A month or so back, I had a discussion with leadership consultant and coach, Melanie Proschenko, on my LinkedIn Live show. She had some great points about what leaders can be doing to support their teams these days, and I wanted to share in case you missed the live show.
Here are three actions leaders should take right now in a virtual world:
- Have open conversations about behavioral norms. Change leaves behavioral norms and expectations up in the air – and there’s a lot of change happening right now. Are we onsite or not, wearing masks or not, talking about politics or not? It’s important leaders establish expectations all throughout these changes to provide some clarity.
Not having a camera on during a video meeting, for example, might send a negative message that employees aren’t aware of. Team members might think the employee is disengaged or even not in the room. Communicating the rules regarding these nuances will provide guidance for employees as they navigate their new workplace.
One way to comfortably do this is to compile the behaviors that you’ve noticed and address them during a meeting with the team, rather than pinpointing a specific person. Collaborate on the conversation and ask employees what their expectations of each other, and of you, are. Work together to create ground rules, even on the little things like cameras.
- Discuss guidelines for your various tech tools. Melanie pointed out that with all the new technology teams are leaning on, it’s important to have ground rules around them as well.
It’s good practice to explain the need for the different technologies and set expectations for using them. Employees need to know what tools are used for what tasks, and what the rules of communication are for each. Is turnaround time in Slack different than in Basecamp, for example?
One way to keep the tech ground rules streamlined is to create a grid in a shared document that displays the different tools, their purpose, and the expectations of each. Don’t overwhelm employees, but explaining the main sources of communication will help prevent confusion.
- Understand the new needs of your employees. It’s important to understand how employee needs have changed over the course of 2020. Yes, we already know they might need more flexible time due to kids at home – there’s plenty of articles out there on that – but what about their needs when it comes to relationship building at work?
For example, some employees who really thrived onsite when they could meander around the office and build connections might be struggling in a virtual environment. Or, those of us who are “getter-done-er’s” could come across as too abrasive if we aren’t making room for the small talk that used to occur naturally.
Melanie suggested leaders should seek the answers to two different questions. One is, “What do you need to thrive here?” Ask employees this question regularly, and it will prompt them to share what will make them successful.
Another great question for leaders to explore is, “Who are you and how do you show up?” You could ask employees this question straight out, but part of your answer will come from observing your employees in various settings, thinking about what you observed before and after remote work, what their various strengths are, and more.
Do set aside time to have discussions about styles and needs, however, which can help employees feel more prepared and less anxious. This blog post, 5 Tips and 5 Questions: Helping Employees with Stress, is a great resource to help ease the challenges employees will face.
Also ask yourself, “What kind of leader do I want to be right now?” This is a question I’ve been discussing with my own leadership coaching clients, and a question I’ve been asking myself all throughout 2020. The answer often dictates my decisions and actions, and it’s been a great guide post for me.
Investing time in developing yourself and your team is what will make you successful as a leader. Empowering and taking care of your people will go a long way during this fiasco of a year we’re having, and beyond.
Catherine and the Civility Partners Team