We’re all learning to adjust to a new reality, packing new skills and getting more than our money’s worth out of technology. Being just as present virtually as we were physically is a necessity– that doesn’t make it easy.
In uncertain times such as these, when the end doesn’t seem to be in sight, a strong team buoyed by a supportive, empathetic leader is the need of the hour.
Systems are run as much by people as they are by technology; the people are emotional, while technology remains stoic. Many companies seem to think technology will float us out of the crisis, forgetting that the workhorse of the company is the people.
Team culture and integrity is needed more than ever, and that only comes about when team leaders and managers take the helm and say the right things.
“It’s okay to be uncertain”
It’s a tall order to expect everyone to adapt in a day, maybe two days, so the engine continues to work. In reality, humans don’t work that way, especially when differences in economic backgrounds, home environments and nature of job roles come into the picture.
s a writer, it’s relatively easier for me to work from home since all I need is a laptop and my brain. For logistics professionals (and essential workers, as we’ve learnt), the change isn’t that easy to adapt to.
“Feel free to ask for help”
Channelling the previous point is this one– encourage team members to ask for help. Adaptation looks different to everyone, and while a good company tries to anticipate needs before they appear, it’s not 100% possible.
When shifting from the office to WFH contexts, open up the field to those employees who have questions or difficulties, no matter how silly– it may make a world of difference in their remote performance. My father spent a day on the phone, helping junior team members secure their home laptops and sort out their requests for antivirus subscriptions. Generosity beats anxiety to the kerb– the little things make a difference.
“I hope you’re okay”
It’s tough being a team leader– managing personal and official pressures while combating your own uncertainty isn’t an easy ask of anyone. But don’t let the official trump the personal, don’t let the virtual wall manifest.
Begin and end every conversation with “How are you feeling?” or “Do you need help?” or even a simple “I hope you’re holding up well”. It goes a long way in strengthening team integrity and passing on lessons on the importance of soft skills. Your team may well emerge out of this crisis more empathetic and personable than ever before.
“We’ll get through this”
Now, more than ever, employees need the reassurance that the company won’t sink, that they won’t be considered (or made) redundant. Of course, it’s not obvious how your company will come out of this.
That said, some reassurances don’t need to be hefty promises or exact figures. They can be warm statements, slight affirmations to keep pushing, and acknowledgements of the present. Telling your team members “we’ll get through this” isn’t an empty promise or a tall one– it’s an expression of solidarity and a glimmer of hope.
“Ask me any questions you have”
As a team leader, it’s dutiful to keep your team members abreast of the goings-on in the company. Granted, you might not have access to information or permission to share, but something is better than keeping employees in the dark. If you need to consider lay-offs, divulge the reasons. If energies need to be diverted to one part of the operation, explain why and how.
Don’t make the mistake of underestimating your team members’ understanding of business scenarios and their role.
By giving them this information, and allowing them to ask questions, the trust you build will take the company much farther than keeping them in the dark for your own benefit would.
Some of these statements are obvious. But they’re all necessities when dealing with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Your team is what will keep your company afloat when the worst of times have passed. Keep them engaged, keep them in the know. Keep them hopeful.