Given today’s rapidly changing context…COVID-19, working from home and social distancing, it’s no surprise that there’s a plethora of articles and webinars on how to lead virtual teams. While most of them provide useful reminders and tips on how to lead meetings, what they miss is how to address the complex emotional needs employees and teams have right now. Let’s admit it, working virtually in a “normal,” pre-0COVID world, can be stressful on its own. When there isn’t a choice, layered in with the world’s situation, employees’ feelings of anxiety and fear can be amplified!
Even if you’ve worked in a virtual world before and it doesn’t seem like much of a change, as leaders, it’s important to acknowledge that the world has changed and address any emotional challenges that may be popping up at this time.
As humans, and as Brene Brown shared, we are hardwired for connection. And when the ability to connect face to face is taken away, it’s more important than ever to recognize that loss and lean into having virtual conversations that foster meaningful connection, trust and builds relationships. At the end of the day, the most important things people want during times of change and stress is to be seen, to feel heard and to connect!
What does this mean for you as a leader? Whether you’re a long time pro at working virtually or adjusting to this new norm or somewhere in between, here are some strategies to help you create meaningful connections with your team, which will ultimately help them feel grounded and more productive.
1. Before the meeting or the day even starts, get yourself grounded first. Did you get outside (in a socially distanced way, of course) to get some air, clear your head and set your intentions for the day? Did you get some form of exercise in? How are you setting yourself up to be engaged and very present for your team?
2. Start each meeting with a meaningful check-in: During times of stress and change, it’s necessary to start each team meeting with a meaningful question that allows people to both check in with themselves and each other. Doing so will ensure that they feel heard and that you’re able to appropriately support your team. Make sure you set aside ample time to allow each team member to participate in the check-in. Lastly, make sure you do each team meeting with some sort of check in. The questions can vary but during this time, it’s a must.
Open-ended questions like:
· How are you feeling now?
· How are you handling this transition (to working remotely…or change in the larger context)
· What types of things are you doing to self-care on a daily basis?
· How can we support you?
3. Establish meeting norms: Are you ok with people muti-tasking while you meet? What’s a non-negotiable for you and your team? I personally ask that people are respectful of each other’s time and not multi task while people are speaking and no interruptions. This ensures everyone is present for each other as much as possible.
4. Set up frequent and consistent virtual team meetings: Communicating often during times of change is a must…with COVID and the faster pace of change, setting up regular check-ins with the team is essential.
5. Consider “open office hours”: in which you let your team know that for a certain time frame each week (say, from 10am-12pm each Wednesday), anyone can reach out to you via text, Zoom, Facetime or a good old-fashioned phone call to talk about work or any challenges they may be facing. This gives employees who are hesitant to reach out, permission to do so knowing that you’ve set up time exactly for that.
Being very intentional with how you come together will help everyone feel much more connected to each other. And at the end of the day, that’s what exactly what’s needed!
If you found this article valuable, please forward to your colleagues!
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