The previous Lesson Found highlighted how being empathetic is a fundamental tool of leadership.  How to do that is today’s Lesson Found.

A client asked my advice about an “always” productive team member who lately was barely producing.  His company has been 100% virtual since March but the client only recently started to notice the problem. The client tried talking to the employee but the situation was not changing.  We worked through some ideas on how to get to the source of the problem by using a slightly more empathetic tone. The client got back to me the next day with an update.  It turns out that work was this employee’s primary source of social interaction.  While she had been able to meet with friends/co-workers at parks, this mostly ended with the start of the school year.  This new isolation inhibited her motivation.

This story is a composite of several situations from different companies, but it sounds all too familiar this year. Recently, 70% of workers pointed to work-life balance during the pandemic as a source of stress and a full quarter thought about quitting due to pandemic-related concerns.  And this despite 81% saying their employers are doing what is needed in response to the pandemic.

So, what can you do about this?  Here are some ideas.

Team Building – The Huddle:  A daily 15-minute huddle brings teams together in a short, “highly focused” meeting to review what they have been and will be working on, coordinate their efforts, and move forward the team’s goals.  While it does not have be daily, setting aside a regular time is critical to the success of the huddle.

Team Building – Beyond Operations:  Non-work-related stress can impede employees’ productivity.  Use the huddle to gauge this by starting out with a check-in.  In addition to demonstrating empathy, there are actions you can take to relieve stress and build team resilience.  For example, some companies are holding virtual workout and yoga sessions.  Others are sending employees “care packages” such as snacks from SnackNation or a coffee subscription.

Virtual Schooling: Companies are being creative in alleviating parents’ stress from virtual schooling. One company asked for volunteers to help tutor children of other team members in math.  Another, which had returned to regular, onsite operations, set aside space in their facility for several children to come in with parents splitting the time monitoring the children’s play and virtual school attendance.

Flexibility:  Offering greater work-schedule flexibility increases morale especially for employees responsible for caring for children or a sick relative.  Afterall, for project-oriented positions, does it matter when the work is done?  Even for positions tied to “opening hours”, facilitating swapping of schedules covers company needs while increasing team morale.

Setting Objectives vs Monitoring Activity:  If you are monitoring employee time online, ask yourself if the job function is dependent on hours worked or getting something accomplished.  If the latter, then clearly define what is to be accomplished, a due date and afford your team flexibility in their work schedule. Some companies have found this strategy actually increases productivity as well as employees understanding and connection to their organization’s purpose.

Empathy is a hallmark of a good leader.  This means taking the time to listen, understand others’ perspectives, support your team, guide them towards success and showing trust through your actions.

Do you know a CEO or owner struggling with motivating their employees through these stressful times? Do them a favor by sharing this article. And if you or they want to join with other CEOs and owners working to solve these and other team building issues, connect with me to learn about the Small Business Forum.  Simply reply to this email or call me (717-439-6254) for a free, no obligation initial consultation.

Life brings us lessons every day.  Sometimes from expected sources.  And sometimes from sources and situations we never would have thought possible.  Either way, they are a gift found. I am fortunate to find these types of lessons regularly and wanted to share them with you with this weekly series of “Business Lessons Found”.
Did you recently receive the gift of a Business Lesson Found that has helped you with management, marketing or another aspect in business? We would love to hear about it. Comment below or send an email to let us know.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.