I am looking forward to a new year. While I don’t have grand hopes that 2021 will be better than 2020, I am hopeful that we will apply what we have learned in the past 9 months to make the new year better.
What is your team experiencing right now? If they primarily work from home, they are experiencing a sense of isolation even if they are surrounded by kids doing school from home. They are isolated from teammates that probably have been a good influence on them. They are isolated from a routine that is healthy for them. They are isolated from stimulation from a job they enjoy and find meaning in.
And when people feel isolated, other feelings enter through that gateway.
- FEAR – Fear of the virus. Fear of their significant other (or themselves) losing their job. Fear for their family’s wellbeing. Fear of the unknown.
- WORRY – Worry about staying healthy. Worry about following health mandates. Worry about their future.
- ANXIETY – Change can easily usher in anxiety. The work environment has changed. The world has changed. The political environment has changed. School has changed. Family activities have changed.
- STRESS – The recipe for stress is all of the above. People’s emotions can be on edge. Patience becomes shorter. The news is hardly ever positive. Domestic violence, abuse, and suicide are on the rise.
So this is the world we are in right now. And this includes your team. You work hard to be connected via Zoom, Skype, etc. Your team meetings are as good as they can be. People say the right things. They seem engaged.
But how do you go beyond the surface to connect to your team’s emotions, energy, and engagement?
In coaching sessions, ask better questions. And listen. You do not need to become a personal counselor to your team members – in fact, don’t be. If you discover that a team member is struggling, refer them to your employee assistance program (EAP) if your organization offers one. Encourage them to seek help. It is healthy to seek help from a trained professional.
Give your team member something specific to focus on. For some folks, when they become stressed out, everything seems to rise to the surface screaming for attention. Help them find some clarity by helping them identify the truly important from what seems to be urgent. Again, ask questions to help them self-identify what personal projects, initiatives, tasks will make the most difference. Once they accomplish those, walk them through the clarifying process again. Celebrate their wins. Encourage them in their journey.
Pay attention to their energy. Working from home can, for some, be a time of burnout since they are “on” all of the time. Encourage healthy habits – walking 20 minutes a couple of times each day, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, etc. Share inspiring articles, videos, or blog posts with your team.
Team members want to know that you are there for them. They are seeking validation in their work. They want to make a difference in the lives of the coworkers and customers. They want to know they can make a positive impact.
Identify with your team’s emotions. Help them sustain the energy necessary to do their work. Encourage engagement by asking great questions that make them think and then act in new, more effective ways.
Here’s to a better new year.