24 Jun 5 ways to keep your people engaged as we ease out of lockdown
As the UK eases out of lockdown and take steps to return to ‘normal’ this month, here are five simple steps you can take to connect, engage and keep your team going through yet another period of change.
Dealing with change at any time can cause stress and anxiety. When it comes to leading your people, change management must be done with compassion and empathy to make sure the whole team follows where you go.
- Know where your team is, right now
Following any crisis, your business will go through three distinct phases. You need to know where in the cycle your team currently sits in order to deal with your response in a sensitive way.
Response: you’re all responding to the crisis. You’re figuring out your place in the business and considering your response to what’s happening.
Adjusting to new ways of working: you’re finding the best ways to work under new conditions.
Looking to the future: you’re planning ahead to find a permanent solution to the crisis you’ve navigated through.
Ask yourself honestly – which phase is your business or team in?
As a leader or an entrepreneur, it’s understandable that your eyes may be very much fixed on the future. That’s how you’re wired. But if you want to bring your team with you when you move forward, you must listen to where they are now.
You may well have drafted a ten-page white paper on the future of the business, but it will fall on deaf ears and cluttered desks if members of your team are still struggling to process the basics of working from home or returning from furloughed leave.
Now is the time to put the white paper aside and listen to what your team is telling you. Ask questions, encourage feedback. Only then can you put pen to paper and decide how, when and on what subjects you communicate.
2. Don’t stop now – keep communicating
I read recently in a Poppulo survey, 78% of surveyed employees said they were happy with the communication they’d received during the crisis. This, I’m sure you’ll agree, is amazing! If you’re a leader who has done a great job of keeping people in the loop, hats off to you.
But the last thing you should do is take your foot off the pedal and stop communicating at this point. This is a marathon and not a sprint. The initial crisis of the virus outbreak and the process of arranging furlough leave and home working may be slowing somewhat, but the communication must continue.
This is the time for strong leaders to rise. Your people need you to be present and decisive, even when things feel just as unclear as ever.
I was intrigued by a recent report on Forbes that employees are more likely to look to their employers for guidance, advice and information than the Government – these are strange times, indeed. But it also means that you, as a leader, must step up and deliver trustworthy, accurate and timely information and advice to your people.
The best thing you can do for your people now is to drip feed your communication. Little and often is the way forward. Scale up the frequency of your communication but trim the word count. In the current climate, with so much news and information available, our attention spans are shot. Keep your messages short and simple.
3. Prioritise, relentlessly
Now is the time to be relentlessly clear about where you expect your team to focus their efforts. The core focus of the business may well have changed – plans and goals moved, amended or scrapped – so it’s crucial to ensure you’re being really clear what the new priorities are and how they feed back into your bigger purpose. Focus on the stuff that is bigger than us.
4. Make the team part of the solution.
Social gatherings, whether in person (once it’s safe) or online, can be the lifeblood of a good team. But so many of my clients ask me for advice about keeping the social aspect of work going. Should we do a quiz? Should we do a happy hour?
My advice is this: You are not their parent. You do not need to be the source of all social decisions and organisation. And if you think about it, enforced fun can be awkward anyway!
Get your team involved. Ask them what they need and encourage them to be creative with ideas. Remind them that it’s not just about socialising together or building the rapport within the team, but about experiencing your business and team journey together. The needs of your team are unique so work out what support everyone needs and plan a social gathering that fulfils those needs.
The chances are, it won’t be a quiz or a quick happy hour down the local pub.
5. Celebrate the good stuff
Celebrate every single win. Small, tiny, huge, somewhere in the middle – it doesn’t matter, celebrate everything. Go looking for wins to celebrate. Share them, shout about them, big everyone up. The value of giving real life examples of the things that are going right in our business should never be underestimated.
Celebrating the wins not only gives everyone a lift but also reinforces the fact that your business is driven by your values in the bad times as in the good.
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