By Laurence Levêque
Corporate leaders often focus on the task to accomplish or the next action to take. This is probably even more the case in a crisis situation. How do we secure cash? How can we secure operations? How can we stay connected to our clients? There is so much to think of, so many issues to resolve during this unique period. Obviously, all of these are key to companies’ survival.
But if you forget to take the time to show genuine interest in your team members’ wellbeing, this will impact their performance and engagement levels negatively.
As human beings, we all need contact and recognition. And especially in these times of high tension and stress, when the ongoing lockdown is draining most of us, leaders need to take care of their teams more than ever. This will increase their engagement and strengthen their relationship with their manager - and also with the company.
What could happen if you don’t do it? It could have a long-term impact on the motivation and engagement of your teams. People can sense that they are not heard and feel disconnected from you and from the company. At some point, they may comply with your demands, but possibly disengage from work.
In the office it is easier to nurture relationships as we meet in hallways, we spend time with our teams, and we tend more easily to ask how they are feeling and check on their concerns (if any). In a remote environment and in a stressful context, we may jump directly to the content of the discussion without checking first how people are feeling or thinking. The video image is making things worst by distorting facial expressions.
Here are some easy-to-use tips to avoid these traps in a remote work environment:
1) For one-to-one meeting or in small team meetings
Before jumping into the agenda of the meeting, take time to connect with everyone and ask genuine questions about their work environment and whatever else is going on in their life. We often take for granted that our life is similar to others’.
If you think, “This will take too much time”, here is a simple way to do it. Ask one or two questions and tell everyone they can share during 1 or 2 minutes each.
For example: “How are you feeling today? Are there any concerns you would like to share that may prevent you from being fully present in the meeting?”
The key point is to listen deeply to the answers and acknowledge what is there.
2) For a larger group
Send a short survey to better understand what is going on with your staff.
You can ask about their emotional state, their physical environment and general wellbeing, ask if they need more help or resources to do their job, or how they perceive the level and content of managers’/your communication.
Leaders who have implemented this process report that employee feedback was very positive.
To summarize, here is the golden rule: Connection before Context before Content.
Start by Connecting with people, ask questions to understand their Context, and only then move on to the Content of the meeting.
You can start applying this rule easily and see if this changes your relationship with others.
A final tip: this also applies to clients and suppliers!