We’ve all felt the lasting impact of the last few years. A study confirmed it, we’ve gotten more stressed and feel a high level of anxiety these days.
In order to keep people engaged and have them stick around, it’s important for you as a leader to be mindful of your team’s stress levels and well-being. While serious treatment for mental health concerns needs to stay with the professionals, there are actions that you can take to help support and care for your team.
Keep a high-touch communication cadence
The saying “Out of sight, out of mind” is certainly true. Think about your personal goals, desires, and best intentions. Without intentionality to keep them in front of you, they end up falling to the wayside and become missed opportunities and disappointments. That’s one of the reasons we recommend whiteboards, apps, and/or smaller physical capture points to catalog your goals, both short and long-term.
Think of your employees in the same way, if they are working remotely or in a different location, they are in danger of being left behind and feeling disconnected from their work and from those that they work with.
I’ve always been a fan of weekly one-on-ones, even when I led remote teams across a large geographical area, I kept a cadence of check-ins with my direct reports. The pandemic pushed me to change my communication style in order to meet changing needs. I no longer have scheduled one-on-ones, but put quite a bit of effort into connecting multiple times a week in both formal and informal settings. This has helped with a list of things not building up and makes the conversation cadence feel like we are in an office setting without actually being in the same space.
High touch doesn’t mean quick and shallow communications. Is it appropriate sometimes? Yes, but include meaningful and deeper conversations as well.
Some prompts to get you started:
How are you feeling about your workload? Do you have enough time to get everything done?
How do you feel at the start and end of your day or week? (Good question to gauge burnout)
How can I support you or your work?
How are you staying connected to others?
Help your people’s well-being by making sure that they feel informed, included, and appreciated.
Cue into the nonverbal and physical clues We know that there is power in non-verbal communication (EP 186). People that are struggling with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty will often show signs of distress, it’s just a matter of you as a leader being attentive enough to pick up on the clues.
Look for changes in behavior that can include:
Wanting to, or outright avoiding group gatherings, both in-person and virtual.
Showing signs of fatigue, aches, pains, and changes in energy level.
Becoming overly passive, or losing and sense of engagement.
Showing nervousness, irritability, and restlessness.
A drop in the level of communication
As a leader, you make it easier for your people to share when you are attentive and engaged with them on a personal level. They see your attentiveness and will open up more to you. On the other hand, they also know when you aren’t paying attention and will volunteer less information and articulate less on issues and struggles.
Allow them time to refocus, decompress and reframe
Overall, I think people are harder on themselves than they should be. I know that I am. I have a tendency to try to push through physical pain, burnout, or setbacks.
Pushing for progress is always a great approach right? Well maybe not. I had years of built of injuries from running because I kept pushing through them all and tried to quickly fix things so I could continue on. I took the pandemic time to try something new…. rest. It took a long time, but my foot, knee, and hip issues all eventually resolved themselves. Even my back started feeling better and survived a big house move.
When you identify that a person needs some time to focus on their well-being, don’t wait for them to ask for time. Be proactive and help them get the time to take care of themself.
Keep track of their vacation cadence. Encourage them to take time off and get away from work.
Help spread their workload to help ease their stress.
Look for efficiencies in work to help them eliminate time wasters.
Partner together for ways that they can delegate some work to others.
Model and demonstrate how you decompress and refocus your life.
Encourage and affirm your people that is ok to take that time needed for them to take care of themselves. Your team shouldn’t foster a culture where an individual considers it a badge of honor when they go long times without taking a break from work. The work will always be there, but the employee won’t if they reach a high level of burnout.
An employee’s well-being is equally owned between themselves and their leader. They should prioritize their own health and mental well-being and the leader should remain committed to supporting their well-being through their experience at work. Be an impactful leader by starting small and having the intentionality to support your team.
Most kids learn about climates in grade school which is defined as the overall weather patterns of an area. They also learn about microclimates; the climate of a small or restricted area that differs from the surrounding area.
Microclimates are everywhere. Think how different the weather and environment are in a valley with a river vs the mountain top that is next to it. Microclimates can also be as close as your backyard. Our backyard is open and grassy, while our neighbors have a large coverage of trees and vines.
While your company sets your overall culture, values, and climate, you are in full control of the climate and culture of your team. That’s the reason multi-site organizations see inconsistency in aligned culture from one location to another. No matter how hard you push the big culture, it will always fall on the local team leader whether that will standard and philosophy will become reality or something else entirely.
Here are some tips to help you have a happy, healthy, and productive micro-climate of culture right where you are.
Look past the swirl
The swirl of the day can easily derail and ruin your day. While the swirl of the day and the larger storms of life can leave you feeling helpless, you have more power than you may realize in those moments. Here are a couple of ways that we feed the daily swirl and larger storms in our life.
We feed the storm with our fear, pride, and permission. Life happens and sometimes it’s downright tough to make it to the end of the day. We add fuel to the swirls and storms of life by leading with our pride, fear and by giving the situation permission to control our lives. Turn your focus outwards to remember your purpose, your people, and your passion. It will help guide you through the distractions and challenges that threaten your culture.
We let the swirl influence our actions. The swirl of the day can more influential than we give it credit for. How much you let it drive your day determines how much it influences your decision-making. You’ve probably seen or experienced someone make poor judgment calls while they were under pressure in some way and it seldom ends well. Recognize when it happens and take a moment to pause and take back control of the moment.
The swirls and storms can devastate your team’s climate and culture.
Shed the facade
Authenticity is a must to build a quality culture with your team. As a leader in the social media age, it’s important to understand that all that you do can be scrutinized by others. That doesn’t mean you have to worry about every single thing you do and walk on eggshells your whole life. It does however empathize the importance of being authentic in your daily life and leadership walk.
Be true to others and lead yourself well by:
Leading yourself with excellence
Lead yourself and others with integrity
Hold yourself and the team accountable
Lead at your level. Let go of things you used to do in a prior role in order to be efficient in your current role.
Share your feelings with others.
Open yourself up to others. People aren’t interested in the false front that you’ve got everything figured out. They want to that you understand your flaws, that you feel the same things that they do, and that you can rise to the challenges that the team faces.
Embrace trust and transparency
The foundation of any great culture is trust. Your team has to trust that what you stand on is truth and not simply words to say without meaning. This is often the point of misalignment between a larger organizational culture and a small local one. The members of the small team may feel like the large values don’t apply to tot them or, even worse, they haven’t seen their leader live out the company’s values in their daily work.
Build strong culture by being honest and building trust with your team (Ep 323: Building trust with a new team) Starting here helps people feel safe to connect with each other. Lead with humility (EP 162: Holding unto Humility) to help others see how they lead themselves. Led them with Heart by leaning into your calling and purpose (EP 161: Are you following your Calling?)
Put Heart, Humility, and Honesty together to build a strong foundation for your team’s culture to thrive.
Through all my travels in coaching and leading others, there is one saying that comes up in nearly every area that I’ve been to. It goes something along the lines of, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it will change.” Follow the tips above so your team’s culture (and climate) isn’t constantly changing and is one where they feel empowered, valued, and want to stick around.
Individual commitment to a group effort – that’s what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. -Vince Lombardi
If you’ve ever been to an airshow, they can be equally jaw-dropping and unnerving at the same time. The teams of pilots practice endlessly for the shows, and often the distance between a perfect maneuver and disaster is a twitch in the wrist. Team coordination is the key to success in having a safe and successful event. Here are some things that we can model after these teams.
They have a high level of trust with each other
Blue Angels pilots must trust each other inexplicably. They willingly put their lives in their team’s hands every day. Trust is an important piece in every team no matter if you are the shift leader of a shoe store or flying a multi-million dollar jet. Trust is one of the leading factors on whether the team/company will be good, great, or fail. If people don’t trust their leadership team, trouble is sure to follow. Here are some areas to think about as you build trust.
Clear and consistent communication.
The ability to walk what you talk.
A sense that you authentically understand others.
You have the skill set to perform your role well.
They have an unwavering commitment to each other
Military life is certainly different. Each branch of the service finds success by having its members lose a sense of self and focus on the needs of the team and mission above their own. To be an elite pilot chosen to fly with the Blue Angels, each individual must choose others above their own wants and needs. They spend more time studying while others socialize, more time training while others call it a day, and more time together than they are required to.
An uncommitted team member can quickly drag down the efficiency of the team and cause a number of issues. Your team needs to see and feel as if you are committed to the mission, the set standard, and most importantly that you are committed to them on a personal level. You can’t expect your people to be great and perform well if you aren’t committed to being great yourself.
They communicate often with each other
Pilots are great communicators while on the job. They communicate essential information but don’t clutter up the airwaves with needless talk and useless information. This can be a challenging balancing act because we want our people to know what’s going on. Communicate too much; forward emails that they already received just to add your two cents, or make everything a top priority, and lose the credibility of your message. Fail to communicate enough and your people are sure to fall short in some capacity.
Check with your team on your communication amount, tenor, timing and frequency. I do this a few times a year and adjust as needed. Just because you are good doesn’t mean you stay that way over time. Listen with an open mind and make adjustments as needed.
Coordinate well with your team and put on a great show for your customers.
Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.
Caring for your team (or family) is one of the most important things that you can do as a leader. When your people see how much you care for them, they are much more likely to show that same amount of care to others. Morale and effectiveness also increase. A caring leader has many advantages in their leadership. They can pick up on nuanced behavior in their team quicker. They can also rely on them more when the going gets tough, and they often form common bonds that build a deep level of trust.
Caring is more than just a smile
Caring for someone is more than just being cordial, smiling and asking how their day is going.
Caring leaders listen. (More on this in a couple of weeks)
Caring leaders truly know their people. Get to know three things about each person. Interests, hobbies, family are good places to start.
Caring leaders are curious. They ask their people their insight and opinion.
Caring leaders understand without having to agree or prove a point.
Caring leaders share information and are as transparent as possible.
Just as in just about everything else in life, balance is the key. Be mindful of the relationship level and guard yourself against going too far. You aren’t called to be someone’s counselor (unless that’s your job). For the chronic complainers, have them write down their problems and solutions so can discuss them together. This puts the action of solutions in their court. For those that are angry, listen but don’t encourage the conversation. It will burn itself out quickly. Lastly, you want to handle every relationship and person with a great deal of integrity.
How are you doing as a caring leader? If polled, would your team call you a leader that truly cared for them? For many, this is easier to master once they realize there is an opportunity. Showing care to your team is a must-do in today’s environment.