As a doctor, my father saw dozens of hospitalized patients during his long career. And as anyone who has been in a hospital knows, it can be a stressful, anxiety-inducing experience. I used to make rounds with my father many times as he visited patients. Even as a young boy, I could appreciate his manner and the approach he took with each person. He was courteous, optimistic, patient, and clear. I also noticed how he transformed each patient’s feelings about their surgery.
I could see their anxiety ebb from his interaction with them. The main message my father got across to his patients is that he cared. He took time to listen and to understand their apprehension. Never rushing them, he heard what they wanted to tell him, the result being very cathartic for his patients. By the time he completed his pre-op evaluation, they were brighter, confident, and peaceful.
Fast forward to us as leaders in a pandemic…Do as my father did! Now is the time to learn about your direct reports. How is this “next normal” affecting them, their families, their mindsets? Where/when are they experiencing the most anxiety….like my father’s patients did? And how can you help them cope while still growing in their professional role?
To help, here are some key things to do as you connect with your team members:
- Schedule formal team check-ins: Put them on the calendar and do not vary from that schedule! Formal vs. ad hoc check-ins prove you care about the well-being and self-actualization of your team. Notice how directs will open up to you more and more from this effort.
- Aim your conversations forward not backward: It’s been a hard 12 months for everyone. But this too shall pass (eventually!). Focus your conversation on the positive steps that can be taken now and for the future. This action illustrates optimism and that you realize how important your team’s actions are to being part of the global recovery.
- Empathize with COVID-fatigue: The burden of living/working through this pandemic is a heavy one to bear. It is real, it is debilitating, and it needs to be addressed. Ask your team about how they are dealing with this challenge? What impact has it has on them mentally, physically, financially, etc.? Ask about their family. These questions are mission-critical to pinpointing what may be thwarting your direct’ s ability to focus and produce the results you need.
- Agree on a forward-thinking business development strategy: Working from a plan will help reduce your team’s anxiety because they will know where they are headed. Creating this path keeps your team focused on the right prize and what matters most, professionally.
- Establish and CELEBRATE short term accomplishments: A win is a win. Celebrate it! This is imperative to do to cement the actions you want to be replicated. You are also letting your team know that you are paying attention to what they are doing. Providing real, meaningful, positive feedback is one of the greatest, most valued things a leader can provide a team member. Do it!
The benefit of these actions is that they transform a team’s spirit along with each individual’s self-actualization. You are reminding them, and yourself, that they make a difference!
Do these things in the next few weeks and let me know how it goes! -SG