How’s My Outfit?
Do these colors work for me? Is my jacket hanging right? Are these pants flattering?
This is a thought process I went through every single day — until the global pandemic hit, and I stopped wearing work pants. And that’s when I realized I am spending way too much time focused on my outer appearance, and not enough time thinking about how I am doing on the inside.
Organizations wrestle with this too….
Before effective work can be done serving the greater community, our organizations need to first look inward at their own “outfit.”
- How healthy is our workplace community?
- Does our organization have characteristics of a happy, productive organization?
- Do we have a culture of transparency and feedback?
- Does our environment support innovation and creativity?
- How strong is our leadership?
- Do we hold each other accountable?
Even if your organization met many of these marks pre-pandemic, odds are, external factors have caused soft spots to spread and holes to expand.
Whether your organizational outfit was right on track, or in need of some improvement, crisis allows us to reestablish norms, and even improve.
As a team leader/manager, here are three things you can do now to set new precedent.
- Do a mindset check-in. Begin a supervision session by really asking how your team member is doing. This accomplishes three things: 1) It demonstrates compassionate management; 2) it acknowledges and clears personal distractions to make way for the actual work; and 3) it reinforces trust and reminds us that we’re human. As leadership coach and author Emily Axelrod said, “How you enter a space and how you leave a space is just as important as what happens in that space.” Compassionate management is a good way to start and finish supervision.
- Encourage self-management. Rather than adhering to hierarchical structures that may have worked pre-pandemic, encourage team members to trust their own experience and instincts and move ahead with work. Seeking permission and approval maybe didn’t slow things down when teams were all on site, but remotely this can take too much time and create bottlenecks. Although removing barriers is the idea, through regular supervision meetings, managers should have a sense of what team members are working on. Encouraging self-management is not permission to go rogue.
- Increase shout-outs. You may have made note to begin weekly, in-person, team staff meetings by highlighting individual and collective successes, and you might still be doing that in your weekly zoom staff meeting. That’s great–but now weekly is not enough. With teams working remotely, shout-outs need to be significantly increased to help boost and maintain morale. Consider virtual high-fives via text, email, zoom and on the work-share platform your team uses. Remember, there’s no watercooler, no “nice job” opportunities in the hallways. Figure out ways to tell team members you know they’re doing great work.
In the days just after 9/11, I was an entry-level development professional at a large non-profit organization. I cannot remember what anyone did to pave the path forward for the work that needed to get done: the regular work, then also large crisis response efforts. But I know things didn’t stand still. Once that crisis passed (and once this one does too) team members might not remember the particulars, but they will remember, as did I post-9/11, how they felt. Moreover, in order to help a community on behalf of an organization, you’ve got to take stock and take action to strengthen your workplace community.
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