The Professional – The Coronavirus Chronicles: 5 Ways to Keep a Team Motivated & Engaged While Working From Home

To be absolutely certain, SARS-CoV-2 has altered and disrupted contemporary life as we know it. Our daily routines have been cast into disarray; so we steel ourselves daily with the resolve and steadfastness to answer different challenges we all face. As I stated in my previous post, working remotely from home is not as glamorous as it may appear to the public. Trust, those of us that can work remotely are blessed. However, there are some challenges that cannot be ignored. Locked down utilizing whatever space is available to conduct work efficiently and effectively can be challenging. For example, my role and responsibilities require a consistent carousel of interaction with suppliers, hospital personnel, sales representatives, executive leadership, and fellow colleagues. These tasks are not an issue within the comforting confines of a cubicle or meeting room. Now, at home – not so much. Without a doubt, the concept of work-life balance has been disrupted. Coupled with the elimination of in-person team collaboration and the specter of furlough or termination; the combined stress can deplete what little remains of a worker’s drive and enthusiasm. As leaders, how can we keep a team motivated and engaged when the energy just isn’t there given the current environment? I am not an expert, but I offer 5 tips below that might be helpful.

  1. A leader should offer sincere praise, praise, and even more praise for a job performed well. Sure, a reward with monetary value would definitely be appreciated. Nevertheless, do not underestimate the strength of verbally acknowledging a colleague’s work and work ethic. Moreover, a leader should actively encourage team members to praise one another. A leader should encourage colleagues to share successes with the team and provide positive work-related topics. Welcoming a positive vibe can definitely boost morale. Now, if a leader really wants to add a personal touch of appreciation, a digital gift card from Grubhub is a popular and inexpensive option. Digital greeting cards that express gratitude is also a great option.
  2. During uncertain and worrisome times, it would not be unusual for a colleague to lose connectivity to their purpose. It is important that a leader touch base with their team periodically throughout the week. During these remote meetings, it is vital to incorporate the company’s mission and vision into the team dialogue. I am not suggesting one quote said mission and vision verbatim. A savvy leader should be able to weave a cogent theme that gently reminds the team of its purpose and role. He or she should clearly state attainable goals, identify areas of opportunity, and tie it all back to mission – which should be mirrored by both the company and team. Remind the team what is at stake and why it is important for the sustainability of the business.
  3. Communication. Communication. Communication. Whether a leader is using Cisco Jabber, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts or simply picking up a telephone; maintaining connectivity with one’s colleagues can help facilitate collaboration and teamwork even from afar. A leader should definitely encourage colleagues to contact one another with the tools provided by the company. On a personal note, during a call this week, I was happy to be informed that 2 of my colleagues had set up their own personal, weekly touch base to review work and set goals as they worked collaboratively.
  4. Just stating facts, I would guess that many colleagues do not hold an undying allegiance to their employer. Completely understanding that reality, yet ensuring that the work at hand is performed, I encourage colleagues to focus on the team to achieve job success. Once when the team was inundated with work and the situation appeared hopeless, I bluntly told them that the cavalry was not coming to the rescue, we only had each other. I also encourage colleagues to view their jobs pridefully as a service to their customers or community. The way a colleague performs their duty is a barometer of how well we serve the public.
  5. In this time of uncertainty, it is paramount that a leader never loses grasp of the human element. Work is work. Nevertheless, that work is performed by individuals. And those individuals carry fear, nervousness, anger, anxiety, and much more. I make a genuine effort to ask my colleagues about non-work related topics. It is my belief that fostering sincere camaraderie amongst colleagues can drive them to work harder, again not for the company, but for each other and the community. And it demonstrates an honest attempt to view them more than just a worker – they are a person.

No More Mr. Nice Guy Misconceptions- 5 Effective Leadership Approaches For a Nice Guy

Broadly speaking, every gentleman has perhaps struggled with some form of insecurity at a particular juncture in life. And I am certainly not a beneficiary of any special exclusions. To be sure, I am not immune to episodes of uneasiness and internal distress with what I perceive as personal character flaws. I put forth the best effort to manage and suppress feelings of uncertainty and dissatisfaction; sometimes with success and other times falling short. In many ways, writing is very therapeutic, and it is always my hope that my musings serve as encouragement and empowerment to readers. A circumstance this week prompted some self-reflection regarding certain insecurities that are a source of a long-standing internal battle. This is going to sound odd, but I struggle with being a nice guy. I understand that may seem strange, but allow me to explain further in detail.

If I may make the assumption, I am quite confident that my family, friends, and associates would describe me as a nice guy. And in many instances, that designation would be a compliment. I consider myself respectful, pleasant, courteous, and kind. These should be considered noble traits. However, being classified as a nice guy also has a negative connotation. In addition to the aforementioned characteristics, I can also be described as a guy that is soft-spoken, quiet, and non-confrontational. All things combined, well, now the moniker of being a nice guy takes a turn for the worse. When some individuals have referred to me as a “nice guy”, I am intelligent enough to decipher the context. Weak. Passive. Soft. When I became a supervisor, there wasn’t a question of knowledge or work ethic, but some individuals questioned whether I possessed people management skills necessary to lead a team. After all, I was a nice guy, and nice guys are pushovers.

The prevailing and misguided philosophy regarding management is one has to lead with bluster, aggression, and micromanagement. Colleagues disdain those types of leaders, yet subconsciously, people tend to believe those traits get the job done – for better or for worse. This typifies toxic leadership, so it is usually worse. Now, those adjectives don’t describe my personality, as I am a laid-back and easy-going individual. Now what occurred recently (centered around a work issue) was a subtle implication that my nice personality prevented me from making hard decisions, especially when friends within the department are involved. Admittedly, this tapped into my insecurity of being perceived as the “nice guy”. In other words: passive, soft, hesitant, and weak. I am fully aware of the perceptions, and I would not be truthful if I were to say the perceptions didn’t irritate me and cause some second-guessing of my work skills.

However, you might find it interesting to know that perception does not necessarily align with reality. The reality is that amongst management, I am one of few with the most corrective actions, and unfortunately, I have had to separate a colleague from the company. This belies the perception of being a pushover, as theoretically I should not be able to address difficult colleagues or situations. Trust me as I tell you that my initial years being a supervisor were wrought with challenges that I never envisioned – it was insanity. Nevertheless, I was able to navigate the most problematic circumstances and colleagues, yet the perception of being a nice guy remained unchanged. How?

The label bothers me, regardless of the facts, and I even contemplate adopting a harder edge from time to time. I eventually regain my senses and dispel the silly idea. I cannot betray my character and integrity. And I suppose that it is a testimony to my leadership style that I have been able to deliver some unsavory actions, yet my name and reputation remain unsullied. I’ll probably continue to struggle with the nice guy moniker, going back and forth within myself in search of an imaginary solution. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in the same boat as me, here are a few tips to help you navigate rough waters and stay true to yourself.

5 Effective Leadership Approaches For a Nice Guy

  • A leader should never demean, disparage, or defame fellow colleagues. Good morale in the work environment is essential to the overall health and productivity of a business. If a leader is contributing to poor morale and a toxic work environment; that is definitely an issue. I ensure that treat every colleague with decency and dignity – even when delivering hard truths regarding work performance or behavior.
  • A leader must ensure that his or her management style is guided by company policies and regulations. I am confident in my decision-making because it is supported by company protocol. I make sure I am familiar with pertinent documentation offered up by human resources, and I seek clarity when it is necessary. Any accusations of shenanigans on my behalf will be hard to prove because I adhere strictly to company guidelines. Yes, I’m a square. But I don’t play favorites, as I am fair and just across the board.
  • A leader must be transparent. I will never ambush a colleague. If there are foreseeable issues on the horizon, I try my best to speak with a colleague to avoid any corrective actions. Confrontation makes me uneasy, so I attempt to avoid it. I am always honest with colleagues. I do not tell them what they want to hear. I tell them what they need to hear – no matter how uncomfortable the conversation.
  • Leaders must demonstrate follow through on their word. Declarations of punitive measures without the proper consequences are meaningless. No one will ever take you seriously because colleagues will conclude that you never enforce warnings. Trust, I still get butterflies in my stomach, but I cast away whatever emotional responses I have toward the situation, and address the issue (not the person) directly per company policy. Before a serious conversation, it is not unlike me to script out talking points the day before so I can stick to the subject and never stray off the designated topic. I maintain an even, measured tone and I keep the conversation streamlined to the subject at hand.
  • A leader must be willing to help their fellow colleagues. I am a strong believer in the growth and development of their careers. It is not unusual for me to undertake the task of performing a corrective action, yet later assist that same colleague with a resume or interview preparation. I believe everyone should be treated justly and fairly regardless of previous work indiscretions.
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