Follow these four strategies to create focus and reduce stress for both you and your team.
With “pandemic fog” circling home offices like a tornado from the Wizard of Oz, employees are feeling less and less resilient as work-from-home mandates continue in many states. What is pandemic fog? The term embodies the discomfort stemming from one’s capability, or lack thereof, to influence the circumstances surrounding our ever-changing environment. It is an understatement at this point to say that many of us are having difficulty understanding our global community and the questions that linger in response to the pandemic. There is fear regarding illness, political unrest and the unsettling if not bleak economic outlook. If you are a leader, you are not only taking care of yourself but also checking in with your team regularly to navigate this storm.
All of us can agree that we are in unchartered waters. I have worked with hundreds of organizational leaders, and when major change or unexpected mishaps occur, I have found that the following four strategies can be very helpful to build a resilient team.
Be Transparent With All Communication
Knowledge is power. If you find yourself mimicking the “I don’t know” emoji when asked a question about the future, that’s OK. But do remind your employees what their objectives are now and discuss goals. How will the goals be achieved and what is the new plan to get there? Acknowledge that our world is changing, and you will be there to help them change with it. One of our clients has a virtual morning meeting with everyone at 9:00 a.m. to provide daily updates because things are changing so quickly. The client’s leaders do the same thing each day 15 minutes before closing. This gives employees the understanding that while they are doing their jobs, leadership is working hard to secure as much information as possible to keep the whole organization in the loop.
Also make certain to check in with your human resources team. HR’s job is to be armed with information on how to keep employees safe, well and productive. Ask them to be your partner and share relevant communications with you and your team. Leaders should take the opportunity to reach out to each employee and ask what they have learned through all of this change. What has stayed the same and what is now different? Acknowledging that you are aware of their efforts to adapt and offering guidance can help your team be more resilient.
Dissect the Chaos and Create Order
Leaders today might wish they had taken dance classes in their youth, because they really need to be able to pivot now. Trade show cancelled. No worries, let’s build a virtual trade show booth. Is it hard to reach members now? It sure is, so let’s craft an e-mail to ask where your organization can send them something special. We have one client who took the time to send me a personal note letting me know that she was appreciative of all that she has learned from our team over the years and how the coaching has helped her navigate her team to success. She also revealed that she has asked her team to write personal notes to all their clients letting them know how valued they are and what her team members have gleaned from their professional relationships with them.
Remember that it’s also stress-reducing to be a little playful. One of our clients texted every employee 15 minutes before the start of the virtual day asking them to dress up in costume for a 9:00 a.m. ZOOM meeting. The winner was a woman who threw a flannel over her pajamas, grabbed a baseball cap from her closet, took an eyeliner and created a fake beard, and secured an ax from the garage. Voila! Paul Bunyan was in attendance. Get your employees involved in planning the fun, too. One client has taken his sales team of 16 and put them in groups of four. Once a month, each team announces a contest Monday morning on how they are going to reach their goals that week. The prizes have been additional PTO, lunch deliveries from Uber Eats and gift cards.
Let Others Lead Too
Now is not the time to not delegate. In times of change and uncertainty, we tend to rely too much on ourselves to get everything done. Let people stretch themselves. If it is not urgent, then assign it to someone else. Challenge your direct reports and let them figure it out. Go back and look at employee reviews and professional development notes then create stretch assignments that have perhaps been shelved due to timing. This is an opportune time to help people grow. By doing so, you’re helping your employees feel valued and have a stronger sense of purpose.
Demonstrate Unwavering Focus
Now is the time to really focus on your people. Check in with them frequently, but remember that their working environments are drastically altered. I was on a call yesterday, and a team member had to excuse herself because her 2-year old took off his diaper and went to the bathroom under her desk. Understanding that there are different stressors, situations and circumstances for each team member will take some juggling, but being flexible and understanding can go a long way.
Lastly, but most importantly, as a leader, make sure you are taking care of yourself. Change your view if you can, exercise and get out of your sweatpants every now and then. Create a simple plan for each day. And part of your simple plan should be a work assignment, at least one team meeting, a personal project and something fun or pleasurable that generates joy. This plan will help you to be more resilient, making you an even better leader for your team.
Jan Ferri-Reed, Ph.D., is a seasoned consultant and president of KEYGroup®—a 33-year international speaking, training and assessment firm—and co-author of Keeping the Millennials: Why Companies are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What To Do About It. She has presented a variety of programs to thousands of managers and employees in a diverse range of organizations across the globe. Jan’s work focuses on creating productive workplaces and retaining talent while increasing the bottom line. She does executive consultation, facilitation of senior level, planning and team building retreats and keynoting at corporate and association events.