How to keep your team motivated through the Covid-19 lockdown

Different leaders are engaging differently with their teams. Here's an eight-point plan to keep employees engaged and motivated, while also keeping them reassured

Bhavna Dalal
Updated: Apr 20, 2020 06:30:07 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

We are in the midst of unseen, even unimaginable times. Suddenly the standard way of doing things has changed. For us human beings, any significant change surfaces fears, anxiety and discomfort like nothing else. People are afraid of whether they will still have their jobs and incomes in a couple of months. The tendency is to fall into survival mode naturally. The focus of the entire world at the moment is on the lower band in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Any stressful situation can be leveraged as an opportunity to elevate your leadership to the next level. Instead of just getting by and existing, use this opportunity to thrive. How can you do that?

As the game has changed, the way to play the game must change too. What you are used to doing in the past will not work anymore in these times.

A common concern I am hearing from executives is how do I keep the team motivated and engaged during these times. The usual water cooler chats are not happening anymore. Most people are used to only discussing work during the scheduled virtual meetings. The connection that people felt seems to be intangible and less real now. I noticed different people dealing with work from home scenarios differently. A particular director who is usually very high strung seemed uniquely relaxed while working from home, while another typically cheerful VP seemed extremely stressed and wound up.

Here are a few ideas to keep the team engaged during these times:

  1. Accept, accept, accept: It cannot be business as usual. Even if you are resilient enough to keep going at past levels of productivity, you must recognise that that kind of pressure can break a few people. One of my clients complained that his manager is single and is using this time to push others and work extra hard. However, my client has little kids at home, and both he and his wife are finding it very difficult even to get basics done. Empathy must be practiced by the bucketload right now.
  2. Keep yourself in the maximum mental health. If you are not feeling great, how do you expect to inspire others? Try a few things with yourself. You can then share those tips with your team. The stress-energy that used to get automatically expended may now exist in your body as these uncomfortable emotions. Letting go is extremely important in whichever way you choose to release, such as exercising, meditating, reading, or other hobbies, talking to people, or even sleeping it out. Start by empathising with yourself. Extend kindness to yourself first.
  3. Each person is handling this situation differently. Ask open-ended questions to understand where each team member is at. What are their particular strengths and challenges in the current environment?
  4. Organise virtual happy hours or coffee chats. Some teams are getting everyone together and talking about topics other than work, being vulnerable, and sharing more personal tidbits.
  5. Reach out for short unscheduled water cooler chats virtually. Pick up the phone and reach out to a co-worker to connect with them—just like running into them in the break room.
  6.  Some companies have assigned a virtual room where people can come to hang out if they feel lonely or have some free time.
  7. Exercising together could be a good stress buster and bonding activity
  8. Feel free to share your real self. With many people working from home, they have kids and families around that become part of the calls, whether we want it or not. Instead of being embarrassed about it, own up to the situation. For example, if your child barges into the room, feel free to take a few minutes to get them settled and then come back to the call. Trust people to understand.

Some leaders are restless and feeling that they are not doing enough to help solve this at the team, organisation or at a global level. I had this experience personally. I had to remind myself that every little thing helps. The most crucial thing is to stay focussed and do what you do best.

The writer is founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India

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The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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