A few weeks ago we offered tips for managing yourself in the midst of March Madness 2020, COVID-19 edition. As circumstances continue to change and we head into another turbulent month of #stopthespread #stayhome, your calm and clear leadership matters more than ever to your now-virtual team.
Here are some tips to help you manage the dynamics of your team through empathy, clear communication and mutually set expectations to bridge the distance and connect your people.
- Empathy over productivity – you are working with human beings not human resources (or human doings.) This is more important than ever. Pay attention to your team and what’s happening in their world before you talk about work. Acknowledge stress, listen to team members’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. Let your team know you’re there to help them address the challenges of working virtually. TIP: naming emotions helps to tame their impact and refocus the brain. ASK: How are you feeling, what is your experience right now? (then be quiet and listen deeply!)
- Set clear goals – It’s easy to lose focus and become misaligned during times of crisis. It’s like we’ve collectively hit a pothole, and nothing is the same. Review the work that needs to get done and prioritize it. Then make sure that everyone has the same understanding of who is doing what by when. When your team members are aligned on goals and expectations, they’ll be better equipped for virtual work success. Another important alignment point is clarity on what success looks like. ASK: What is most important to get done now and what does “done” mean?
- Create certainty – nothing is normal right now. which leads the brain to experience a continuous threat from the uncertainty. One way you can create certainty is to establish structured daily check-ins. This can be individually or as a group – whatever makes sense in your context. Set clear expectations or “rules of engagement” for communication. Define which tool (chat, email, video, etc.) gets used for what purpose, how quickly a response is expected and how frequently everyone should connect. ASK: What routines and expectations will you establish to create certainty?
- Reset relational rhythms – when everyone is virtual, casual interactions don’t happen organically so designate time for informal communication. Schedule social connection between team members to support each other and build trust. Invite the team to virtual coffee chats or regular office hours, where you are available online for anyone to stop by and ask questions. Incorporate personal connection into all virtual meetings by beginning with a topic such as “introduce your pet” or “the beverage that begins your day.” ASK: What will I do to make sure that my team stays connected?
You can’t control the chaos in the world around you, but by choosing empathy, setting clear goals, creating certainty, and being intentional about resetting relational rhythms you can help your team emerge stronger on the other side.