How Leaders Can Help Team Members Stay Focused, Positive and Engaged

Since March, COVID-19 has impacted virtually every aspect of our lives. Many of us are feeling worn down, restless, anxious, and depressed.  The novelty of working from home, once yearned for by many, has long since worn off.  Instead, a sense of isolation and loneliness has set in. COVID fatigue is a serious concern for both individuals and businesses because it can impact focus, positivity, engagement, and one’s overall sense of well being.  As a business leader during this pandemic, you may have noticed a subtle, negative energy creeping into your team and be wondering how you can help. These tips should set you on the right path:

Encourage self-care

Speak with your team about the importance of taking care of their physical and mental well being.  Let them know you understand the challenges they face and that feeling isolated, lonely, and disconnected are natural responses to this difficult situation. It’s possible someone on your team was already dealing with a physical or mental health issue before the pandemic and feels even more challenged currently.

Mental health is still a topic many are reticent to discuss when it relates to their own struggles. It’s important to set a supportive and accepting tone that demonstrates that you and the company understand that one’s state of health includes body and mind and that there is no shame in being unwell.  Ensure your team knows your virtual door is always open. Encourage them to access mental health services through their family physician, their extended health benefit plan, or your Employee Assistance Program if you have access to such service.

Communicate transparently about the business

Open and honest communication with employees is important in the best of times, but during a global pandemic, it’s vital.  Team members may be feeling insecure about the health of the company and their job security and look to leaders for guidance. Leaders must get ahead of any rumours and provide facts promptly.  If the company is facing challenges, employees should be told what is being done to mitigate the situation, and what they can do in their jobs to help.

Support your staff as they pivot

Pivoting is the word of the year. Most businesses have had to pivot several times in the last few months, and likely will have to continue as we adapt to the constantly changing phases of COVID-19 restrictions.  Pivoting invites people to be flexible, innovative, and agile. For some, the need to innovate is stimulating, but for others, it is draining. This reaction is not about being open or closed to change, it’s about different behavioural styles. High risk-tolerant individuals are more likely to be energized by working in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous situations, but low risk-tolerant individuals may become depleted from managing a high level of the unknown. Identify your employees’ styles and support each of them based on their style. Remain vigilant of your high risk-tolerant employees. They are more likely to overextend themselves and not be aware fatigue is catching up until it is too late.

Zoom fatigue is real

Engage your team in check-ins through quick video meetings to gauge how everyone’s doing, but be mindful that people are getting tired of carrying virtual relationships. Mix it up. Have some individual time and some team time. Change the time and day of meetings so they don’t feel stale and routine like.  Use the time for people to share their experiences and discuss non-work topics. Keep it short, as if you would at the water cooler or kitchen in the workplace.

Go outdoors!

Working from home eliminates the daily commute which enables us to get outside every day, even if it’s just for a short time.  Encourage your team to get out of the house each day and get some fresh air. A change of scene can do much to lift the spirits and reinvigorate.  If it’s cold or wet, just dress appropriately and embrace our Canadian climate.

Don’t lose sight of learning and development

While it may not be possible to attend courses in person, there are many excellent learning opportunities online.  If your organization has the budget for employee developmental opportunities, encourage them to identify courses and seminars during the pandemic as they normally would. Not only will this ensure skills and capabilities don’t fall behind, but it will also tell your team they’re valued.

With no end in sight for the pandemic and the arrival of a vaccine uncertain, we are all coming to grips with what our new normal may look like.  As 2021 approaches, remote working may be commonplace and some form of lockdown an unpleasant frequent reality.  Leaders must ensure they provide the support, assistance, and transparency their employees are counting on.

If you need help with coping strategies during the pandemic for yourself or a team member, please contact us at Forge Coaching & Consulting at 1 (905) 873-9393. We can help.

A bad boss can be a huge source of stress and unhappiness. Many on the receiving end feel the only option is to quit. In fact, a 2019 study by global staffing firm Robert Half, found that about two in five (39 percent)  of the professionals they surveyed in Canada had left a job due to a bad boss. However, quitting can come at a price.  Why should you have to leave what may be a terrific organization? Why should you have to abandon a title and salary you’ve worked hard to attain? What if your next boss is just as bad?  Feeling forced to quit is never a good thing.  Here we provide a few measures you can take to resolve the situation.

1. Speak to your boss.

This is an important conversation so be prepared. First, decide the goal of the meeting. What changes do you wish to see? Do you need more resources and support? Clearer direction?  Better communication?  More feedback?  Are you being treated unfairly or disrespectfully? What exactly do you want your boss to start doing, stop doing, or make happen?  Focus on one issue at a time and give examples when possible.  Whatever it is, be forthright, polite, and calm.  Practice what you will say and anticipate possible responses.

During the conversation, verify that you have interpreted your boss’ intention correctly.  Rather than saying  “you make me feel” try  “when you do X, I believe you want to achieve Y; is that right?”.  Ask your boss to clarify their intention, needs, and objectives. Importantly, be aware of your reactions because once we feel negatively towards someone we often assume they always have the worst intentions. Diffuse your emotions by stepping back and considering your boss’ values.  What must they do to achieve their deliverables? What do they need from you to meet their objectives?  Seeing things from their perspective might help you understand them better.

2. Consider approaching HR.

If talking to your boss does not improve things you will need to consider your next steps. One option is to approach HR. How comfortable you feel doing that may depend on how well they have supported other employees with similar complaints. While individual complaints are confidential, you may be aware of your HR department’s reputation for handling such things.  If you do meet with HR, clearly explain the issue and what you have done to resolve it. They may have helped others in a similar situation and suggest a way forward that you had not considered.

3. Take care of your physical and mental well-being.

Coping with a bad boss can seem all-consuming but you should make time for exercise and other activities that take your mind off work. Try not to let sleep suffer and do what you can to unwind before bedtime such as meditation, yoga, or reading.  Be mindful of negative internal conversations or self-talk which can become habitual under duress.  When you start down a negative thought path change direction by focussing on something that makes you happy, such as an upcoming trip. Negative self-talk does nothing but sap energy and heighten anxiety.

4. Make time for your support network.

It’s important to engage with your support network when experiencing stress or anxiety. Connect with people who encourage and support you.  Time with friends or a weekend away with the family can be invigorating and remind you that work is just one component of your life. Talking to a trained coach or therapist would also provide support and expert advice.

5. Explore job opportunities within your current organization.

If a new job seems your only option, explore opportunities within your own organization first. You might be able to escape your boss without leaving the company. Find out how internal positions are posted and network with other departments.  Update your résumé, research suitable positions, and create a convincing case for transitioning to a new role. Apply as much effort in securing your new internal job as you would a job outside of the company.

6. Quit with dignity and professionalism.

Sometimes, leaving the company may be your only option. If the situation is overwhelming, you are depressed, anxious, or unable to do your best work, it’s probably time to go.  Although it may be tempting to tell your boss exactly what you think of them when you resign, it is better to not burn bridges in person, or via your resignation letter, which will be kept on file.  However, if HR asks for an exit interview you may choose to oblige but stick to the facts and be professional about it.  When you quit, be ready to leave the building with your personal belongings, contact lists,  and important papers, just in case you are not allowed back to your desk. Return all company items and get a receipt. Even if you are desperate to get away from your boss, it’s wise to honour the agreed notice period.

7. Transition properly and deliver on your commitments.

Ensure your boss and colleagues understand what you will do before leaving. If you say you will complete something, make sure you do. Don’t give anyone a reason to criticize you after you are gone.

8. Don’t criticize Your boss.

Never vilify your boss in a job interview. Even if the interviewer seems sympathetic, they may infer it’s you who’s the problem. Decide in advance how you will explain your resignation or desire to leave. Do not let the conversation devolve into a complaining session.

If you have a bad boss, you might take comfort in knowing you are far from alone.  Despite billions of dollars spent annually on leadership and managerial development, bad bosses exist in every organization and industry. Forge Coaching & Consulting can provide expert advice about how to cope in this difficult situation.  If you have a terrible boss, we can help.

Manon Dulude is interviewed by Dr. Katrina Burrus, MCC.

Strategies and Tactics to improve your business, leadership, and coaching:

  • How did you come to add coaching to your practice as a psychotherapist?
  • How are coaching and therapy different?
  • When you researched for your Ph.D., there was a surprising discovery, can you tell us about that?
  • Being a psychotherapist, how do you assess and coach clients differently than others coaches might?
  • You and your colleague created a, “Coaching Continue Model” and how does this apply to coaching leaders?

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Once the subject of science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) — sometimes called machine intelligence —  is now a reality for many companies and consumers.  Arguably, not since the advent of the internet has a technology held such promise as a driver of innovation and new ways of doing business.  AI has the potential to impact virtually every industry and is capturing the imagination of executives around the world as they try to understand and optimize it.  Further, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc., the global artificial intelligence market is expected to reach US $390.9 billion by 2025. Clearly, AI is here to stay, but it’s not without controversy.

Numerous studies point to AI as a significant source of future job loss, especially where it contributes to automating low-skill or repetitive activities.  In fact, according to  Oxford Economics: up to 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide will be lost to robots by 2030.  As well, certain demographics are at greater risk of being replaced by machines. A study by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), found that women hold  58% of the jobs most likely to be automated. A good example of this is the increasing number of self-service check-outs emerging at grocery  and drug stores.

Conversely, other studies highlight how AI is creating jobs, or at least eliminating routine tasks from within jobs, freeing humans to focus on matters of greater value and interest. As well, workers do seem to be getting on board with AI once they experience it.  A global study by Oracle and Future Workplace of more than 8,300 employees, managers and HR leaders,  found “the majority (65 percent) of workers are optimistic, excited and grateful about having robot co-workers and nearly a quarter report having a loving and gratifying relationship with AI at work.”

The same study also explored opinions about the various strengths of AI and humans. When asked what robots can do better than their managers, respondents said robots are better at providing unbiased information, maintaining work schedules, problem-solving, and managing a budget.  When asked what managers can do better than robots, the top three tasks were understanding their feelings, coaching them, and creating a work culture.

So, if you are not already on the path to AI, where do you begin? The following steps should help you get started:

1. Learn as much as you can about AI.

If your organization has an AI strategy how does your department fit in? What could you be doing to optimize AI within your field of work? Do you and your team members have all the available AI productivity tools, training and sources of information you need?

2. Recognize that harnessing AI requires a new mindset and new processes, even a new organizational structure.

It is about much more than new technology or new software. If the talent you need to enable the transition is not available inhouse, bring it in from outside. As well, AI is not an endeavour that the Chief Technology Officer and team handle in isolation; every employee can play a role in unleashing the potential of AI — from the CEO on down.

3. Strengthen your soft skills.

Humans and robots have different strengths. Soft skills are always important, but because hard skills seem easier for AI to master, at least for now, ensure skills such as communication, empathy, team-building, leadership, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and creativity are as strong as they can be. Our human qualities complement AI and combined they deliver a more powerful approach to business overall.

Where is your organization on the AI spectrum? Unlike the Internet, where the later arrivals learned from the missteps of the trailblazers and the crash, it’s generally accepted that the sooner you get into AI the better. Take steps to ensure you do not get left behind, as a business or as an individual.  As Mark Cuban, the American entrepreneur and TV personality puts it: “Artificial Intelligence, deep learning, machine learning —whatever you’re doing, if you don’t understand it — learn it. Because otherwise, you’re going to be a dinosaur within 3 years.”

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