Churchill Coach Shary
Master Certified Coach (MCC)
April 20, 2020
4 Best Practices to Keep Your Virtual Team Focused, Engaged and Happy
We’re now more than a month into this new way of working and for most of us it’s getting easier.
Leadership best practices are emerging.
Here are four “Best of the Best” ways my executive clients are keeping their virtual teams focused, engaged and happy:
1. Be Excessively Human
Isn’t it remarkable how work conversations have changed so dramatically in the past month? We’re suddenly more human and personal. What choice do you have when your dog is barking, your 3-year old runs in front of the camera, and your other family members are arguing in the background? Team meetings now start with a 5-10 minute “how’s everyone doing?” check-in. You’re sharing your own experience more. “Our meetings are much more personal now,” says a CFO. “We’re all in the same boat.” And, if there was ever a time to let your inner empath run wild, this is it. Your #1 job now is to be the Emotional Support Leader: Acknowledge the stress, listen more deeply, and demonstrate your concern for the anxieties and struggles your people are experiencing. Great crisis leaders are also serving as Chief Encouragement Officers to amp up positive messages, celebrate successes, magnify praise and point to a brighter future: “This is the situation now. This is where we are going. And, this is the great future we are creating together.”
- Be Caring: “Make sure your team knows you really care about them,” advises a VP. “I’m taking the time to check in with everyone just to say hello and ask how they are doing. It can be via email, IM or phone, but a quick check-in with them and their families goes a long way.”
- Be Flexible: “You have to be flexible. People are juggling working from home, caring for kids/family members, and homeschooling, all with an extreme amount of stress and disruption,“ she adds. “Be as flexible as possible in allowing them to shift hours or take time for “non-work” activities as needed. This will mean a lot to employees and will also enable them to be more focused when they are working.”
- Be Understanding: “Encourage people to take time when they need it. Even though we cannot travel right now, taking vacation days can be a great way to re-charge and get away from the monotony of being in front of the computer.”
- Be Extra: “If appropriate and feasible, consider sending your team members something at home. This might be food items or just something thoughtful to let them know you are thinking about them and their families,“ the VP shares. A seasoned SVP adds: “I haven’t done this yet, but I‘m planning to send warm cookies and milk delivery to my direct reports.”
2. Increase Touch Points
Over the past month, most of my clients have increased the connection to their teams. Leadership team meetings previously scheduled once a week are now anywhere from 2 or 3 times a week to daily morning stand-up meetings/huddles. Agendas vary, including sharing: 1) One piece of good news 2) A win (at work or home, no matter how small) 3) Your top priority of the day 4) What got done yesterday? 5) Where are you stuck? These standups are running 15 minutes max. Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams video conferences are the norm; camera on for all. One leader is conducting 30-minute “wind down” sessions with direct reports each Friday afternoon via Zoom. People share their states of mind along with the week’s highlights and low points. Many leaders are also IM’ing more (Slack, Microsoft Teams) for simpler, informal, real-time communication.
- One-on-ones are more frequent now, too. And, agendas have shifted significantly. “My one-on-ones now start with me asking how it’s going for them on a personal level, at home, are they and family OK, do they need anything, etc. The floodgates usually open,” shares the SVP. “They tell me about people they know who have gotten sick or died from Covid-19. They tell me they are anxious, nervous that the company might have layoffs. This is stuff they need to talk about to clear their minds. I just listen and let them talk.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
~ Maya Angelou
(Click infographic to enlarge)
3. Multiply Communications
Never has there been a more important time to be visible as a leader. You need to be communicating more, emailing more, sharing more. Patrick Lencioni, best-selling author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, says: “This is not a time to hold back. Send people updates and regular communication, even if there is not a lot of new information and the message is largely personal. No one will look back at this time and say, ‘My manager was so annoying with all the encouraging emails checking in on me.’ When people are isolated, over-communication is more important than ever.”
4. Lighten Up!
Again, if there was ever a time to get creative, insert fun, add humor to our workday, this is it! Many teams are busting out the moves to promote a strong sense of team and belonging: They’re having virtual coffee breaks and pizza parties (in which coffee or pizza is delivered to all team members at the time of a videoconference) or enjoying virtual office parties/happy hours (in which party “care packages” are sent in advance to be opened and enjoyed simultaneously). “In one of our meetings we did a virtual pet show and tell. It got a lot of laughs and lightened the mood,” says the SVP.
To be sure, 2020 will be remembered as one of, if not the most, challenging times in history for leaders. Those of you in charge are being tested, intensely, every single day.
I double salute all of my extraordinary clients and each of you who are rising to the occasion, elevating your leadership and showing up as exceptional human beings.
To your great peace and health,
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Shary is a Master Certified Coach (MCC) who is recognized as an expert in emotional intelligence. She specializes in developing enlightened executives who are revered for their heart as well as their results. As a trusted executive advisor with a style that is direct and no-nonsense, yet compassionate and supportive, she is known for helping leaders cut through the extraneous and propel them to their full leadership capacity at the executive table.
Shary has nearly 25 years of success in leadership and executive development with leaders from Fortune 500/FTSE organizations including SAP, Cleveland Clinic, Anthem, Nissan, AARP, ConAgra Brands, Citi, LexisNexis, Federal Reserve Bank, Astra-Zeneca, Marriott, Skanska USA, and Monsanto. She brings a global perspective to her executive coaching due to her extensive work throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe.
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