Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography
It’s been quite a rollercoaster these past couple of months, hasn’t it? The COVID-19 global pandemic has shaken things up in countless ways for the majority of the workforce.
For some, these shake-ups have been monumental. The traditional workflow and status quo have done a complete 180. For example, pre-pandemic, my spouse was up at 6 am every workday. In his business suit, he commuted an hour to an office where he interacted with easily hundreds of people a day between and during a full day of meetings. Typically, he would leave the office around 6 pm and make the hour-commute home. The days were long but rewarding and very people-y.And then March hit.
Axe the commute. Axe the suit. Axe the face-to-face interactions. Keep the full day of meetings. His professional world changed drastically, and but he found ways to harness the chaos and create methodology and order.
For others, like me, my March experience wasn’t quite so tumultuous. Okay, it wasn’t tumultuous (at least when talking about work). I’ve worked remotely/from my home for the past several years. When much of the world hunkered into home offices, I welcomed them to the club. But I found that the things that usually lent spice to my days were gone – kid activities, volunteering, and socializing outside of my house halted. Work carried on while not much else did. And I’m a social scientist. It’s not like my workdays are all that action-packed to begin with.
To break up the status quo, I had to purposefully look for ways to push myself beyond the version of What About Bob I had found myself in.
The point here is that this pandemic has touched each of us in different ways. For some, it potentially created a phase of mass change. One might even call this Chaos where the protocols we typically follow to do our jobs successful completely fall out from under us. Check out our CEO’s TEDx Talk below to learn more about Chaos.
For others, the impact constipated our daily on-goings and created some stagnation. This dichotomy of experience has likely been felt by your team members, too. This is probably especially true as we navigate the murky landscape of when to bring team members back to the office and how. For most leaders, the factors at play are uncharted territory and team member reactions, perceptions, and approaches to the pandemic can be strikingly different.
Let me try to illustrate this. I conducted a quick non-scientific poll with our own EcSell team members. I asked each person to give me a couple of words to describe how they are thinking and feeling about the potential of returning to work in our own office environment. Here’s some of the descriptors they shared:
Huh. In our own team, we have a range of everything from THRILLED to SCARED and from OVERDUE to PREMATURE. There are even a few individuals who fall in the middle with responses like INDIFFERENT and UNKNOWN. Even in our fairly small team, the gamut of perspectives is pretty darn big.
Just as the experiences and sentiments of our team covers a wide range, the experiences of your team are likely the same. Some of us are struggling with the potential of coming back to the office and some of us are just plain eager. Take this a step deeper – this world experience is likely creating an environment where some are feeling out of control while others are feeling smothered.
So, with these dichotomies in mind, how does a leader try to lead in a way that helps both the team and the individual? The best way to support your team members, especially during unsettled times, is to understand their individual experiences. A great way to start these conversations is to incorporate the Growth Rings Indicator.
The Growth Rings Indictor is a web-based tool that helps work through how our environments (or things like a global pandemic) can either hinder or propel our growth and development. We’ve even created handy resources to help introduce this into your next one-to-one or team meeting. By using this tool to understand if they are bored, juggling or somewhere in-between, you can help understand their mindset and needs and maximize your team’s development and facilitate conversations.
As our teams navigate the coming months, the prudent path forward is an informed path. Our human experience offers us the obstacle, yet the beauty, of living within these times in our own unique ways. Having conversations to better understand individual, team, and leadership challenges, concerns, and hopes can be a compass for leaders to finding the most effective path through these uncharted times.