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How to Be a Great Leader to Your Team Right Now

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

I've seen a lot of posts on work from home practices and logistics but not many on how to lead others that are working from home and in a time of crisis. My advice? Do the goodness you usually do but 10x it - empathy, recognition, compassion, communication, providing support and resources, checking-in, providing direction and celebrating successes. Forgive the kids screaming in the background or the dog barking during your team meeting, cut some slack if email response time is not what it was and remind team members to "turn it off" and take a break.

I asked my network for what they add and am sharing their brilliance below.

Christian Anibarro, Co-Founder Culturabilities

1. Remember the most profound thing you can do is help your team feel connected to your purpose (as a team or org) and each other. Take time to do quick go-arounds and find out what is "new & good", one thing that they are dealing with today, or one victory they can claim in the midst of the uncertainty (personal/work). 2. Check in 1:1. We're all operating on top of a lot of feelings & unprocessed thoughts in addition to the non-work things we are tending to which makes it hard to focus or do our best work. 3. Start each day by helping your team make a daily commitment based on what you think is possible to accomplish. Being able to focus on what we can control is helpful during times of stress and mass change."

Patricia Bravo, Leadership Development Consultant, Bravo For You

"Taking active steps to relate is one of the most critical elements of empathy right now. We are all responding to current events with a much wider range of responses than normal. It can be challenging for us to understand what someone is going through because we're navigating our own needs as well as trying to support others who may be operating under completely different conditions. My suggestion: When you can, tell others how you relate to their current experience. If you can't relate, use that as a signal to be vulnerable and ask questions about what they are going through. You'll signal your desire to understand and learn more, allowing you to respond with care."

Jennifer Becker, Co-Founder, Culturabilities

"I would add BE CREATIVE - every day.  Let go of the way you've been operating your business, ask your colleagues for their ideas about what would work now, try things quickly, LEARN, try again.  Take care of yourself an anxiety rises with change.  Find the fun!!"

Jessica Gleeson, CEO, Brighter Beauty

"Watching social media over here [China] the past 8 weeks, it is important to remember that this in an odd combination of sensory overload and isolation. This is going to be a bit of a marathon. In addition to many of the great ideas above, we tried to find some physical touch points too. Week 1, we sent a small box of oranges to people on the team. Vitamin C always a good thing and it showed their families we cared. Week 2, we sent out masks for them, their kids and their family members. These were required in China, if you wanted to go out. Helped keep their families feeling safe and allowed them to travel back to Shanghai. We created a new WeChat group for some just small silly “competitions” to lighten things up. Best dish of the day, best mask smize, cutest kid picture, best pet picture, you get the idea. Half of this is also a mental game. So, Week 3 sent everyone a copy of “Who Moved my Cheese?” to be able to succeed as we come out of this we knew we all needed to think differently about our business."

Elizabeth King, Managing Partner, Elizabeth M. King Consulting

"Don’t assume that every employee is comfortable using technology to work from home. Part of the check in should be helping if they are struggling to use tools that they did not have to use when they were in the office."

Allison Thomas, Talent Development Consultant, EY

"Two leaders of my team did something meaningful for all of us. First, with the recognition that we all needed greater capacity to navigate this difficult time, they clarified what was business-critical to focus on right now and what could be put on hold/paused. Second, they established a regular connection overtly positioned as care for our team. The only intention is to check in, provide community for all of us, and help us get through this together. As an HR team, it can be easy to prioritize the needs of our clients over ourselves, as the reality is that helping them maintain business continuity for their teams keeps all of us afloat. But of course we can't do that without taking care of us first. And that's just what my leaders have done, for which I'm deeply grateful. True servant leadership."

Kristin Salerno, Vice President, Alight Solutions

"My team just put out this week internally Leading and Engaging Our People Remotely. It’s about caring for oneself as a leader (put the oxygen mask on first to be strong and supportive for others), caring for one’s team (shift happens and how to stay connected, peer coach and working through conflict virtually) and inspiring productivity (first be humans, then intentional about the most critical work, reprioritize and stay relevant)."

Cynthia LaRowe, Vice President, The Spur Group

"Be kind.  And recognize that this time is filled with fear and loss of some kind for everyone (ex: freedom, certainty, clarity, a sense of control -- amongst others).  Approach and treat them as you wish to be treated at this time -- with (as you said) recognition, space, grace, and sensitivity."

Marie Gill, Director, Caliber Global

"I'm trying to learn more by taking the time to ask about them and their POV on the situation. We are all dealing with things differently and providing both empathy and a chance to share helps give us perspective. Concern for our loved ones, not seeing friends/family as often we used to can tax us differently. Being that sounding board can help."

Toby Lucich, Co-Founder, Return Leverage

"It’s time to be calm, and keep things in perspective. Tech now let’s us reach out with gentle nudges by text (just thinking of you) or quick face to face checkins via FaceTime. Get very specific about expectations and outcomes, and let your team run. They will embrace the autonomy and reward your faith in them."

Lindsay Pedersen, Brand Strategist at Ironclad Brand

"Everyone needs more care right now. Amping it up is wonderful guidance. I'll add a specific break to request: "Go outside, for 10 minutes, look at the sky, feel the sun on your face. If you can turn 10 min into 20 or 30, all the better. If you can include your kids, all the better."

We are all human and need to take care of one another more than ever now.

~ Christine

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