by Pattie Sellers, Co-CEO, SellersEaston Media
Doug McMillon and I are doing the same thing. It's weird to think about the CEO of Walmart and me, a co-CEO of SellersEaston Media, doing the same thing at work everyday. But here we are: Both leading from home.
SellersEaston has eight people. Walmart has 2.2 million. Still, no matter how many people Doug and I (with my SellersEaston co-CEO, Nina Easton) respectively oversee, we have similar goals: to inspire our people to step up to the most challenging times we have ever faced.
“Never ever be bigger than your front line. If you pretend you're better than them, you and your business will fail.”
My friend Jim Donald sent this quote to me the other day. These are the words that Sam Walton, Walmart's founder, said to him from his gurney one day before he died on April 5, 1992. Jim was, at the time, heading Walmart's grocery business; he went on to become CEO of Starbucks and a couple of other big companies. He is now co-chairman of Albertsons, which owns supermarket chains like Acme and Safeway and Vons that are keeping us, through these difficult times, supplied with milk and eggs and toilet paper.
When I need a shot of motivation—or advice about how to motivate other people—I often ping Jim. Because he's an expert team builder who never let power get to his head. Jim, who clearly still worships Sam Walton, sent me another of his quotes: “Don’t be blinded by our own success...We’ve got to support each other and show concern for each other. Remember those wonderful associates in the store who are doing the real job.”
Indeed. Right now, more than ever, people on the front lines are our heroes. If you're someone working in a hospital or a nursing home or a supermarket or the streets of any town hit by coronavirus, we salute you. If you're a boss leading from home, as I am, you might want to take a few minutes to think about how to raise your game—because we're going to be here at home for a while.
"Never before has the need to communicate to every level been more important," says Jim, who offers important advice about leading from home:
1. Send a short daily message to your entire organization. Emails are okay. A short video is ideal because the boss needs her voice heard. ("I did, and still do, selfie videos 45 seconds long everyday," Jim says.)
2. Be there. When communicating to your employees, don’t worry about typos and quality of production. Worry about being out there daily. Remember, your employee base doesn't care what you know; they want to know how much you care.
3. Structure. For your core team, schedule daily update meetings, and keep the start/stop times the same each day. People working from home need more structure than they do when they're in the office.
4. Don’t stretch the day. Outside of emergencies, no emails before 8 am and after 5 pm. People are juggling a lot, and they need breaks even more in the at-home workplace.
5. Empower your people. Studies before the crisis showed that compensation was the fourth “must have” for strong employee engagement. No. 1 was the ability to make decisions. Now more than ever, you need to make sure associates, at every level, are empowered to make these decisions.
Jim urges us to celebrate wins. "Find success in the little things that your teams do and make them big things," he says. "That's how you'll motivate people in the tough times and cultivate their loyalty for the long-term."
Good advice, and as we think about the long-term—the certain light at the end of this tunnel—Jim reminds me that I and every other boss will be judged by how we perform during and emerge from this crisis.
"And how you emerge," Jim adds, "will depend on how you led from home."