Communication is key to any happy, harmonious relationship, leadership is no exception. Now in an era of an almost entirely remote or furlough workforce, where work and home have no physical divide, how do we make sure our teams feel safe, connected and engaged?
The dust has settled, we've taken a breath and the reality of another 3 weeks in lockdown has hit us. With no barrier between home and work, isolation and mental health have become ever more of a concern for our workforce. Leading has become increasingly complex in this new era of video conferencing overload. With uncertainty always looming, our communication has to be clear, courageous and compassionate if we are to protect the wellbeing and engagement of our staff.
If you haven't had a moment to first check-in with yourself, I'd suggest you schedule that meeting ASAP. After all, we can not give from an empty cup. For tips on self-care during this pandemic, download our complete guide, here.
Here are 9 key steps to ensuring your teams feel safe to raise the challenges they are facing and to help you, as their leader, ensure you know how to flex with them. They are by no means exhaustive, but they are an excellent start
1. Boundary/ set expectations
Make it clear what is acceptable and expected of your team, what isn’t and why. State the obvious, they need to hear it.
Please note that boundary’s are also key when having open conversations. You are not a counselor or therapist, nor should you be. Know when sharing is ok and when your need to refer to a professional.
2. Define the space
Even when sharing your own concerns or challenges and how you are overcoming them, remain calm, open and optimistic. It helps others feel calm too. Allowing space to address concerns and fears is vital, but it has to be a calm non-judgemental one to be constructive.
3. Create Calm
Even when sharing your own concerns or challenges and how you are overcoming them, remain calm, open and optimistic. It helps others feel calm too. Allowing a space to address concerns and fears is vital, but is has to be a calm non-judgemental one to be constructive.
If you are struggling to find your own calm, find a coach, find a coach mentor or friend to share with.
4. Be clear/ honest
Sometimes telling the truth can feel intimidating or feel like we are being unkind. We might worry that sharing difficult information will cause unease, but in reality lack of clarity is far worse.
We can-not afford to be ambiguous. Uncertainty right now could cause break trust from your team and create disengagement that is hard to reverse. Your team want to know the truth of the situation and feel trusted enough to be given it.
Even if you don’t have all the answers, it is important to communicate clearly and honestly. You do not need to know everything. If you don’t know the answer to a question or challenge right now, that’s ok. News stories are inciting concern before the government can inform us of the available solutions. Remember if the news channels don’t know, how can you be expected to. But, do remain calm and reassure your team that you will find the answer and report back ASAP. This level of honesty brings trust and reassurance.
5. Show Empathy
We are all dealing with this in different ways. You don’t need to walk in my shoes to show empathy, you just need to have felt your own emotions.
When allowing space for others to communicate, be curious, non-judgemental, reflect back your understanding to clarify and ask the other person what they need. Empathy is not about fixing or being in the emotion with the other person. Empathy is about giving them a life-line and a friendly shore to hold onto.
Communication is about receiving as well as giving information! Listen to understand, not to respond.
Now more than ever leaders need to be gaining feedback and listening to what is going on for their teams. Once you have boundaried and created space to receive feedback or hear from others, you then need to be ready to listen. Without distractions or interruption. Understand that some will need a lot of time with you, others will be happy checking in once every other week, particularly if on furlough. Hear their preferences.
7. Be decisive.
With updates changing hourly it’s hard to stay on top of all of the updates for your business and your team. You have to communicate swiftly and decisively, even if that means potentially changing course later. If you explain why a decision has been made and that you will continually review it in line with government updates, then your team will feel reassured you are taking action and on top of the situation.
8. Be reliable
Do not over-promise. Make sure that you can do what you say you will do and if you fail in doing so, acknowledge it swiftly accompanied by an explanation and a plan to avoid a repeat incidence. Now is not the time for subtle diplomacy and politics. Now is the time of bravely owning the moment.
9. Acknowledge others
We need a sense of belonging, recognition and unity. Recognising the hard work, positive attitude and kindness of others openly and widely will boost team morale and cohesion and encourage everyone to remain engaged with your communications. Using stories to do this can be very powerful.
If you'd like more on leading your team through these unconventional times we have a FREE guide with these tips and much much more available here.
We are also offering free consultations to help you asses where you and your team are at, plan for the coming weeks/ months and make sure that you and your team avoid burnout, remain engaged and innovate through this time. Book a call with us here
Article by Natalie Lockyer