After normality is before normality.
After millions of people have dealt with Zoom, Teams, Slack and Co. in recent weeks, companies are increasingly recognizing the benefits and efficiency of online communication. Parts of this insight will remain with us in the future. Even as soon as the longed-for "normality" returns. A snapshot with future potential.
We are increasingly finding that many people are now set up quite well in their home offices. For some, the organisational framework conditions are not yet running smoothly. Just like with us. We have three school-age children. But one gets along.
Many companies are finding that online works better than they thought (from online meetings to online staff discussions to online coffee). But what many bosses and also we as coaches are finding out more and more, is that everyone deals with home office challenges very differently. We then asked ourselves the question: Are there patterns, connections? Is there anything we can use to determine the different ways of dealing with them that will help us to deal better in the future with a new form of work that requires new cultural techniques? We think we have recognized such patterns in our numerous telephone conversations with people in home office settings and would like to share these insights.
There is a great opportunity to configure tailor-made working models based on knowledge of the respective typologies of people. This ensures both higher productivity and greater job satisfaction. This is then no longer a squaring of the circle, but a living reality.
When I talk to my coaching colleagues and also consider my own experiences with clients, I find statements ranging from: "I can't take it anymore. I miss my colleagues. I need a real conversation. The ceiling is falling on my head" to: "This is the way I've always wanted to work. Nobody bothers me, I can do my own thing in peace and concentrate on what's important!"
However, the blanket and spontaneously drawn division into extroverted and introverted personality types falls far short of the mark. Intelligence or professional qualifications also play only a very minor role in this consideration.
Later on, when the children are back in school and people can concentrate more easily on their own work in their home offices, there is a great opportunity to configure tailor-made working models based on knowledge of the respective typologies of people. This ensures both higher productivity and greater job satisfaction. This is then no longer a squaring of the circle, but a living reality.
We as coaches, who very often work with personality and communication profiles, now have the great advantage that we can compare the observed behaviour of our clients with these psychological and typological analyses of our interlocutors. The behaviour thus becomes explainable and concrete help, or help to help oneself, becomes possible.
In the analysis, we essentially work with two major models: the Talent and Motivation Analysis (TMA), which focuses on driving forces and talents, and the Process Communication Model, PCM. PCM focuses on identifying different personality types, their psychological needs, and their communication patterns. Both models together provide a highly interesting picture of the background and hidden drivers of our personality. And we know that these lead to a certain (stress) behaviour but also offer numerous possibilities to deal with this behaviour.
We will start here with my and my colleagues' findings when working with TMA and describe the highly interesting additions through PCM in one of our next articles. We look at all the findings from the aspect of home office work and give advice on how different people react to this form of work, and also how they can be supported and accompanied as a coach or manager.
Drivers and talents in the home office: who can do it, who needs more support?
TMA is based on 22 so-called driving forces (needs) which are measured on a scale of 1-9 and are thus higher or lower in intensity. There is no good or bad here. It depends on the environment and the respective situation in which the respective person finds themselves (keyword: work in the home office). The psychological background of the driving forces is based on the so-called Big Five theory. Some of these driving forces are very well suited to explaining behaviour in the home office. They show how people feel when certain basic needs are met or not met. But they also show how important interaction with other people is for certain personality types. From this it can now be deduced how I as a manager - especially "remotely" - should support, communicate, lead.
From the 22 driving forces, I will now pick out five that I consider to be truly relevant in this context:
Need for support (speaks for itself)
Extraversion (the need for extroverted behaviour)
Helpfulness (the need to be helpful)
Social empathy (the need to be empathic)
Sociability (the need to be sociable)
We now take a look at the effects of the high and low level of these five (out of 22) drivers. According to the TMA, they are considered as talents both in a higher degree of 7 to 9, but also in a lower degree of 1-3. Surprising? Sure. But it does actually make sense that even a very low level of a particular need is a talent. It just depends on the environment and the role the person is currently playing. We now see these two sides in relation to the question: "Who is better suited for the home office, who is less suited and how do I, as the person in charge, deal with these people accordingly?
1. Need for Support:
Need for support levels 7-9: If a person has a high Need for Support, they will usually find it more difficult to work alone from home. What needs to be done? Create a regular exchange with the people who have a 7-9 level. Put these colleagues together with those who have a strong need to be helpful (see below). In this way, suitable need structures will be met. Form virtual teams and working groups with them. Make sure that you for example, as the person responsible for the project, communicate more with these people than with others (too much help can even harm some others). Pay attention to supporting structures and provide sufficient information on the appropriate collaboration platforms.
To Do as a manager:
Actively offer support
Do not leave alone
Communicate frequently, with active offers of support
Support: honest, sincere, useful
Provide regular information on the status quo
Need for Support at levels 1-3:
For people with a very low level of Need for Support, working from home is likely to be easier. It is easier for them to work alone and to achieve goals without much support (the characteristics of other drivers also play a role in combination with this).
When managers have this knowledge, they can work more effectively and purposefully with their teams.
To Do as a manager:
"Let them work in peace!"
Set clear goals: Reason WHY.
Grant personal responsibility
Establish weekly calls for feedback and milestones
"Call on me if you need anything" - mean it and do it.
Extraversion levels 7-9:
People with a high need to be extroverted regularly need their stage. It does not matter whether this stage is real or virtual. Very likely - at least that's the feedback from our clients - they will find it easier to satisfy this need in real life. The right way of dealing with these personalities in a Zoom meeting (giving them the stage but moderating it) can ensure that they return productively to their home office workplace afterwards. In terms of team dynamics, as moderator of a meeting, you have to slow them down. As with all other forms of team dynamics, the most important task of a manager or project manager is to create the right conditions for this group of people to work productively. The knowledge of these characteristics is worth its weight in gold.
To Do as a leader:
Provide the stage
Actively call on them in meetings
But also: slowing them down where necessary
Give them the opportunity to present themselves and their ideas
Watch out that others do not become lost
Extraversion Levels 1-3:
People with a low need to be extroverted will not necessarily find it easier to work from home. Especially with these people, it is important to consider other drivers such as Social Empathy or Independent Thinking and Acting. However, it is very likely that these people will behave even more calmly and reservedly in online meetings than they already do in face-to-face meetings. Dealing with it? If you want the ideas of these groups of people to be available, actively pick them out. People with a low level of Extraversion and possibly low Sociability (see below) will not actively take the floor in online meetings or from their home office. This may cause them and their ideas to get lost, especially in this phase of isolation. Unfortunately, they are often proven experts in their field whose ideas we really depend on.
To Do as a manager:
When the occasion arises, actively bring on board
Don't put them in the spotlight too much
Don’t forget about them just because they don’t actively speak up
In online meetings: always have a list of names on your desk and check reporting frequency
Pick up good ideas in a personal conversation
Use the expertise of this group of people
Helpfulness levels 7-9:
People with a high need to be helpful should - you guessed it - be given the opportunity to do so. In the home office, however, this is only possible to a limited extent, or it must be actively moderated and stimulated. Here, the role of a manager as a moderator, connector, relationship and needs manager becomes even more important than in the traditional office. Give these people the opportunity to support others and help them to get involved. This is particularly fruitful for team members with a high need for support (see above).
To Do as a manager:
Give them the opportunity to help others
Discuss a support plan: who can these people actively support and when?
Praise them for their active support
Give them projects in which they can actively help and support
Create networking with those who have a high need for support
Helpfulness levels 1-3:
In the meantime, you have certainly become familiar with the system. With a low need to help, people will not actively engage in supporting others. They will behave objectively, delegating. This does not mean however, that they absolutely do not help and support when required, but they have to be actively addressed to do so. How to deal with them? Encourage others to actively approach these colleagues. Make it absolutely clear that these colleagues will help if necessary, but will certainly not actively approach others. If you need colleagues with a low willingness to help with teamwork, ask these colleagues to approach others directly more often. This need becomes particularly clear in the home office.
To Do as a manager:
Be aware that these people will not actively offer help
Address actively, call on for support
Use their delegation skills
Actively engage in discussion and ask for their opinion
4. Social Empathy
Social Empathy levels 7-9:
People with a high level of Social Empathy often find it extremely difficult to work from home. For them, direct, personal exchange and lively communication is very important in order to use their Social Empathy accordingly. If they also have a high degree of Sociability, this is particularly difficult. A low level of Sociability, on the other hand, makes it easier to maintain contact online. Regular contact and exchange is particularly important for both groups. This is not only about numbers, data and facts but also very much about personal exchange. A little small talk, a report from the weekend, a little whining and pitying are often part of it. If you suppress this in a meeting as a moderator, it becomes very difficult for this group of people to work productively and creatively in their home office.
To Do as a manager:
Provide the opportunity for personal exchange
Emphasize group experience: WE-feeling in meetings
Allow small talk (weekend experiences, family news, cat pictures)
Show understanding (honest and credible)
Social Empathy levels 1-3:
With this low level - i.e. a low need to be socially empathetic - the home office is often much easier. Together with low Sociability and a low level of Need for Support, this is certainly the group of people who cope best in the home office and are possibly even more productive than in the regular office. Make sure that you talk to these colleagues or employees primarily about achieved goals. Appreciation and recognition are effective when it is based on concrete, measurable success. Get to the point, save yourself too much personal time. As a manager with this group of employees, you should remain objective.
To Do as a manager:
Lead by goals
Do not assume that these colleagues have a great interest in the worries, fears, needs of others
Get to the point
Do not become friends or personal too quickly
Realize that questions about family and weekends can be irritating
Sociability levels 7-9:
A high level of Sociability requires a lot of personal contact with other people. With high Sociability and high Social Empathy, the home office can become a psychological torture chamber. If contact with other people is lacking, this group of people quickly loses energy and loses a large part of their productivity. Social contact is the energy that keeps the machine running. To a certain extent, frequent online meetings can satisfy the need for contact, but for people with a high level of Sociability, this medium quickly reaches its limits. What can be done? As a manager, encourage intensive exchange. Talk to these colleagues regularly, even alone. A high level of Sociability, which cannot be lived in isolation, can quickly lead to frustration, depression and burnout. Pay attention to these signals if you know that employees have a high level of this need. Otherwise, they may no longer be available to you "afterwards".
To Do as a manager:
Provide many opportunities for (personal) exchange with colleagues
Get into different teams and groups
Form larger groups instead of 1:1
Hold a group chat at least every two days
Regularly hold out the prospect of personal meetings again / provide prospects
Sociability levels 1-3:
Perfect for the home office. If Sociability is very low, one is already choosy in terms of our contacts in normal times anyway. Quality clearly takes precedence over quantity. The few desired contacts can be maintained quite well online. Regular exchange with colleagues is not absolutely necessary. Together with corresponding other driving forces, this could be the employees who, after the Corona crisis, ask to continue to do a large part of their work from home. Do not disturb these colleagues too much. Communicate regularly but sparingly. It is best to ask how often communication and exchange is desired. Here, "Management by Objectives" is the best management style. Clear tasks, a clear time frame, clear expectations, a clear goal and a concrete result at the agreed time. In this way, a maximum of productivity, efficiency and job satisfaction is achieved.
To Do as a manager:
Do not hold too many meetings with too many people
Promote 1:1 conversations
Prefer personal conversations to group discussions
Get them on board actively
If you would like to know more about the Talent and Motivation Analysis TMA, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We ourselves have been working with TMA for over 15 years and would be happy to share our current experiences with you.