In several recent coaching conversations, I’ve been hearing that leaders are feeling disconnected from their team – and the team members are feeling disconnected from each other. In this challenging time, our normal mode of interaction has been turned upside down – no more check-ins in the hallway, whether personal or business-related, no more celebrating in the lunchroom. When you ask, “How are you” to people in Zoom’s “Hollywood squares” (people’s faces), you often get silence. Also, as a senior leader, you might not be the one having daily or bi-weekly check-ins with the line staff who don’t report to you – so you really feel removed from people and detached from the day-to-day work. Does this resonate for you? In this newsletter I’m going to share some suggestions that my clients have found useful.
Start with empathy. This pandemic period calls for empathy and compassion. When we’re feeling down or discouraged, we need to express our feelings, and receive empathy, or just acknowledgment, before we can focus on work. Here are some suggestions:
- Check-ins: Give people 5-10 minutes in a staff meeting to connect with each other; if you have more than 6 people, put them into breakout groups in pairs or trios. If you have 6 or fewer, do a quick check in as a whole group. You could ask, “What’s life like for you these days?” or “What’s it like working from home?” Be careful to tell people that this isn’t “fix it” time. We’re not trying to solve other people’s problems, but just to listen to them.
- Everybody type something: Use the chat window, or use a virtual tool like a Jamboard or a whiteboard that invites everybody to give input at the same time. Type a question on the screen post-it, and have them respond. The picture above is a Jamboard on which I asked: “How do you handle stress during the pandemic?”
- Social time – Schedule a lunch or dinner; let them bring their children or their pets J into the picture, so that you see the fullness of your coworkers. It’s a way to get to know each other better, which also builds trust. Team members can also call each other for social connection.
- Exercise virtually! Have someone lead a 5 or 10 minute exercise or yoga at the beginning or middle of your meeting. It gets us moving, gets the blood flowing and gives us a relief from left-brain thinking. And it’s fun to do it with other people.
- In meetings, be sure to have people ask each other questions, to build or maintain connection between them. Let someone else facilitate a discussion. Go around the group once in a while and get everyone’s input.
Experiment. See what works. Hopefully 1-2-3 of those will work for your staff, and leave everyone feeling more engaged. Have fun!