During times of crisis we need to check in on the people we support more than ever. There are several reasons we may not do this, though. First, we ourselves may feel overwhelmed and focused on our own challenges. Second, we may think the other person(s) is too stressed and busy and we don’t want to bother them. Third, we may not know what to do or say.
All three of these barriers to checking in with others are legitimate, yet there are so many more reasons that we should make time and reach out to others. Even, if our gestures are not acknowledged, they still demonstrate that we care. Also, it can be empowering to take action and attempt to be supportive. Like that old adage says, “At least I know that I tried.”
As we face more and more natural disasters and now the coronavirus pandemic, we may find our teams or clients are especially vulnerable. Often these events are shocking and scary. They bring with them great uncertainty as people scramble to understand what is happening and how to mitigate the challenges that surface. Stress and fear levels are high and even great leaders may find themselves unsure of what to do next.
Communication and connection are vital during times of crisis. We can not over-communicate.
While we do need to talk about the impact these events bring to our work and make plans to adjust to our circumstances, people also need time to express themselves and feel heard on a personal level.
Here are three ways to reach out and offer people an outlet to be human and vulnerable in a safe and respectful environment. These check-ins are designed to allow someone to share their own personal impact, feel cared for, and build trust between people. They reinforce a team culture of looking out for each other and transparency.
Option #1: Check-In with the Team
Schedule a meeting to check in on how people are doing. While this can also be done at the beginning of a team meeting that addresses work issues, it needs enough space and time to allow people to talk. This should not be rushed. Ideally, schedule a special meeting just to connect about the personal impact.
In a recent team meeting, people shared some things going on in their lives that the leader had no idea was going on. After each person shared, there was a new appreciation of the challenges each person was experiencing in addition to their work-related problems. There was a sense of “we are all in this together” as the team developed greater empathy and understanding about each person’s unique situation.
Here is a process you can use to facilitate a team check-in:
- If you are not meeting face to face, use video conferencing if at all possible.
- Set the stage: “We are all going through a lot and working hard to mitigate this situation. At the same time, we are all personally impacted. Please take this time to share with the team what is going on with you personally. Who would like to go first?”
- Rather than go in a circle, let each person share as they are ready. Allow people to share as much or little as they are comfortable with.
- You may want to go first to demonstrate vulnerability and set the stage.
- As people share, resist trying to fix their situation or “finding the positive” for them. This is about listening, empathizing and showing support – not about making people feel better.
- After each person shares (or at the end of this meeting), ask: “What is one thing the team can do to support you right now?”
Option #2: Check-in with each person individually
If you try option #1, this is a great follow up. Make a point to schedule time with each person, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Check-in on their situations and offer any support you can. Remember, you don’t need to fix the situation, because sometimes you can’t. But by listening and showing that you care, you will help them process their feelings and this is a step toward healing.
If possible, check-in at least once a week. Encourage the team members to check in on each other too.
Option #3: Send a text message or email
When time is extra tight, send a text or email just letting them know you are thinking about them. It might be a personal message, words of encouragement, a funny meme, or just a series of emojis. The point is to demonstrate that they are on your mind and that you care. This only takes seconds, but the positive impact will last much longer.
As we work together through pandemics or natural disasters or war, we need to remember the human side of our teams and clients. Everyone needs support. Some are more resilient, and some may hide their emotions, but I believe we all need to be listened to and feel cared for by others.
A personal bonus in helping others is that it empowers and strengthens us. We feel like we are making a positive impact. We feel useful…. and we are.
Who can you check-in with right now?
About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing. Learn about her Better Teams Model and Team Assessment here.
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