As I write this, we are in the midst of a global pandemic, which has changed the way we live and work. Many professionals are working from home for the first time. Based on the questions I’m receiving and complaints I’m hearing, quite a few are struggling as they attempt to work without direct supervision.

Look, let’s be honest: No one likes a micro-manager. But, on the other end of the spectrum, it can be just as hard to work without any management at all—and that’s what a lot of people (especially administrative professionals) are facing at the moment.

Leaders are extremely busy right now; they’re dealing with the immediate problems of the pandemic. Many are trying to save their businesses from going under. They don’t have time to manage their teams, and that’s frustrating for those who are trying to figure out what to do all day as they “work” from home.

So, what can you do to work effectively when you have little or no direction from management? How can you still provide value without supervision? Here are 5 tips to help you.

1. Empower Yourself

Now is the time to hone your “figure it out” skills. There is no roadmap for what we’re going through—your boss doesn’t have it any more than you do. You have to build it yourself from the ground up. What do you need to be successful and how can you get it? No one is going to give you permission or instructions here. Just go make it happen. Trust yourself. Now is not the time to worry about “staying within the boundaries of your job description.” Everyone is flexing to make things work. You can afford to take some intelligent risks right now.

Need help taking initiative? Read this!

2. Get Proactive

If you’ve been following me for a while, you already know how passionate I am about this topic. Being proactive is about looking into the future and taking the right steps today to make tomorrow better. This has never been more important than right now!

Your leaders are too busy and too consumed by today’s issues to think about planning and preparing for the future. They need YOU to do that for them, for yourself, and for the team.

At this point, everything is fluid. So, one way to be proactive is to create contingency plans for “what if” scenarios. What will need to happen if you get sick and have to take time off? What will you do if that in-person meeting next month can’t happen? What if your primary video conference technology isn’t working? What back-up plans can you put into place to give everyone peace of mind during this turbulent time?

You can also systematize what’s currently happening, in case it ever happens again in the future. Hopefully it won’t, but why recreate the wheel if it does? Wouldn’t it be better to pull out a checklist and just go through the steps? You’re figuring it all out as you go right now, so formalize it and make it a procedure.

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3. Initiate Communication with Management

Just because your leaders are busy, doesn’t mean they don’t want to communicate with you. They just might not be thinking about it. So again, be proactive and initiate communication with them—don’t wait for them to do it. Offer brief updates on what you’re doing to support them and the team, and remind them that you’re available to help.   

A word of caution: If possible, avoid adding to their stress. If you ask them what you should be doing, it suggests that you need hand-holding. All they hear is, “Tell me what to do!” which is another problem they have to solve. Instead, take ownership of your role and show them that you are successfully self-managing during this time and continuing to add value in any way you can.

4. Reach Out to Your Team

We’re all figuring out this new way to work. A lot of people don’t have the time or ability to do it on their own. Reach out and see what you can do to support your team. For example, if you know how to use video conference technology, maybe you can train someone else or create cheat sheets for those who aren’t comfortable yet. You have the power to connect with people on your own—you don’t need your manger to tell you to do it or facilitate it. Trust me: Everyone will appreciate the added support.

5. Don’t Take It Personally

One of the biggest concerns I’m hearing is that people feel they’ve been “ghosted” by their managers. I know it’s frustrating, but try not to take it personally. This is such an odd time for us all and, truth be told, some managers weren’t all that great to begin with! This situation has brought out the best in some and the worst in others. Remember that it’s temporary and use this time wisely. Once this is all over, you’ll be an expert at self-management. That’s a valuable skill, and it’s tough to learn. But now is the perfect opportunity.

Lastly, if you’re struggling to find things to do during this time, check out this article: How to Use Downtime at Work Productively.

Please share your comments below and let us know what you’re doing to work effectively without direct supervision during this time.