Leading in this time of crisis, uncertainty, and self-isolation has many people feeling unsure of what to do. First and foremost, is the concern and worry about safety and health – our own, our loved ones, our colleagues, and our communities. Then there is the uncharted territory of how to effectively lead a team or an organization appropriately in this moment. The questions our clients have been bringing to us are daunting and unsettling – and also very human and real. What do our colleagues need from us right now? How do we provide guidance when we might feel lost ourselves? How do we stay enough in touch? How do I know everyone is doing their work? How do we stay focused?

For many of us, our primary contact with colleagues is through videoconferences. That may have seemed formidable and impossible at first, but I have been inspired by a unique consequence of this crisis. Through this need for isolation and separation, we have somehow found greater connection, understanding, and sense of community. It seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve heard many stories of deeper relationships and more reaching out over these last few weeks – all through virtual and video.

We’re all quickly becoming more skilled at using this technology and managing these conversations more effectively, yet we still can feel at a loss as to how to make virtually work most successfully, and, again, how to provide our colleagues the guidance and support that they may need. Rather than transfer the same weekly meeting or daily huddle to a virtual format, you have to adapt to be adept. There are steps you can take to be more relevant to the moment we are in, enhance your meeting time in new ways, and build greater connection.

As you look to make your virtual meetings more meaningful and beyond the normal conference table discussion, consider these ideas:

  • Check in on personal well-being – This may seem obvious to some, but taking the time to really hear how people are doing, how they are coping, what is good in their life, and what is of concern is essential. Consider beginning each meeting with a short discussion of one aspect of well-being or one enlightening question. On one videoconference I recently attended, each of us shared one thing we were doing to take care of our mind or body. On another, we each shared one thing that is inspiring us and one thing that is troubling us.
  • Be willing to be real – Everything doesn’t have to be perfect on your videoconferences. I love seeing the video clips and postings of kids, pets, roommates, and others disrupting video meetings, or funny objects in the background of someone’s view. And as a leader, modeling the message that messiness is OK can put everyone else at ease.
  • Take time to center/ground – It’s also important to give your team time to center and ground themselves on the videoconference. Maybe it’s a quick group stretch or breathing exercise at the beginning or middle of the meeting. Or consider starting a ritual as part of your meetings such as expressing gratitude at the end of the call or taking turns having one person on each call share something about themselves or agreeing as a group on one thing you will do to help others.
  • Get moving – I recently took part in a webinar where the facilitator was presenting outdoors. It was a good reminder that we can meet virtually while enjoying the outdoors, walking (safely), standing, and moving our bodies. With many of us having our exercise routines disrupted, our travel ground to a halt, and even the ability to walk over to someone’s desk to have a conversation, moving as much as possible is an important way to take care of yourself now.
  • Be creative and use tools available online – Yes, if we weren’t before, we are now all intimately familiar with Zoom. Within Zoom and through other virtual collaboration and communication tools, you can make your meetings more engaging and fun. Consider using virtual whiteboards and sticky notes to do planning, virtual breakout rooms to provide more intimate conversations and give everyone the chance to contribute, tools such as word clouds, polling, and quizzes to add a little fun and more engagement to your meeting.
  • Encourage team members to step away and tend to what is most important – I have heard several people say that they are working longer hours now than when they were in the office every day. That may be true and fine; however, as a leader, it is important to set an expectation that your team take the time they need to take breaks during the day, take care of what is important or urgent in their lives, and prioritize as they need to. Whether this new norm is short-lived or whether we are here for a long time, we need to prioritize our own self-care and make sure we’re taking care of ourselves, our families, and our lives in order to move through this experience in a sustainable way.
  • Think about and plan for how you will transition back to the “new normal” work routine – At some point, we will all get back to what I call “a new normal.” New because this is a time that I believe will have a lasting impact on our lives and will change how we engage with each other and the world. As a leader, how will you bring people back to your team? What will you say? How will you acknowledge what has taken place? How will you inspire and bring hope and energy? You don’t have to figure it out alone, think about how you can get support and input.

We are all taking a crash course in leading in times of crisis and uncertainty, thrust into this moment with no preparation or planning. That has pushed most leaders out of their comfort zone and into unknown territory. That’s OK, and that’s an opportunity to grow, innovate, and be more authentic in your leadership. We recently wrote about the importance of putting your oxygen mask on first in this crisis. That is critical. It starts with taking care of yourself and thinking about what you need to lead effectively in this moment. Only then can you take the steps necessary to support your employees and all of the people counting on you and relying on your leadership.

How have you engaged with your team in new and more meaningful ways during this crisis?
Please share your ideas here so that we can all learn and grow together.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For more ideas and support for leading your team in more engaged and authentic ways, contact Robyn at rmcleod@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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