Organizations focused on healthy workplace cultures consistently develop and implement programs and offer resources to support employee engagement. The current trend is to offer additional wellbeing and resilience resources to help employees process the stress and changes of the past year. In fact, I have partnered with several of my coaching peers to develop a menu of webinars and development sessions related to wellbeing and resilience. These programs can have great benefits in helping employees build stress management awareness and skills, but some employees and teams may be looking for support that is more specific to their ongoing work experience. If the organizational level programs aren’t working for your team or your team isn’t interested in engaging with them, what can you do?
Start with what you know - you already have all of the right ingredients for success. If a customer came to you with a problem, you would engage organizational resources to address it. Meeting customer needs might even be the day to day work of your team. You can use the same creative problem solving skills to support your team engagement and resilience. Bold leadership is needed because you may find yourself challenging organizational norms and old ways of doing things that no longer work for your team.
If your goal is an engaged, motivated and effective team following a period of significant challenge and workplace changes, try this four step process to understand current barriers and co-create an approach to work that works.
Step 1: Ask questions!
Get curious and ask your team lots of questions about their work. Focus on how their approach to work has shifted over the last year. Ask what is going well and what is not. Ask follow up questions to dig deeper -- this will require courageous leadership because your team may share things about their work experience that are hard to hear or may be challenging to resolve.
Avoid problem solving in the moment for bigger picture or policy related concerns, but if broken technology or other quickly addressed items are holding them back, take care of it immediately. This shows a personal commitment and bias for action that will build trust with your employees. Ask what they need to be most effective in their roles from a place of empathy -- this is not a performance management conversation. Listen for themes across your teams.
Step 2: Consider the themes
You likely heard overlapping comments on what is going well for your team and what doesn’t work for them. Make a list of the most common positive and negative responses about the current work environment. Consider the themes in the context of current organizational policies or practices. At the same time, don’t be afraid to look outside your organization to look at how others are addressing the challenges that your team has brought forward.
Step 3: Bring the team together (virtually)
If remote work or a hybrid environment is part of your permanent future and that’s not how your team worked previously, host a virtual team meeting. If you have been working in person due to your industry - healthcare, manufacturing, education, or hospitality; this conversation is still important. Share the themes you heard as a way to spark deeper conversation. Ask your team to draw on the skills they use to create innovative solutions for customers to solve for their own workplace needs. Offer space for expansive and optimistic thinking -- go big! Come back to your bias for action by concluding the session with concrete steps on what you will do next to bring their ideas forward.
Step 4: Advocate for team needs
Turn your conversations into action. Urgency matters -- your team is counting on you to advocate for them. Be realistic about what your organization is willing to accommodate but don’t be afraid to question constraints and bring forward the data from your team meetings to support a case for change. This is the time to be a bold leader and have courageous conversations with your peers and leaders about changing workplace expectations. If organization-wide change isn’t in the cards, volunteer to pilot a solution with your team. Be willing to take responsibility for implementing the pilot program and reporting results as part of making the case for change that your team is seeking. Actively communicate with your team as you are advocating on their behalf to continue to build trust and confidence.
Organizations know that engaged employees deliver better business results. Your leadership is one of the top factors driving your team’s engagement. By actively listening to your team, engaging them in solving their own challenges, and advocating for their needs, you will build trust and credibility with your team and your peers. The momentum you create may even have positive ripple effects across the organization. Now, that’s a recipe for bold leadership.
Originally published on LinkedIn