Over the last couple of months, many teams and leaders have experienced working virtually, many for the first time. Working with geographically dispersed teams can have challenges even without a pandemic to consider on top of that. Over the next few months, some organizations will have employees returning to the workplace which might mean leaders supporting both co-located and virtual team members. Here are some strategies and considerations to support your teams.
- Clarify the team’s purpose. It is even more critical now to ensure your team members are aligned around a shared purpose. Do they understand the overall picture and meaning behind the work they are trying to accomplish? This will help prioritize goals and ensure team members feel engaged and are contributing to meaningful work.
- Clarify roles and expectations. Help team members understand their unique contributions and ensure they talk about how they will support one another and hold each other accountable to the team goals. Revisit team charters. Revisit strategic and business operating plans to reprioritize. Many team members are feeling exhausted and burned out during the COVID pandemic and are trying to accomplish too many things.
- Establish or revisit team processes such as communication and decision making. Talk as a team how to best support one another. Discuss cultural differences. Assess what works, what could be done differently and stop what isn’t working. As a team leader, provide training in the use of technologies such as MS Teams, Zoom or Slack. Revisit the purpose of meetings and ensure they are clear objectives.
- TRUST! TRUST! Many leaders are used to “monitoring” their employees in a face to face environment. Trust that you hired good talent! Trust that if the objectives are co-designed, they have the skills and motivation to do their best to accomplish them. Create an open environment to share challenges and learning. Be vulnerable and share how you are feeling and coping during the pandemic. Ensure that they are kept informed of organizational changes and where possible, gather team input on critical organizational issues.. Build opportunities to build relationships to encourage trust-building amongst the team members. Focus on the long term!
- Empathy. Now more than ever we need leaders who can demonstrate empathy and who can truly listen to their team member’s concerns. Employees are struggling with the fear of COVID; managing schooling and working with children home or providing eldercare. Some might be feeling isolated and burned out. This is the time to be a more collaborative leader – the time of the traditional, heroic leader is limited. By listening, your employees will feel that their concerns have been heard and you can collaborate together on jointly solving issues.