The Team Pulse Check Every Leader Should be Taking (even as COVID-19 restrictions ease)

Leaders and people managers continue to be faced with the challenge of how to make sure they engage their teams and provide clear and supportive direction, even as restrictions on businesses lift and we all return to a new normal.

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ince the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us have had to reassess and re-prioritize how we go about our professional and personal lives. Habits have changed, new hobbies experimented with, and coping mechanisms adopted. By now, most of us have resigned ourselves to the awkwardness of video conference calls and have exhausted all of the online icebreakers and Zoom background options. While the virus is novel, the novelty of working from home has worn off.

Leaders and people managers are in the unique position of not only leading teams through an unfolding and fluid global crisis, but also being mindful of how their team members’ interpersonal, mental and physical well-being has evolved throughout the pandemic.

What worked in Week 1 of the lock down, may not necessarily work in Week 15.

Taking some time to pause and assess your style in a changing landscape will allow you to quickly tweak how you lead your teams effectively and dynamically. A quick pulse check can be used to make sure you are asking yourself probing questions and is rooted in 4 main tenets: trust, flexibility, focus and reflection.

1. Trust

The trust fostered within a team drives effective decision-making, elevates team member engagement, and improves communication.

A few things to ask yourself when assessing the trust within your team:

How does the problem solving process unfold?

  • Are team members identifying and escalating issues, working together to come up with solutions and engaged in discussions about new opportunities and challenges?

Is the team dynamic inclusive?

  • Is there an overall openness to new ideas, ways of thinking, and feedback on how things are going?
  • If there hasn’t been diversity in team input, is this indicative of some team members holding back on their input?

Are the lines of communication open?

  • Does the team have a good understanding of the decisions made, current opportunities and challenges, and future plans, as they pertain to the team, the organization, and the landscape business is conducted within?
  • Have team members directly confirmed their understanding?

2. Flexibility

We are in a world that is shifting and changing at a pace that feels more rapid than ever. The includes how we work and interact with one another. The needs of team members while they navigate through COVID-19 are more dynamic and complicated than they have been in the past.

Are we giving space to accommodate what people are dealing with and need?

  • How accurate is our understanding of our teams needs, have they been directly confirmed, and are they current?

3. Focus

While flexibility provides the capacity to meet needs, focus ensures the right needs are being met.

Is the team focussed?

  • Can each team member articulate what their top areas of focus are, what tasks have been recently delegated to them, and what projects have been delayed or dropped?

How well are we responding to shifting priorities?

  • Do team members have an up to date and accurate understanding of organizational or team priorities and timelines, and has this understanding been confirmed with them directly?
  • Have they provided input on the challenges and opportunities they anticipate will arise as a result?

Are the right people at the table?

  • Are the appropriate decision makers, experts, advisors, and other stakeholders, both internally and externally, lined up to lend input and support to areas of focus, particularly those that are time sensitive?

4. Reflection

Creating opportunities for the team to recharge and re-calibrate will allow them to take stock of how they are doing and what they need moving forward, so that they can thrive in all aspects of their lives.

Are we giving space to accommodate what people are dealing with and need?

  • Do we have a clear understanding of what practices team members have employed to support their well-being, and have we created an environment to accommodate these goals?
  • As each of us have experienced the implications of the pandemic differently, have we created an environment where team members feel encouraged to think about their well-being and adopt methods that work for them?

COVID-19 has brought on a new level of empathy, openness and flexibility needed in leadership.

There has been a significant shift in how teams have been led through this crisis, and what it’s required of leaders to do so effectively. The leader that is able to question and shift their style in response to the team and the environment, will likely emerge on the other side of COVID-19 with an even stronger team than they did heading in.

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