Are you helping or hurting? Part 1 of a two-part series
As we come out of the pandemic and return to a new routine, do leaders need to rethink how they engage with their associates? I would say yes. We are all going to need a new strategy.
The reality is that even though there are things that have indeed worked over the past year: productivity strides, accomplishments, goals achieved - some things have not worked. It's just not the same as before. Everyone agrees being in person with somebody is different than viewing somebody through a screen. Leaders depend on being able to read the body language of their team members to figure out what's going on with them. What kind of day are they having so far? And most of that is missed in a virtual environment.
Answer these questions: How am I going to keep this team engaged? How will I balance productivity with making sure these individuals are staying healthy - mentally and physically? Really? Yes. Check out this article we published last week on a leader’s impact on employee well-being.)
Overcoming New Challenges
A recent survey by Harvard Business School found that the majority of people who have been working at home through the COVID-19 Pandemic do not want to return to the office. And the majority of leaders know that feeling disengaged from colleagues can have a destructive effect on productivity, culture, and ultimately business. So how do we overcome these new challenges? First, adopt a hybrid working system. Many of the larger companies I work with are moving to a hybrid option for employee work. The hybrid-specific numbers from almost a hundred percent of them are a 60/40 mix: 40% working in person at the office, 60% working in a remote environment. Since making that decision, many of them are trying to figure out the best way to execute this strategy. Some are discovering that when they try to put some structure to this approach they are discovering what makes the leader more comfortable, frankly, the associates are pushing back on.
So how do we move forward? Sit down with a core group of your A-players - the responsible ones, the productive ones, the efficient ones. Conduct one or more focus groups and ask them for help. Inform them that the organization plans to adopt a hybrid system of work and you need their help and ideas on how to make this strategy work. Provide them appropriate boundaries and goals, for example:
structured enough to know when we will all be in the office
incorporates the goals of the organization
accomplishes the needs of the organization to move forward.
When your associates are involved in the implementation of the strategy, chances are you will have success.
Everyone is tired of the zoom calls. Technology is excellent, but it is hard sometimes to connect, and when you do, it takes significant work and energy. How do leaders engage employees in a meaningful way?
Check your EQ quotient
Leverage your platforms technology to create engagement and connection
How are you showing up? Are you showing a certain amount of vulnerability, connection, compassion, and empathy where needed? Are you really listening and dialed into what is happening to each of your associates? Frequent one-on-one meetings with your associates need to take place, hopefully in person, to discern their emotional, mental and physical state of being.
For example, I was teaching a class virtually, and one of the participants’ four-year-old son came and sat on this participant’s lap. She was utterly horrified and was very anxious. I reassured her that it was okay. I reminded her to take a deep breath. This is how our world is right now. This calmed her down, but she was worried about what her boss would say. So, if you are the boss when something like that happens, how are you responding to that?
The other side of the equation is leveraging the engagement tools and resources that your technology platform provides. So for example, on the zoom platform, one is able to place their employees in breakout rooms for deeper discussions. Your associates can take a poll or type a response in the chat room. All of this creates engagement. Without asking your associates to participate in the meeting or discussion by using these means you will unknowingly invite them to check out, disconnect and multi-task. Speaking of multi-tasking, what example are you leaving? Are you multitasking? If so that is what they will do too. Finally, request that your associates are on video and not audio alone. It is hard enough to connect with each other on virtual platforms but when one chooses not to be on video, it is nearly impossible to connect and stay engaged.
If you want turned-on, tapped-in, emotionally connected, highly motivated employees, make sure that you connect with your people and understand where they are so they feel motivated to perform the very highest for you. This helps you keep your best people and impacts productivity, and therefore impacts business performance.
Leaders can overcome the virtual challenges that hinder productivity, engagement, and team culture. Implore these strategies and if you are still struggling, get help. (We do that!)
Coming up soon! Part 2 of this series Post-Pandemic Employee Engagement: Leadership EQ Check-In on www.meaningfulalignment.com
Want to learn more? Check out our podcast:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susan Steinbrecher is an executive coach, speaker, licensed mediator, author, president, and CEO of Steinbrecher And Associates, Inc. A management consulting firm that provides professional development services in the areas of executive coaching, group facilitation, and leadership training. Susan has co-written several books: Meaningful Alignment: Mastering Emotionally Intelligent Interactions at Work and in Life (spring 2019), Heart-Centered Leadership: Lead Well, Live Well (Second Edition, February 2014); Roadmap to Success and Straight Talk from America’s Top 10 Speakers. Her Amazon best-selling book KENSHO: A Modern Awakening, Instigating Change in an Era of Global Renewal is a business book that delves into the realm of personal development. How well do you handle emotionally charged, high-stakes conversations? Take the Interpersonal Dialogue Profile™ assessment and find out! Reach out to Susan on her website: https://steinbrecher.com/.