Almost overnight, your reality shifted and you are now called upon to work in a new way. Business continuity measures have been put into place. Even if team members have been able to work from home previously, this situation is vastly different. Business as usual…simply isn’t!
I was leading a team when we all witnessed the 9/11 World Trade Center attack from our office windows. We are feeling some of the emotions today as we did then — shock, fear, uncertainty. We have more questions than answers. Will things get back to normal? How do we operate in this “new” normal? Schedules, systems, and predictable processes will help to anchor you and your team and help everyone feel more secure. As a leader, your team is taking their cues from you, and you can help them be as productive as possible and find renewed meaning in their work. These six steps will help you ground yourself while you continue to move the business forward.
- Start with empathy. Open every meeting with an around-the-room and ask how everyone is doing. Let them vent if they need to. Some may feel the pangs of social distancing. They miss the ability to chat and grab a coffee from the pantry with a colleague. Hear them out. Let them speak first. Once they have shared their feelings, let them know they were heard. Being supportive goes a long way — use their names and restate what you heard them say. “Liz, I couldn’t agree more. I’m going crazy in my apartment right now. And Kim…yes. I’m glad I have a dog so that I can grab some fresh air a few times a day.” Tell them what you have been doing to stay balanced only after you’ve empathized with where they are.
- Establish a set time that you will hold virtual team meetings. My recommendation is to hold weekly team meetings now, and move to biweekly when things begin to ease. Schedule 1:1 meetings as well so that you’ve met with everyone for at least 15 minutes each week. Choose a video medium rather than a phone conference call and encourage everyone to use their cameras. Also, encourage the usage of the gallery view so that everyone can see each other for the duration of the meeting.
- I mentioned that schedules, systems and predictable processes provide reassurance in stormy times. Establish how you will work as a team — and solicit everyone’s input. How will you collaborate on group projects? What systems will you use? What will be the process for adding data to shared drives? How often in advance will meeting agendas be circulated? What’s the minimal frequency of checking email and voicemail? As far as collaboration goes, this may be a perfect time to have people work in pairs, rather than having each person work on a project in isolation. Encourage them to have virtual “buddy check-ins” so that they support each other to accomplish tasks. Take care to focus on outcomes rather than tasks so that you do not micromanage.
- Take advantage of technology! Does your video conferencing platform enable breakout groups and whiteboarding? Does it enable you to change your background? Encourage teams to lead mini-presentations on the work. Have them collaborate in breakout rooms. Give someone else the power of the pen and have them draw on the whiteboard. Let them facilitate part of the meeting. You may be surprised at your team’s inventiveness.
- Working from home has its advantages! Make meetings fun as well as informative. Designate “my favorite baseball cap day,” where everyone wears a baseball cap to the remote meeting and tells where they got the cap. Have a “pet day.” Invite them to bring their pet and introduce the pet on camera, or show a photo of a pet they want to have. If you can change virtual backgrounds, have everyone submit a photo of a recent vacation landscape. Have the other participants guess whose photo it is.
- Wrap up each week with gratitude. This can be done during a half-hour meeting where no work is discussed and they enjoy their beverage of choice. Remind them why their contributions are important and what their role means to the enterprise. Facilitate an around-the-room where everyone shares one thing that happened during the week for which they are grateful.
With compassion, listening, empathy, structure, and fun, your team will settle in and become accustomed to this new way of working!
Casey Carpenter comes to Global Public Speaking with an impressive background as a professional speaker, coach, and mentor with expertise in sales, leadership, and confidence. An introverted, shy, and highly sensitive wallflower turned dynamic business-builder, Casey knows that anyone can improve their skills with the right training and the right mentor. An accomplished speaker, she is a national board member of the National Speakers Association. Click here to learn more and see Casey in action.