This circumstances that we are living are redefining the way we work and the way we relate at work. The human being is a social animal, which needs social contact and being part of a tribe as much as it needs to eat and breathe. We need our social ecosystem to get along. Many of us have replaced this social-labor ecosystem with a social-digital ecosystem, which in some way supplies the need for contact, but we will agree that it is not the same.
And we will also agree that some of us are managing it better than others. In this case there are people that working remotely, being isolated, and breathing the uncertainty that is floating all around is having an impact on them psychologically. It is normal, it affects us all somehow.
I am pretty sure that if you lead a team, and you are leading it remotely, you will have noticed that some members of your team are more anxious than usual, less productive, more concerned, or directly eating up their nails. Well, here are 8 tips to help you lead your team properly, and reduce their anxiety (and even increase their productivity).
It is your duty as a manager or team leader to create the psychological conditions to help your team get through this with the highest possible rate of success, so pay attention and take good note:
1 # KEEP IN TOUCH AND SUPERVISE, BUT NOT TOO MUCH
Do you know what “micromanagement” (*) is? Well, then avoid remote micromanagement, because you will only make them more nervous. Prevent them from feeling that you don’t trust them, and that’s why you are there all the time checking and re-checking their work.
2 # REDEFINE (AND CLEARLY DEFINE) EXPECTATIONS AND GOALS
We cannot understand the current reality as normal, and for the same reason you cannot expect that your team “already know what they have to do”. You must redefine clear goals and objectives. Define perfectly what you expect from them, and even what you expect from each one of them. Let everyone know what is important now, where we should put our effort, and what you expect from them. If you can target them for specific short-term results, the better. Doing this will have a great return on productivity and also on the psychological level.
3 # TRANSMIT THE RIGHT EMOTIONS
There is something that, if you manage a team or an organization, you must get tattooed on your forearm: the leader is the emotional interpreter of reality (*). The leader is the one that has the greatest emotional impact over members of his/her team. He/she is the one that spreads faster and in a greater amount the emotions to the rest of the team and colleagues of lower positions. And it goes in cascading across the team. Therefore, be aware of the emotional tone you transmit, and use the appropriate emotions in your interactions with your collaborators (even on the email). You do not have to be Mr. Smiley, but be careful not to transmit anxiety, insecurity, aggressiveness or overwhelming; instead resonate with courage, trust and optimism. Doing it so will be a demonstration of emotional intelligence in leadership.
4 # BECOME A PROFESSIONAL LISTENER
I’m going to tell you a secret/trick: when you listen to someone who is telling you something that worries him/her or causes him/her anguish, and this person feels truly listened to (I said listened, not given advice, just listened), and he/she feels that you are interested in what he/she is telling you; his/her blood basal levels of cortisol level (cortisol is the neurohormone of stress) begins to drop. In other words, the person calms down as he/she expresses his anguish and concern. Even his/her blood pressure drops to healthier levels! Do you want to be a good boss in times of trouble? Listen with interest to the anguish and worries of your team. Listening is an anxiolytic for the listened person. Patience … you have to do it as an investment on your team.
5 # MODEL AN OPTIMISTIC SPEECH
Fear is contagious, but optimism too. The optimist is not simply the one who thinks that everything is going to be all right, it is the one who thinks that we are going to be capable, and we are going to make it possible.
In fact there are three keys to model an optimistic speech: A) SCOPE. Not everything is wrong, there are things that are going well or that can be in our benefit, B) TIME. This is temporary, and it will pass, it will be hard but it will pass, we are not condemned, C) CAPABILITY. There are many things that are in our hands and that we can do or try, because we are valid and resourceful people.
Realize how easy it is, if you look closely, to articulate an optimistic speech. Optimists are confident that they will be capable of whatever it takes and it’s worth as many tries, while pessimists withdraw before trying.
6 # FACILITATE A PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY ENVIRONMENT ON YOUR TEAM
Psychological Safety (*) is when I feel safe and secure in my interaction with others. I feel that I will not be ashamed, judged, or punished in any way for my opinions or my mistakes. In other words, I can say what I think, give my opinion, make a mistake, ask for help or disagree, and this is Ok in the team culture. You, as the team leader, must generate this culture of Psychological Security, so that the members on your team have enough confidence to show themselves and express their opinions without fear of retaliation or slash back. When there is no psychological safety in teams, the team slows down, lose its agility, and team members close themselves in self-preservation mode, and that is not productive or healthy at all.
7 # COMMUNICATE WITH TRANSPARENCY AND CLEAR INFORMATION
Be honest in your communication with the team.
Be clear and provide clear information. You must exude honesty, closeness and clarity. Because the moment a team perceives that information is being hidden from them or that the boss is not being clear, or that they are being scammed, the mistrust reaction is absolutely corrosive. Therefore, in moments of uncertainty, be clear and be honest (as far as you can be, of course, there is information that you should still be prudent in its communication). If you have to stand firm then you stand firm, if you have to communicate something that is not entirely good then you communicate it in a proper manner, if you have to ask your team for something difficult then do it with respect and empathy, but always from your most humane and empathetic side. Do not sell smoke and mirrors, because they will catch you and it will be worse.
8 # WE ARE TOGETHER IN THIS
The need for inclusion of human beings is something biological: we need to feel part of and be part of. We need to be considered and be counted in. When we feel part of the group, when we feel that the «tribe» is with us, when we feel that we are together in this, our personal potential is triggered because anxiety decreases, hope increases, and we feel more secure. Therefore, a message that you must repeat actively and passively, and in any possible team interaction is this: In this we are together, and we will work it out together.
Finally, and as a personal footnote for managers and team leaders: if you are a manager, boss, leader, and there are people who depend on you, start by taking care of yourself. Take care physically and mentally to be in the best conditions to lead your team, it is your responsibility.
Good morning and good luck.