If only we’d been better at practicing for this…… now we dive into remote work without the floaties!

One of the challenges of remote working is that we are sitting in front of a screen – so much like a TV. The brain says this is an inanimate object, it’s not 2-way, and we use less warmth, we feel less connected, we can switch off and do all sorts of other things. Bring on the distractions!

I’ve been doing a lot more remote coaching and webinars over the last couple of years and I wanted to share a couple of tips that help to create warmth and empathy.

Use videoconferencing such as Zoom, whenever you can. Email, text, message or call if you have to, but make sure you use video as often as you can to connect with your co-workers and customers. Get face-to-face time in.

Prime yourself for trust and empathy. You can create the oxytocin chain reaction and that will make a big difference to the warmth of your interaction. Intentionally prime yourself to trust the person you are engaging with, this will increase your ability to understand their emotions. Imagine that you are WITH the person. You will be able to work more effectively together.

Send short videos providing updates. Think about the person, prep your message, record it, and send.

Don’t just stick to business, have fun!

Make it PHYSICAL distance and distant SOCIALISING, not social distancing!

Nice reframe from Greenaway, Saeri & Cruwys in The Conversation.

To keep us safe from covid-19 we need to do PHYSICAL distancing. And we need to maintain social contact, if by distant means.

Calling it social distancing could have additional, unintended consequences (leaving aside the real consequences for now).  If we keep priming ourselves for ‘social distance’ maybe we create even more of it, perhaps we feel it more.

A leader I’m working with has taken on responsibility for their organisation’s incident response with a direct team of + 20. How to have all the conversations she needs to have, and how to make sure that she meets everyone’s needs?

She wanted to end calls with people because she had more calls to make, but she felt obligated to listen to their concerns and not cut them off.

Belonging and social needs weren’t being met. Everything was focused on the crisis.

We discussed explicitly marking out social conversations – good mornings, virtual coffees, a virtual water cooler space, end of day goodbyes. And having the support of an ‘inner cabinet’ who do the same.

The social isn’t going to happen by accident – leaders need to structure it in to show its value.

How many virtual coffees could you have today?

How to create a good team vibe remotely

In another coaching session with a leader who needed HELP with her team, she’s inducting staff, managing a refreshed team, having to temporarily to cover a team leader’s absence.

The remote meetings they’ve been having are pretty uninspiring, and unless it’s mandatory, people don’t turn up. We talked about creating a structure for engaging with people. What do you normally do? How do you translate that online?

Induction was neglected – it’s such an important time to build relationship, establish culture and ways of working. We planned a structure of daily conversations, informal conversations, as well as work-tasking, and identified the right cadence for each of these.

The team’s renewing, but not much work was being done to build ‘team’. Weekly coffee catch-ups, lunch and learns, informal sessions can all be online.

Preparation is so much more important, especially when you’re meeting with more senior or external stakeholders – be clear about the agenda, who plays what roles, which people are contributors vs observers.

How to foster calm fortitude and resilience in a time of crisis

In this resource from Institute of Coaching, McLean/Harvard Medical School, they provide five tips that are designed for coaches – yet as applicable for all leaders – for how to stay positive, responsive, agile and effective in this confusing and uncertain time.

This is based on research on psychological capital by Fred Luthans & Carolyn M. Youssef-Morgan.

  1. Be a realistic optimist. Planning for worst-case scenarios is paralysing if not balanced with exploring the upside. Spend as much time on the positives as the negatives.
  2. Generate grounded hope. Design short term goals that are motivating and meaningful AND the pathways to help you achieve them.
  3. Cultivate efficacy, which comes from a balance of stretch + success. If you don’t feel confident you can achieve a goal, break it down. The bigger the challenge, the smaller the steps. Celebrate EVERY small step.
  4. Drive resilience. Doing the above helps. Add in a focus on the positives such as gratitude, connection, collaboration, compassion, love, success, transcendence of obstacles.
  5. Make sure you take care of you – exercise, good nutrition, sleep are the basics. Add mindfulness. And make sure you have the right set-up for all that extra time you are spending online!! Move and stretch to prevent muscle cramps and longer-term postural problems.

Promoting optimism is especially worthwhile, both for yourself and for others. Optimism is an expectation that good things will happen, that the future will be favourable and that we have some control over what happens to us.

In a study of 70,000 women over a decade and 1,500 men over 30 years, researchers found that the most optimistic individuals lived 11-15 per cent longer. Optimists were significantly more likely to reach 85. Other explanations, like education, health behaviours, chronic disease, etc, were taken into account. WHY optimism matters so much is not so clear, but THAT IT MATTERS, is.

Now more than ever…… resilience and well-being in our new (temporary) world of work is a core focus for leadership action.

What might you do to inspire more optimism in your team?

How are you continuing to build your team, and keep the social connections powering away even while you are physically distant?

And what are you doing to nourish yourself? You’re not just looking after the team’s needs, you’ve got to look after your own. Stay safe and well! 



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