3 Small Gestures You Can Make To Comfort Your Team During Covid-19. With The English You Have.
But every morning you wake up in good spirits looking forward to the working day ahead.
You’re ‘locked-in’ at home, but you have successfully adjusted to working from home (WFH) with all the issues that that involves, managed the children and connected virtually with your team.
And yet, by the end of the day, you feel deflated. You’ve spent the whole day extinguishing fires, participating in strategic meetings and trying to keep your international team’s spirits up.
You’re trying to stay positive but it’s getting harder and harder. You’re trying to bolster your team by starting each meeting with some small talk. But no one’s really in the mood for what feels like meaningless chit chat. Besides, there aren’t many small talk topics that feel relevant at the moment – sport, travel, hobbies, restaurants, favourite food, the weekend’s activities.
But you persevere. You ask about what creative things people are doing instead – online exercise classes, online gin & tonic parties, online theatre screenings, fill in the blanks. You encourage them to share their new experiences.
Added to that you’re watching a gazillion free webinars, reading plenty of articles and social media posts offering you endless tips on how to stay healthy, sane and positive. You’re doing all of this so that you have strategies you can implement in those meetings.
These topics are ‘safe’. These topics are ‘safe’ because you have the necessary English vocabulary to discuss them. These topics allow you to stay positive.
You need to stay positive for your team.
I have a question.
How’s staying positive working for you?
For me, it’s draining. Every time I tell myself to be positive I want to scream. I don’t always want to be positive. I want to cry. I want to be angry. I want to vent my frustration. I want to show my fear of what’s happening all around us.
Above all, I want to grieve.
For the loss of my freedom to go out (albeit temporarily). For the loss of physical connection. For how Covid-19 has changed our lives in a blink of an eye. For how terrifying it is.
I am not alone in feeling this way. I bet you do. I bet your team does. I know my clients do.
And yet, you don’t talk about it to each other. You insist on putting on a brave face. You tell yourself that it’s unprofessional, as a leader, to share such vulnerable feelings.
It’s much easier to keep things on a neutral level.
It’s easier because you don’t think you have the necessary English to communicate how you truly feel. To invite your team to share their fears with you.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
I love this quote. It challenges the importance we place on our words. We think that if we say more and use more words, we’ll make people feel better about themselves.
But whilst expressing yourself with words makes you feel better (think of all those therapy sessions), they don’t help you lead your team. They don’t help you comfort your team. They don’t make your team feel better.
What helps is if you make the following small gestures.
3 small gestures you can make to comfort your team without perfect English.
#1: An attentive ear
Your team needs you to listen to them without offering advice. Without speaking. They need you to give them permission to pour their heart out. So shut up and listen. “I am listening”. Of course, this is not always appropriate in a business meeting.
So, operate a ‘virtual open- door’ policy for them to enter. Or arrange a regular private online chat with them.
Working online can create a feeling of disconnection. By encouraging a virtual open-door policy, you’re saying to them, “let’s connect”.
#2: Start with you
“How’s everyone feeling?” How many times have you asked this question at the start of a meeting only to receive the obligatory ‘fine’?
No one will volunteer information that might betray their vulnerability.
If you truly want to encourage your team to open up, start with how you’re feeling. “Let me share how I am feeling right now/I have been feeling in the past week.”
You don’t have to use sophisticated English. “I have been feeling sad/anxious because I worry about my children/ how long this is going to last/what our future will be/ my elderly parents…” Share your personal side.
Once your team sees that you’re feeling the same way as they are, they’ll feel encouraged and brave to share.
#3: A closing note/remark of encouragement at the end of an email/at the end of the meeting.
All you need are these words: “I am here for you”, “We’re in this together.”
If you take time out to reflect, you’ll find that:
- These small gestures will never be forgotten because of how you made your team feel.
- These small gestures are what will comfort your team.
- These small gestures communicate compassion, humanity and decency.
No more English words needed.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home. We’re in this together.