What are you doing today that you were not doing a year ago? This question is especially relevant in this time of pandemic and continuous advancement in technology, as both presents a myriad of growth opportunities for just about everyone. How we approach them will determine whether we grow or remain locked down.
I recall speaking with leaders who were uncertain about navigating virtually. They had no idea how they were going to maintain the right level of support that would continue fueling positive engagement, a collaborative culture, and productivity. For many organizations, these three elements were challenging while things were "normal", so the impact of pandemic was a real concern. My responses during almost all these conversations were the same:
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Engage in Frequent Listening Sessions
Unlearn Outdated Practices
KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN
During difficult or challenging periods, communicating effectively is essential for keeping you and your team more productive. When people are communicating well with each other, they work together to find solutions to whatever barriers may arise, because staying connected is important to them.
If you find that your team is not gelling, it is time to revisit if the lines of communication are working to your team's advantage, and where it is not, it is time to brainstorm about how to fix it. Brainstorming facilitates input from the team on how to resolve communication issues and retore team collaboration.
Remember, leaders who communicate clearly, frequently, and respectfully will always win with their team.
ENGAGE IN FREQUENT LISTENING SESSIONS
Leaders who listen are highly respected by their team and peers. In these challenging times, leaders who are winning are those who engage in frequent listening sessions.
The purpose of these sessions is not to brainstorm or collaborate, but to learn. In order to learn, they ask the right questions, note carefully the responses, and restate for clarity. In this pandemic and technological period, listening with empathy is especially important - as individual team members are experiencing their own challenges that require an understanding of their needs so that they can be provided the right support.
Listening sessions can be infused into the monthly one-on-one meetings with individual team members, where the leader allows them at least 15 minutes to share the issues that concerns them most, in terms of what is limiting their engagement, collaboration, and productivity.
Listening sessions are also important during monthly team meetings. They provide a platform for the team to voice issues impacting team performance. Depending on the size of the team, the leader can allocate up to an hour to listen and learn.
Only after listening keenly can leaders know exactly what is happening. Listening is the best platform from which to build workable solutions for addressing and resolving individual and team issues and concerns.
UNLEARN OUTDATED PRACTICES
Prior to the pandemic, most organizational practices were "one size fits all". Policies, practices, processes, and standard operating procedures were the solutions to avoiding problems, breaches, and potential pitfalls.
As I listened to the leaders who engaged me, I realized that unlearning decades of standardized habits was going to be their greatest challenge. A hybrid work arrangement for example meant losing control of some employees, in favor of building trust and fostering empowerment.
Dependence on face-to-face communication in favor of using technology to engage, communicate, and collaborate was another challenging element. With a flexible/hybrid work-arrangement, they were forced to utilize technology as the main tool for bringing the team together for fun, and to collaborate.
Leaders who are open to unlearning practices that no longer work, in favor of learning what is necessary for the current work climate, are achieving growth in all three areas - engagement, collaboration, and productivity.