Covid-19 context caught me leading a credit & collections department that was making significant headway in tackling challenging metrics. At management level we had built an agile strategy at the beginning of February and we were diligently crossing the tactical “to do’s” off our lists.
And then it hit us: the need to reorganise to work from home; the process changes required to mitigate possible risks; dealing with change and unknown and their impact on feelings, behaviours and performance. I will not focus here on the first two, because I believe every leader and management team inevitably focuses on shaping the path and adapting their processes to facilitate their teams’ execution in times of uncertainty.
I want to share how we learned to support each other emotionally through change, as we were entering the uncharted territory of working from home and social isolation.
In order to stay closely in touch and find real-time solutions to lead our teams in the new context, I set-up 30-minutes daily calls. From Monday to Thursday, these meetings were meant to address operational challenges and mitigate expected and unexpected risks. However, I deliberately left the Friday ones casual. The Friday calls were never about work and always about checking-in with each other.
The casual catch-ups started by sharing our weekend plans while staying at home, our favourite songs in social isolation and our Netflix series recommendations. Then they moved on to deeper topics, such as the things we had learned about ourselves and our working habits during these unusual times.
About one month since home confinement started, we all shared how we were feeling. The responses were mixed and made us feel awkward. Everyone had shared how they felt, and the result was a series of good and bad feelings. Now what? We realised in that moment that talking about and acknowledging feelings is only one piece of the equation. What each of us can learn from them and how we choose to transform them into impactful action is the other.
Below is our Menti sharing of how we decided to honour our feelings and use them as fuel for action over the weekend. Some might strike you as small and trivial. Yet during these months, we learned that in times of uncertainty there is value in small and trivial — we can all practice more the habit of acknowledging how we feel about a situation that is out of our control and then consciously choose to transform that feeling into action. And it may be that sometimes the respective action is just a small step towards a bigger goal. In our case, it was about keeping a sense of normalcy in a less than normal context.
If you are looking for ways to support your team’s emotional well-being in times of Covid-19, here is what you can do:
1. Set-up informal catch-ups. Keep it short so it doesn’t feel like yet another call on an already busy agenda. You can agree on the recurrence in the first meeting.
2. Start with casual topics. This will allow everyone to disconnect from work and feel comfortable in sharing personal preferences or dislikes.
3. Ask how they are doing. Use an anonymous interactive tool like menti.com to allow for vulnerability and genuine answers. Acknowledge any feelings that arise.
4. Generate action. Ask how each feeling, irrespective of the good/bad label, can be turned into action. Make it time-bound.
5. Reciprocate. Share your own thoughts and feelings and commit to actions to honour them. Stay genuine and authentic.
As for us, the casual Friday calls are still in place. Everyone acknowledged that they brought us closer as a team and helped us make sense of our unusual weeks. They are our reminder that the way forward is supporting each other, accepting how we feel at any given moment and turning those feelings into action, no matter how small.
How is your team feeling these days and what are you doing to support their emotional well-being?