comes to change they can still surprise us.

Here in the UK, we have had another wave of government-imposed restrictions announced this week, people are no longer being encouraged to go back to their offices and the advice to work from home where possible is likely to be in place for at least the next six months. So more changes for our teams to deal with both in their work lives and their home lives.

As leaders, we need to be open to the idea that people will surprise us with their reactions even when we know them well and be ready to support them accordingly. We have been given another chance to really strengthen and deepen our relationships with our teams and to find ways to set them up to get results working from home for an extended period of time.

So are you ready to get curious and make some choices about how you can set your team up for success as they work from home where they can?

How do you feel about working from home?

When you heard the news that working from home was being encouraged again, how did you feel?

Were you celebrating as you are more productive when you work from home, especially now your home is not a school as well? Are you glad that you don't have to face the commute and can control your own hours a bit more?

Or did your heart sink? You miss the office, the buzz of the people around you and the chance to get out and about? For some people, it's not that clear cut, but for many of us, we sit firmly on one side or the other.

As a leader, we have our own preferences to consider, as well as our teams and we also still need to ensure that our team is productive, when we can't see how they are and what they are doing. We may well be used to leading a team who were based in different offices, but now we find ourselves managing a team with as many different locations as there are people. The techniques we have used to run our multi-location teams are still going to work, all be it with some slight tweaks.

And since the initial lockdowns, you have probably worked out how to work as a team, and how to keep things going. Yes, there is room for improvement but there is even when we are all in one location.

So those practical things are not what we are going to talk about here now.

At the heart of this is our relationships with our teams, we need to keep developing and deepening those relationships. As Lyra demonstrated when the lamp arrived near her sofa, even when we think we know them well their reactions to changes, even ones we think are positive, can surprise us.

So, how are your team reacting to the latest government guidelines?

More changes for your team and what you can expect

I know for some of us this doesn't really represent much of a change in practical terms, many of us have been working from home throughout this period and maybe even longer.

But it will impact some people in your network and in your team's networks so there will be some change to manage and some more unexpected twists and turns in how to get things done.

You can expect to see people go through the phases of the Kubler Ross Change Curve, initially you are going to see some denial, some disbelief and certainly some confusion at the seeming gaps in logic between the different measures. As leaders, we want to move our teams forward from this unproductive negative state of mind as quickly as we can, even though it means we have to go through the next stages of change, the anger and frustration and then the depression which make up the messy middle bit of change. As we go through this productivity will dip in the short term as people process the changes. Then we will start to come out the other side and build back to productivity. Not everyone will go through this at the same speed or with the same intensity and you need to flex and adapt your approach to suit your team and the stage of change that they are at.

Hopefully, you have learned lessons about how to do this effectively from the last rounds of change, but if you are looking for hints and tips check out episodes 3 and 4 where I share lots of ideas about how to support your team on that journey.

What we need to do next as leaders of people working from home

As we become more confident in leading people back to productivity we can start looking at how we as a team can work at our best again. We absolutely need to look at our management and how we get things done - our systems and processes and how they need to change, we can look at how we measure what we do and again anything that needs to change there, and we can look at how we delegate and can pass work between ourselves and our stakeholders.

But there is something which we as leaders need to think about which sits underneath all that, our team energy levels.

We know change dips into our energy reserves and we need to look at how we can boost the energy levels back up. How we do what we do, will make a difference but looking at where our team members get their energy from can make a big difference too.

Earlier I asked you how you felt about working from home for an extended period, some of you will have felt a positive energy boost, some will have almost literally felt the energy drain out of you. You will see the same from your team.

There is no one right reaction, and as leaders, our job is to be aware of where our team sit on this scale and make sure we set the team up so everyone can flourish.

Energy Levels and the People Points Game

There is a strong correlation between people's reactions to how it feels to work at home and where they are on the Introversion Extroversion Scale used in psychometric assessments like the Myers Briggs. Especially when you dig into why they feel like they do. Here introversion does not mean shy and extroversion does not mean being loud in a crowd. It's about where you get your energy from, and if the source internal or external.

I've been watching the debates about how many meetings you need to have as a dispersed team and the prevalence of Zoom Fatigue with interest. People on all sides of the argument are convinced that they are right - and they are. The truth is what is right for one person isn't necessarily what's right for another. It comes down to where you get your energy from.

Let me explain.

I was talking to a friend and colleague of mine last week, she is very definitely an extrovert and gets her energy from being around other people. Her husband, on the other hand, is very definitely an introvert who finds spending too much time with people very draining. They have developed a great way of talking about this between themselves and with other people.

They are big gamers and for them, keeping their team energy good is a bit like a game quest where you have to make sure you collect the right number of people points to keep your battery working well. As the name suggests, you get people points from your interactions with people. Too many people points and your head literally feels like it will explode, too few and your mood, mental health and physical abilities drop.

On an individual level an introvert needs far fewer people points to function well than an extrovert. But what does that mean for a team?

Well, for them as a team they make sure they play the people points game as a team, he knows when she needs to go and collect people points and she knows when he needs to give some away. Together they can keep their combined people points at peak performance level for the game.

Your job as a leader is to help your team balance their people points and keep the overall energy and productivity in the team high. The people who are excited to be working from home may well need less people points than those who dread it. But don't make assumptions, someone who needs less people points may dread spending a lot of time in a busy house.

So check in with your team - how are they feeling about working from home again and why?

Summary & Taking Action

So in this episode, we have talked about how people's reactions to change can surprise you, even when you know them well, and how we need to remember that as we face another set of government regulations.

We talked about how we need to remember to actively manage and lead our teams through this change even if the impact may seem small on the surface and then we talked about managing our team's energy levels and making sure they have the right number of people points.

 The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience. Some will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business.

So the question I would like to leave you with is

How are you and your team doing at the people points game?