Supporting your team during times of stress

leadership during stressful times

Stressful times – whether it’s a worldwide pandemic like COVID-19, or some other reason – can be tough on a small business. And as the leader, you may be feeling additional pressure. How can you be there for your team and support them, while making sure you’re also doing okay?

To us, leadership in times of stress must start from a place of empathy. We’re all feeling upside-down these days, and we can’t expect to meet the same standards we did before. This applies to you as a small business leader, as well as each one of your employees. Take greater care to engage with your team and make sure you’re giving them the support they need – both for their career and for their emotional wellbeing. Now more than ever, your team needs to see that you’re truly a leader who they want to follow.

And be sure to protect your own emotional health! Here are some ways to deal with stress in uncertain times.

Entrepreneur also had some great thoughts on this topic recently. For example:

Employees need you to understand their anxieties, frustrations, and pain points to be able to support them before expecting them to perform at their fullest potential. Leaders must prioritize connections and meet their people where they are rather than where you want them to be. This is how you build trust and prepare employees to handle a pandemic or similar crisis.

If you’re wondering how to support your time during the current pandemic, take heart – you’re not alone! Entrepreneurs across Canada and around the world are going through the same thing. Check out Entrepreneur’s article: How Leaders Nurture Emotional Well-Being During Times of Crisis.

 

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How to manage your team when working from home

Managing Employees Working From Home

Many small businesses across Canada have had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes having everyone work from home. If you’re new to managing a team of remote workers, here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind.

How to manage a remote team

  • Be flexible and understanding. Many entrepreneurs and employees alike have been thrust into the work-from-home life in this unprecedented time, and are doing their best to manage their work responsibilities while managing family and their own mental health. Of course, your employee should be as considerate of their deadlines and schedules as in a traditional office. But it’s important to remember that most people are adjusting to this new way of working, while at home potentially with other family members who have their own schedules and needs too. You may have to be extra flexible to account for this, and cut your team a little more slack than normal.
  • Check in on a regular basis. Whether it’s weekly group chats or one-on-one check-ins, make sure you talk to each of your employees on a regular basis to see how they’re doing. They may need an extra day to complete a project, or may be in need of community resources to help them. Don’t pressure them to talk, but make sure they know your virtual door is always open.
  • But don’t jam-pack the days with meetings. Back-to-back meetings are often distracting even in a regular office environment, let alone a working from home during a pandemic environment. It’s important to make sure that everyone is kept up to date and knows what’s going on, but it might be a good idea to scale back the amount of meetings you have, to ensure nobody gets overwhelmed or falls behind. Instead, try quicker messaging options like Slack.
  • Trust in your team. A huge part of running a virtual office is trusting that your team is working. You can’t stroll by and chat with them like in a traditional office. Of course, you should be monitoring their overall progress and how they get there, but don’t make checking their social media and constantly asking for updates a regular part of your day. Many of us have seen reduced productivity during the pandemic, so take that into consideration as well.
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How to stay organized when working from home

How to stay organized when working from home

Working from home is appealing to many entrepreneurs for its flexibility and potential cost savings. However, staying on top of your work can be difficult when you’re away from a traditional workplace. Here are some tips for keeping yourself organized when you work from home.

Have a dedicated home office space

Many home-based entrepreneurs love being able to work in a non-traditional environment. You can host an onboarding call from your couch or create your handmade jewelry at your kitchen table. However, having a dedicated office space can go miles in helping your small business succeed. Find an area in your home – it doesn’t have to be large – and keep all your files and supplies there. This will ensure you’re not scrambling for a contract in three months’ time. If you hold meetings with clients in your home office, this space will hold a larger importance and should look professional.

This area can also play a part in tax deductions for home-base businesses.

Stay on a schedule

Working from home often gives you a flexible schedule. However, there should be a schedule of some kind. Review your non-work plans and write them out, allowing for things like transportation time and traffic. Consider how these plans will fit in with your upcoming projects and deadlines, and reference this schedule often. Making sure you actually have enough time in your week will mean you’re not pulling all-nighters two days before your next deadline or deliverable. And most importantly – leave your work behind at the end of the day wherever possible! It can be tempting to keep working when you don’t actually need to, but try and stay mindful of it.

Keep on top of your filing

It’s a good idea to have a dedicated home office space, but you should definitely invest in keeping your space clutter-free and organized. Set aside regular chunks of time to review your files. Recycle, scan, or shred the items you don’t need anymore. And don’t forget about your digital clutter, too! There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your computer files arranged neatly in proper, easy-to-find folders.

Make sure you hang on to these important accounting records.

Minimize distractions

Being able to stay focused and will keep you on top of things and prevent your task list from going off the rails. Try to avoid having any kids in your home treat your home office like their play room, for example, and set limits with friends or neighbours who want to call or drop by “just for a minute” if you’re in the middle of a project.

Find organizational aids in software

Whatever your small business, there’s sure to be a program that can help you stay organized. For example, at GoForth we use Slack for messaging and calls, and Dropbox for file sharing. Ask your friends or colleagues what they like, and do your research before downloading anything (especially if it sounds too good to be true)!

If you’re running a virtual business with remote workers, check out our tips on how to manage a virtual office.

Also, read some working from home tips from real entrepreneurs!

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Writing a job description

When you’re ready to hire your first employee, the job description deserves careful attention. A good job description will give prospective hires a clear idea of what you’re looking for, and will attract people you have in mind. A bad job description, on the other hand, can lead to confusion and wasted time.

Here are some of the key features to have in mind when writing a good job description:

  • Job Title
  • Job Purpose
  • Duties & Responsibilities
  • Relationships & Roles
  • Qualifications/Requirements
  • Job Location
  • Salary/Wage
  • Hours & Days of Work
  • Equipment to Be Used

Take some time to enter in as much info as you can in each of these sections. You can build upon the above features if you like – they are key in creating a strong foundation to work from.

Read more: Hiring Your First Employee

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Entrepreneurs Get Strong By Recognizing Their Weaknesses

entrepreneurs get strong by recognizing their weaknesses

It takes a lot of confidence and ego to start a business. Although these attributes are major components of success, ego and confidence can lead to failure if they blind entrepreneurs to their own weaknesses.

A common trap for entrepreneurs is trying to do everything; delegation requires trust (a legitimate concern), a willingness to involve others in strategic and tactical decision-making, and recognition that someone else has greater expertise in a particular area of operations. These latter two requirements can be high hurdles for the entrepreneur to get over.

If entrepreneurs take a cold, hard look at their abilities and interests, they will soon realize outside help is needed somewhere, somehow — and probably, right away. Here are several typical situations; perhaps you see a bit of yourself in one of them:

  • Entrepreneurs with a passion for sales are often weak in detail management. Selling requires high-powered multitasking, risk taking and terrific communication skills. Detail management requires focus, patience, and methodical and repetitious work activity. These two mindsets are seldom found in the same person. A sales-minded entrepreneur needs a reliable and skilled operations manager to steer the ship and make sense out of the chaos this type of entrepreneur is bound to create.
  • Entrepreneurs who are technical wonks — creative geniuses in the design and application of a particular product, such as software — sometimes have little understanding of basic business finance. All small businesses need to button down financial operations, but in particular, startups launching a new product must be very careful in how they project and manage operating costs, as well as in raising capital and structuring debt. Brilliant, innovative product ideas that could produce millions of dollars in revenue sometimes go unrealized because the startup couldn’t get out of the gate financially.
  • Not all entrepreneurs are high-powered, extroverted sales and marketing stars. Some (and potentially successful) small business owners are rather reserved and more comfortable behind the scenes. This is fine if such an entrepreneur finds someone to be the organization’s “front person” in terms of sales and marketing. Many, many entrepreneurs dislike sales and are quite uncomfortable networking, pushing their products or trying to create a personal brand on social media. Get help! It’s not a fatal weakness.
  • When a business grows quickly, entrepreneurs who handled all facets of the business in the early days now find themselves in over their heads — and refuse to accept it. This situation, becoming a victim of one’s own success, is perhaps one of the most widespread killers of potentially successful small businesses. The key here is to develop a middle management function; a group of trusted managers who can both oversee critical areas of operation and work harmoniously under the owner’s direction. Accomplishing this very hard mission requires several components, including:
  • Being an owner who is ready, willing and able to learn how to delegate — and then actually delegates.
  • Selecting managers who are trustworthy and competent. A great way to find managers is to look for people who have been where your company wants to go in terms of scale of operation.

To help in the effort to assess weaknesses, a small business owner is wise to establish an outside board of directors — friends, business associates, referrals with solid track records in marketing, sales, finance, etc. An outside board (with no voting rights) that holds quarterly meetings imposes a bit of discipline on the entrepreneur, but more importantly, provides a mechanism to expertly review and evaluate the business’s progress, strengths and weaknesses. Whether annual revenues are $10,000 or $10 million, such a process is the best insurance against self-inflicted business wounds.


Brad ShorrAuthor Bio:

Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an Internet marketing firm that offers SEO, PPC and web design services. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications including Entrepreneur, Moz and Forbes.

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