Here are the words from one of my clients this week:

“My boss doesn’t have a clue on how to lead us in the virtual environment. We meet daily from 4:00-5:00 to recap what we are working on and what we accomplished. The half-dozen next level leaders give a synopsis and he provides very little feedback. He is leaving our work totally up to us. When we ask for specific guidance and push for his priorities, the response is to keep doing what we are doing.”

“He has not checked in one-on-one with me and when I asked for a one-on-one, he pushed me off to the daily recap. I need guidance, I need priorities, and I need to know what is expected of me performance-wise. I am a self-starter and can find plenty to do however, is this what he wants? I don’t know. At least when I am in the office I can check-in and get a nod and some feedback.”

Wow, she was blowing off some serious steam, and this is only after the first week of working remotely. What are the people saying about your leadership in this environment? Have you asked them what they need?

Here is some feedback I heard from this and other clients:

– I need direction and priorities. What are my boss’s highest priority and what is the deliverable?

– I need check-ins to bounce ideas and provide progress reports. In the office this is the normal mode of operation, which should not completely change because we are working remotely. The boss needs to be accessible.

– I need my boss to understand my current situation. She has never asked. I have three kids at home ages 9, 13 and 15. My wife is a health care provider and still working. I am managing the school day for them; the two middle schoolers have online class times and the high schooler does assignments and checks in for shorter periods. Our internet is maxed out when everyone is online. Depending on their schedule, working from home is impossible at times.

– I need to connect with my work peers from time to time. We are split into two shifts one week on, one week off and the HR policies will not allow us to “work” on our off week. Frustration is building.

This is just a sample, there are many more examples, such as the CEO of a 100-person company meeting with me online from his garage. It was the only place he could get the “space” with all that was going on with his large family.

What do your people need? Remember leadership is a bond of trust. You build that trust by doing four things:

1. Set the example

2. Set and enforce the standard

3. Build and sustain morale

4. Exhibit physical and moral courage

Let’s set some possible actions using the anecdotes from above. In my opinion at the minimum you owe everyone that works for you clarity in just a few areas.

First, is clarity on your vision for how this new work environment is going to be implemented. This should include expectations, priorities, and a plan to allow it to be evaluated and evolve.

Second, a personal assessment of each of your direct report’s current situation. In the office you see their environment. You may be totally blind to some challenges they are encountering nor will they tell you. Reach out to connect and assess their environment to determine their capability as a remote worker.

Third, connect with and get feedback regularly in one-on-one and group settings. Ask what they need, what is working well, what needs to change, and what they need from you.

If the leaders of my client’s had completed the above. I venture to say they would be a lot less frustrated. By implementing the above three steps, how are you meeting the four elements of building trust?

You are setting the example for how you want them to lead their teams and you are articulating the standards of the organization in this new work environment. When there is clarity about direction and expectations, coupled with personal communication and care, morale improves. Lastly opening yourself up to feedback, admitting you do not have all the answers, and being flexible takes courage.

Times of stress reveal the true character of individuals. Which translates to the character of organizations. How you lead your team/company/organization through this challenge will set a reputation that will be very sticky. Build trust!