Part 1 of a 3-part series

We are living in uncharted waters. The coronavirus pandemic is radically altering our workplace and relationships. Leaders are overextended as we try to address a rapidly evolving situation.

Everyone is uncertain. The uncertainty cripples getting things done. Team members are faced with learning how to work virtually. While for some employees, balancing working at home and navigating a child’s education is adding to an already stressful situation.

In normal times, leaders struggle with the ambiguity of a change. In this unprecedented global pandemic, leaders are faced with rapidly evolving situations for which there is no roadmap.  Our “new normal” requires leaders to dig deep and create stability and calm for their teams.  

When the pandemic is controlled and our global economy recovers, it will be largely because leaders were able to rally their teams to navigate the uncharted waters.

Rally Your Team

In times of extreme stress, leaders must communicate, engage, and celebrate to create calm and clarity.  Below I explore communication tips to help your team thrive and excel.

Communicate

People default to self-preservation in times of high stress. People in leadership roles are no different. Leaders, overwhelmed with putting out so many fires, may overlook the critical importance of communication.

Consider this. Rumors are born from a lack of clear and consistent messaging. Either a leader controls the message, or the rumor mill will.

During a crisis, leaders must over communicate. Here are four daily actions to help support your teams.

  • Give daily informational briefings to keep employees up-to-date on the latest changes. Be transparent about what you know and what you do not know. Keep the briefings to 5 to 7-minutes. Focus on the most critical information and avoid speculation. Use a script to keep messaging consistent.

 

  • Over communicate critical information. Host a team Zoom call (or similar) so team members can see you and each other. Follow up with short, clear email recapping the information. Ask a question in the email to activate engagement and responsiveness.

 

  • Check-in and listen to individual team member’s concerns, needs, and identify if additional support is needed. It is important to ask questions about your team member’s well-being or deep concerns. Listen deeply. A check-in can be 5 – 7 minutes long.

 

  • Host virtual team connect times to increase social connection and build relationships. Working at home can be very lonely and isolating for team members who are doing this for the first time. This connect time can be structured around a simple question like “What’s up for you today?” Depending on your team’s size, dedicate 10-15 minutes for your team connect time once or twice a week.

I recommend leaders plan out a structure for each of these engagements. Consistent communication must planned and not left to chance. That might seem awkward, but the reality is that structure gives us freedom. Plan your scripts and put the communication activity, team and individual check-ins on a shared calendar. The more stressful a situation, the more likely we will forget to do what we promise.

In part 2 of this series, I will explore how to engage your team experiencing high stress.

Stay upbeat and positive in your communication and messages. Reassure the team that it has your support. Building confidence in the face of uncertainty is a game changer to keeping your team engaged.  

Jenny DuFresne, CEO, DuFresne Solutions Group, a training and leadership development firm helping leaders and teams grow people, profit, and impact. Jenny served for 10-years as a U.S. Marine. Learn more at www.SeekLeadership.com.

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