Just about every manager has a complaint about the Covid-19 pandemic. It has disrupted the flow of teams in the office. It has sent everyone home to work. In fact, it has taken the fight out of your team. If we want to boost our teams back up, managers are going to have to find a way to re-inflate our teams. Just exactly how is a manager supposed to go about doing this?
This Changes Everything
How are you supposed to use your manager skills to rally your team when you haven’t seen them in person since last spring? Good bosses had a playbook that was handed to them in manager training that worked just fine when everyone was in the office. They would often manage by walking around, dropping casual praise to workers after a win and silently keeping tabs on who needed some bolstering. Those in a slump were swiftly taken out for lunch with their manager or, if things were really dire for them, a drink. Now, with many teams still operating remotely, it’s hard for managers to catch signs of morale issues and fix them. How can they read body language and catch fleeting facial expressions when colleagues are just squares on a Zoom call? Instead, problems seem to fester in our disconnected network of video calls and Slack chats.
We’re not contending with the typical setbacks and disappointments that always come with having a job. These are strange times that we are living in, complete with burnout, distraction and personal hardships, especially with the adrenaline that marked the early part of the pandemic now being long gone. We’ve moved through fear to this period of endless uncertainty and managers need to find ways to help their teams deal with it. Human-resources professionals ranked maintaining employee morale as their most difficult Covid-19 issue in a recent survey. More than three-quarters of the people surveyed described the task as somewhat or very challenging.
Getting The Team Pumped Up Again
The first step in combating team malaise is simply listening to the members of your team. Some managers have began conducting virtual skip-level meetings, in which a manager connects with their team member’s direct report. That’s half the battle for managers, just to give people the opportunity to be heard. Managers also have to acknowledge that times are tough and be open with employees about the realities of this year: bonuses might be scarce for everyone and promotions may be paused. You need to remind your team that this is just a moment in time, even if it’s a difficult one.
One way that managers can help their team members to deal with all of the upheaval that is going on in their lives is to unleash team members on new, challenging and creative projects can help them feel engaged and productive. Analyzing and reviewing the good and bad happenings at work can help build confidence in your team also. It’s a focused opportunity to digest and learn.
It can be hard for managers to keep tabs on remote employees without devolving into micromanaging. Managers need to make sure to check in on struggling employees as frequently as twice a week. Introducing virtual training sessions and activities like an online cooking class have also helped maintain camaraderie between colleagues. However, it’s still not the same as the frequent social events and staff meetings that used to bond and buoy teams.
Managers who want to boost their team’s morale can do the following things:
- Give team members a challenge: Form a special team to examine new opportunities, or give members time to tackle a tough problem. This is a remote version of team building. Learning helps people grow, feel engaged and be productive.
- Offer perspective: Remind your team that this is just a moment in time. Things might be hard, but this stretch won’t last forever.
- Rethink meetings: Make sure every video call has a purpose. If a meeting isn’t working, adjust the content, cut the time in half or just scrap it altogether.
- Analyze what happened: Conduct after-event reviews of your team’s successes and failures so that no one’s in the dark about what happened and team members can apply lessons learned to the next project.
- Keep tabs on your team’s members: Set reminders on your calendar to check in with folks. Standing meetings can further clutter your team’s calendar, so adjust your outreach as you go based on who needs what. And really listen to what they share.
What All Of This Means For You
The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown even the best laid plans of managers into disarray. The ways that we used to keep track of the members of our team and how they were doing no longer work now that everyone is working from home. However, even as the workplace has changed, we still have a responsibility to keep our teams together and motivated. Just exactly how is a manager going to go about doing this remotely?
Back in the day when everyone was in the office, being a good manager meant that we could manage our teams by walking around and checking on them. A lot of the ways that people were dealing with the pandemic in the beginning may no longer be working for them as family and work situations change for them. In order to be a good manager in these difficult times, we need to start by taking the time to listen to our team members. If we can find ways to have our teams work on new projects it may help them to take their minds off of everything else that has been going on. Managers can also take other steps to help boost their team’s overall morale.
As managers we are only as good as the team that we manage is. If we want to be successful in the future, then we are going to have to find ways to keep our team’s morale up even in the challenging times in which we now find ourselves. The good news is that it turns out that this can be done. However, managers have to first realize that there is a need and then they need to take action. If we can make the effort to boost our team’s morale, then they’ll come through for us and once again we’ll be able to deliver the results that the company is looking for.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: If you discover that one of your team members is dejected, what can you do to help them?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Congratulations, you have a job. However, is this really the job that you want? Do you spend your days dreaming of doing something else? If you ever decided to do that something else, would it require you to make a career change? This is no small change – this can be a very big deal for most managers. If your heart really lies somewhere else, then perhaps the current world that Covid-19 and the associated pandemic have turned upside down might be just the place where you use your manager skills and technology to make your dreams come true.