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How CEOs Can Support Employee Mental Health in a Crisis

Executive Summary

Covid-19’s second-order crisis is starting to emerge: the toll it is taking on our mental health. In a global study of more than 2,700 employees across more than 10 industries undertaken by Qualtrics and SAP during March and April 2020, 75% of people say they feel more socially isolated, 67% of people report higher stress, 57% are feeling greater anxiety, and 53% say they feel more emotionally exhausted. What can CEOs and managers do? The author, himself a CEO, suggests a five-step process: 1) Open the door so staff know you are available to talk about the issue, 2) Demonstrate supportive listening, 3) Be consistent in your messaging, 4) Keep a constant pulse on how your staff are handling the stress in the aggregate, and 5) Communicate available resources.

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Business leaders are justifiably focused on the here and now of the Covid-19 pandemic, but there’s a looming second-order mental health crisis that is only beginning to emerge as a result of global quarantines and a massive, sudden shift to working from home. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 75% of people say they feel more socially isolated, 67% of people report higher stress, 57% are feeling greater anxiety, and 53% say they feel more emotionally exhausted, according to a global study of over 2,700 employees across more than 10 industries undertaken by Qualtrics and SAP during March and April 2020.

As humans we can handle change, but we do not do well with uncertainty. Given the enormous uncertainty everyone is facing —economically, personally, and professionally — these mental health statistics are as predictable as they are alarming. Using the data from the study and our own experience as CEOs, we have identified five steps every leader and manager should take to make an immediate impact:

1. Open the Door

Nearly 40% of people say their company has not even asked them how they’re doing since the pandemic began. That’s shocking. People in this group are 38% more likely to say their mental health has declined since the outbreak of the pandemic. How can we expect to help our people if we don’t even ask how they are doing? So step one is to simply ask, “Are you okay?”

Further Reading

I suspect that a desire to respect privacy is inhibiting these manager-employee conversations. But in our study, nearly three out five of people said they are comfortable with their manager proactively asking them about their mental health. Even more importantly, more than 40% of people said they want their manager to broach the subject. So open the door to a conversation by asking if people are okay, and then let them walk through that door in the way they are most comfortable, accepting that around 40 percent of employees will choose not to engage. That’s okay, too.

Our research shows that the mental health of your reports should not be outsourced to human resources. In fact, when people were asked to rank who they were willing to talk to about mental health concerns, (selecting from a list including their manager, peers, subordinates, HR, and company executives), people listed HR as the group they were least willing to talk to about mental health. Peers and managers were the two groups with whom people were most willing to address mental health.

2. Demonstrate Supportive Listening

For employees who do choose to talk about their mental health, managers need to practice supportive listening. Don’t try to solve everything all at once. Instead just listen, seek to genuinely understand, and ensure that people feel heard. And don’t be afraid to open up yourself. Reciprocation can be a powerful tool to build trust. Share how you personally are handling the new normal. Be vulnerable. According to our data, roughly 40% of people at every seniority level of a company have seen a decrease in mental health. That means that whether you’re the CEO, a mid-level manager, or a frontline employee, you are just as likely to be suffering. The sooner people realize they are not alone in this, the better we’ll be at supporting each other.

I think back to recent conversations I had with two members of our team. One is a single mother who is balancing home school for her two kids (one of whom is in French immersion), her job, and concern for an elderly parent who lives far away. The other is an employee who is single, lives alone, and talked about the crushing isolation he is feeling. My challenges are different, but we all have them. For all of us, this has been one of the weirdest and most emotional times of our lives. We all need to learn to demonstrate supportive listening and be appropriately vulnerable with each other, recognizing that while all of our situations are different, they are all difficult in their own way.

3. Be Consistent

Talking about mental health is not a one and done conversation. One way to help people deal with uncertainty is by providing consistency, especially in how and when you communicate. When it comes to the pandemic, more than 90% of people said they wanted at least weekly communication from their company; 29% said they prefer daily communication. When it comes to discussing mental health specifically, people say that far and away the most effective form of company communication is a phone call directly from one’s manager. Employees who say their manager is not good at communicating are 23% more likely to experience mental health declines. Regular, consistent communication from managers is essential to ensuring people feel supported.

4. Keep a Constant Pulse

It’s not just about helping our managers take care of their teams, we need to take care of our managers as well — and we need to do it while keeping a constant pulse on the company as a whole. To best do that at scale, companies should be sending a regular employee pulse survey to understand how each team, department, and the company as a whole are doing. This is not a moment to be reactive as a leader: You need to get ahead of trends and understand the sentiment of your workforce so you can take action quickly.

Our study found that nearly one in three employees say their team does not maintain informal contact while working from home. People who are lacking informal contact are 19% more likely to report a decline in mental health since the pandemic began. So much of this stems from the fact that with so many people quarantined in their own homes, we have lost the opportunity for watercooler conversations and impromptu run-ins that give us energy and spark new ideas and collaboration. We can’t replicate that exactly, but we have seen many of our teams hosting virtual happy hours to end the week or having a virtual lunch where people can just catch up, share stories, and maintain connection. By regularly running employee pulse surveys you can begin to spot problems early.

5. Communicate Available Resources

Lastly, make sure you are very clear about the mental health resources available to everyone at your company. Almost half of workers said their company has not proactively shared what mental health resources are available to them. To be sure, some people want and need to leverage those resources, but many more people just want to know that the resources are there. As we noted, people don’t do well with uncertainty. That’s why just knowing that resources are available goes a long way to ease anxiety and stress. People who said their company has proactively shared how to access mental health resources are 60% more likely to say that their company cares about their wellbeing.

The mental health crisis stemming from Covid-19 is serious and will be with us for some time to come. Let’s approach it with compassion, honesty, and openness. We will emerge from this as better leaders, better people, and better companies.

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5 Questions That (Newly) Virtual Leaders Should Ask Themselves

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It is safe to say, that for the first time in the age of technology, ad hoc face-to-face meetings are no longer an option for many people. While we don’t anticipate in-person meetings to go away forever, working during the Covid-19 crisis does provide us with the opportunity to reflect on how the best leaders succeed in virtual environments.

Further Reading

For many, working from home, and communicating through digital mediums like Slack, Zoom, and WebEx, are nothing new. Many business models have supported virtual work for years as a necessity to accommodate employees and clients in various locations. Still, while technology has improved our ability to get work done and communicate remotely, we have not yet been forced to develop a set of best practices for leading remote teams at the capacity that has been brought on by this crisis.

My intent here is to challenge leaders to pause and identify what they need to do differently not only to sustain, but also to strengthen their skills in a virtual setting‚ particularly during a time when their teams are looking to them more than ever for direction.

First, it’s important to be aware of the factors that make working together virtually such a challenge:

  • For some, it’s uncomfortable. Every day, I watch my teenagers laugh and chat with their friends on Facetime, as if they were just another person in the room. But for many of us adults, who didn’t grow up with that same technology, it can still be quite uncomfortable. This lack of comfort makes it harder for some to open up, connect, trust, and communicate with each other virtually. If you are a leader today, in a virtual setting, you may be struggling to display the same level of authenticity and provide your team with the same sense of safety as you did in person.
  • Interpersonal dynamics are harder to manage. Both for technical reasons and because people are harder to read over video, the appropriate affect, tone, pacing, and facial expressions that we rely on for effective communication in person are more difficult to give and receive virtually, especially in group settings.
  • You can easily lose people’s attention. It’s challenging enough to engage people in a face-to-face meetings, but virtual meetings often come with a plethora of new distractions that you have little control over.
  • New skills are required, from you. Whether it’s managing tech, maintaining strong facilitation skills, or rethinking agendas, virtual is different than in-person. Knowing that is half the battle.

With these factors as a backdrop, ask yourself five questions to ensure you are being the best leader you can be as you manage your team from home.

Am I being strategic enough? 

Strong leaders practice strategic communications in every interaction, be it a full-day meeting, an hour-long meeting, a sales call, a one-on-one check-in, or even an email. But communicating virtually requires even more strategic planning because you can’t rely as much on human connection or charisma to carry you. Before every exchange, take time to think about your purpose, audience, and the context of the exchange. Then write down your objectives, agenda, and the amount of time you want to spend on each item.

It helps to make your objectives broader than usual. For example, what do you want the other person (or people) to feel after you talk? Challenge yourself to up the engagement quotient to make up for the deficit of face-to-face interaction. This means asking more questions during your interactions, checking in with team members to make sure you are aligned, and leaving extra time for those moments to take place during presentations or group meetings.

Have I revamped communication plans for my direct team and the organization at large?

Moving operations virtual means that it’s time to revisit and potentially revamp your communication protocols with direct reports, employees, board members, and any other audiences you regularly work with. For example, you must now think about how you will run your weekly check-ins with team members. Will you hold these meetings by phone, over slack, or schedule a video call? While best practice says video is best, you may need to adjust your approach based on the preferences of individual employees. The same goes for meetings with clients and other stakeholders.

Using a table in a word document or Google Sheet can help you create a comprehensive plan for different types of meetings. Create at least four columns, including one for each of the below items:

  • Mode of communication (i.e. video, phone, slack)
  • Meeting cadence (i.e. weekly, monthly)
  • Meeting agenda (i.e. team building, check-ins)
  • Meeting participants (i.e. managers, board members)

Fill out your table based on how you worked prior to moving virtual, then, revamp the entire plan to adjust to your current situation.

As you begin to “revamp,” challenge everything you considered “best practice” before, from the size of your meetings to the time allotted. Ask: Should a video call  be used for all announcements or can I simply write a status report to update the team? Do I need to schedule more check-ins with my direct reports to make up for the lack of being in person? Does that meeting that took an hour in the office need to last the full 60 minutes online? Should each communication be followed by a detailed email summary to keep everyone on the same page?

Looking at the entire plan will allow you to optimize it.

How might I reset roles and responsibilities to help people to succeed?

Some people thrive while working remotely, while others may feel a lack of motivation or encounter other unforeseen challenges. Though it may not be apparent who is struggling at first, as a leader, it’s your job to check in regularly with team members about how they are coping. During your one-on-ones, ask: “How are things going for you? What challenges are you facing? What do you think you need to be successful? How can I, or the team, help?”

Through these discussions, re-evaluate each person’s strengths and weaknesses. You may find that you need to shift responsibilities around or invest in training sessions for those who feel less comfortable. For example, one of your team members might excel at running meetings in-person, but lack either the technical or facilitation skills to run them remotely. Or you may find that you have an individual who participates actively during in-person meetings, but not as actively in virtual meetings.

Because change — like shifting a role and taking on new work — can bring up sensitivities in people, it’s important to frame any suggestions you make as opportunities for growth. By diagnosing your direct report’s strongest and weakest points, placing them where they can succeed, and providing them with guidance when they are struggling, you will not only help your team be more productive, you will be helping your employees develop. In these conversations, also be sure to ask for their feedback and thoughts with respect to how the team can improve. Remember that respect, authenticity, and caring are foundational to strong leadership.

Am I keeping my eye on (and communicating about) the big picture?

When you’re working remotely, it’s easy to focus solely on the tactical, to stay glued to your computer, fielding email after email, in an earnest, unorganized fashion. With your to-do list looming in front of you, and no colleagues to pull you out of your head, you may be tempted to stay buried in the weeds. But people rely on leaders for direction, especially during uncertain times. This means, no matter how many small tasks are clogging your calendar, you need to be able to pick your head up and keep one eye on the bigger picture.

Be sure to carve out time to work “on” the business (strategy), as opposed to working “in” the business (operations). Do this by blocking off time on your personal calendar to think about strategy. Or, if your thoughts are clear, schedule a strategy session with your team. Use this time to revisit fundamental questions about the business and organization, like: “Is our value proposition clear to our customers? Are there opportunities for us to improve our business model? Is our team engaged, productive, and inspired to do their best work?”

Keep in mind this idea from Michael Porter’s classic piece, ”What Is Strategy?” He wrote, “New [strategic] positions open up because of change…new needs emerge as societies evolve.” It’s more than likely that the shifts you are experiencing during the Covid-19 crisis will present opportunities for your business, organization, and for you as a leader. In a time when it’s easy to only be focused on defense, it’s up to leaders to go on the offensive and be on the lookout for doors that might be opening.

What more can I do to strengthen our company culture?

I am continually struck by the stories I hear of teams growing even stronger during this time. Many of the most resilient leaders I work with have accomplished this by finding opportunities to align, engage, and inspire their teams around a purpose. Right now, teams need to feel connected, not only to the company’s mission but also to each other.

One way to accomplish this is to regularly set aside time for team members to highlight and share wins delivered either to customers, each other, or to the business itself. If well-crafted, you can tie the “bright spot” sharing to the company’s vision, mission, or values, reiterating the importance or the organization’s purpose and the essential role that everyone plays in achieving it. If meeting time is tight, a slack page, a quick email or another type of non-verbal communication can also be used.

To bring people together, you may also consider prioritizing some team building avenues that were less essential before. Many of our clients have begun conducting virtual social hours, meditation groups, art sharing clubs, team music performances, and fitness challenges. While these options may not be for everyone, they are just a handful of examples we have seen initiate positive team dynamics. Even something as simple as starting a meeting by asking people to bring a video, a meme, or a photo that gives them joy can foster comradery and a needed laugh.

Is there a silver lining to our current business environment? I would say, yes. The leadership skills you are building now will continue to serve you after Covid-19. There is no going back to exactly where we were before. New opportunities will open up — maybe full virtual workforces on a level we’ve never seen. And thanks to an unforeseen time in our history, you’ll be ready for it, with new skills in place to truly lead, whether from home or the office, more effectively than before.

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Build Your Team’s Resilience — From Home

Executive Summary

To weather the COVID-19 crisis, teams will need resilience. But with the new work-at-home protocols, can leaders really do anything remotely to increase their people’s ability to deal with adversity ? Yes, say the authors, who draw on their studies of resilience among U.S. Navy recruits to offer strategies. It all comes down to two things: people (and enhancing three protective qualities they need) and perspective (which leaders should help their team members broaden).

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To make it through the current crisis and return to a new normal, you and your team will need to be resilient. The good news is that leaders can help create the conditions that make this possible. We’ve done multiple studies with U.S. Navy recruits that show how this can best be done—and, recently, in studying how leaders are responding to the crisis, we’ve come across valuable stories of how they can achieve this even when team members are working remotely. The key is to focus on two things: people and perspective.

People: Know your team’s resilience factors

Three “protective or facilitative factors” (as psychologists call them) predict whether people will have resilience: high levels of confidence in their abilities, disciplined routines for their work, and social and family support. Ideally, you’ll already have a good sense of how your team members stack up on these—especially the first two. But some factors may be weakened during this crisis. One of the first things you can do is establish a “resilience inventory dashboard,” by checking in individually with your reports and asking directly how comfortable they feel telecommuting, how they plan to schedule their work days, and how you might support them with any life or family commitments. To address such commitments, the managing partner at one law firm recently went to all the lawyers at the firm one-by-one to ask about their situations, and asked particularly if they needed to take care of any elderly or at-risk people. Then he redistributed caseloads and paralegal support to help out those who were in danger of being overwhelmed.

Further Reading

The many new challenges your reports are facing may shake their confidence, but you can boost it by actively conveying your faith in them. One mechanical engineer who was doubting her ability to telework told us how much it helped her confidence to have her manager simply tell her that he respected the decisions she made and the work she produced, and that any mistakes she made would just be tools for improvement.

Doing their jobs from home will probably require new routines and test your people’s ability to focus. Think about how you can help your team adjust. One loan-processing manager called for more-frequent quality checks while his reports were getting used to working remotely, for instance. Though that may seem like micromanaging, an underwriter on the team told us it reassured him and helped his group “slow down and not rush” despite being under extreme pressure. Leaders might also suggest time-blocking and other personal productivity strategies to encourage disciplined work habits.

Leaders can also strengthen their teams by displaying compassion. We’ve seen thoughtful managers do this by giving their reports their time, showing concern, helping them get the office equipment and supplies they need to do their jobs at home, and by making special accommodations for individuals who are at high risk because they have underlying health conditions like diabetes. It’s especially important to demonstrate that you genuinely care about your team as not just employees but people. Before broader organizational work-at-home mandates were implemented during the COVID-19 outbreak, a manager at a large oil and gas company proactively got permission from upper management to have her team telework and discussed the transition plan with each team member. One of her reports, highlighting the manager’s personal concern for each individual, said that her actions helped him feel “like a vital, contributing member of our company.”

If your people rate high on the resilience factors, that’s great, but you can’t assume they’re out of danger. Very resilient people are geared toward action and what they can control, and as result they may “panic-work” and burn out during times of crisis. You will need to take measures to maintain their resilience, too. Try to focus their energy on strategic initiatives.

 People: Foster resilience-oriented conversations

A large body of research shows that the most effective way to increase resilience at work is through customized individual coaching. The results from a field experiment we did with approximately 400 U.S. Navy recruits in 2015 also point to its power. In it we asked recruits to rate their resilience at the beginning of boot camp and then (midway through the boot camp) had half of them take part in a one-on-one peer coaching session—what we called a “guided conversation”—while the other half were left to their own devices. In the guided conversations, recruits were asked to share positive experiences, compare challenges and how they were dealing with them, and imagine their future as navy sailors. The recruits who had these conversations saw a highly significant 20% increase in resilience, while the control group saw a change of less than 1%.

As a manager, you might have guided conversations with each direct report yourself, but these can be time-consuming, and the power differential between you and your reports may make these discussions lopsided. So we recommend encouraging your team members to have guided conversations among themselves on a regular basis. You might go as far as assigning pairs and requiring scheduled video chats. Similar to the recruits in our study, your team members can discuss successful experiences, problems and how they’re tackling them, and what they’ve learned during the crisis that they can still apply when things get back to normal. This last step, we believe, is essential. People need to be reminded that things will stabilize—and envision who they will be after the adversity has passed.

 Perspective: Ask questions

Neuroscience suggests that the fear and anxiety we experience because of COVID-19 will naturally narrow our ability to see our future and envision creative solutions to our problems. But there are questions leaders can ask to counter this effect.

First, you can help your team members face down reality. Accepting things as they are is key to building resilience. As Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was held captive during the Vietnam war, famously noted, the optimists among his fellow prisoners (those who expected to be rescued quickly) didn’t survive: “I think they all died of broken hearts.” So ask your direct reports what plans they have in place for working remotely longer than anticipated. While they might not feel comfortable thinking about such things, they will weather the crisis better if you help them plan constructively.

You can also remind people that they can rely on and collaborate with others. Ask them, Who on your team or within your organization or within your network might be able to help you? There is power in reminding them they’re not alone, and in building a network of support during adversity. (The colleagues lending a hand will benefit as well, because helping others is one of the things that increases people’s resilience, psychologists believe.)

Perspective: Find learning opportunities

In a different longitudinal study, involving about 200 U.S. Navy recruits during training in 2015, we found that when the recruits viewed their unsuccessful experiences as learning opportunities—rather than a string of failures—it also built their resilience. In his book Crucibles of Leadership Robert J. Thomas described an approach he called “reframing the tension”: focusing the learning opportunities lying within the adversity rather than despite the adversity. That’s what college professors are doing today. Denied the ability to teach in the classroom, they’re quickly becoming experts at online instruction and learning. Is it possible that after this crisis universities will be more ready and able to take entire degree programs online while still maintaining high quality?

Another thing you can do is help your direct reports recognize special talents or skills that might be especially useful during the crisis. For example, as your team moves to telecommuting, do you have a particular member who is superb at dealing with distraction? You could have that person provide virtual training to the others. As each member sees how his or her special skills contribute to the good of the team, the group’s confidence and social support will grow.

Resilient teams will learn how to improvise in these new modes of working together. Since that will require constant adjustments, we recommend that you borrow from agile processes and have a daily virtual “standup” meeting. However, we suggest you focus not only on tasks but also on relationships: Use the meeting to increase the team’s sense of connection. For instance, you might share ideas about team hand-offs and how to ensure that they don’t become drop-offs. You can lead discussions on how well things are working, what processes can be improved, and the like. Highlighting what the team is learning during the adversity will collectively strengthen it in all three critical protective factors: confidence, disciplined routines, and support.

Any crisis is also an opportunity to build resilience among your reports. If you successfully implement the tactics we offer here, you just may find that they not only bounce back from these difficult times but emerge much stronger as people and as a team.

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How to Be an Inclusive Leader Through a Crisis

Executive Summary

Leaders are under extraordinary pressure right now. They are expected to make decisions quickly with incomplete and rapidly evolving information. And unfortunately, being in crisis mode can cause even the most intentional and well-meaning leaders to fall into patterns of bias and exclusion. Research shows that when we’re stressed, we often default to heuristics and gut instincts, rather than making deliberate and goal-oriented decisions.

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Leaders are under extraordinary pressure right now. They are expected to make decisions quickly with incomplete and rapidly evolving information. And unfortunately, being in crisis mode can cause even the most intentional and well-meaning leaders to fall into patterns of bias and exclusion. Research shows that when we’re stressed, we often default to heuristics and gut instincts, rather than making deliberate and goal-oriented decisions.

And yet, leaders must prioritize inclusion right now, more than ever. Organizations are much more likely to be innovative in the face of this crisis if they seek input from a diverse group of employees who approach problems from a variety of perspectives. And at the same time, employees from historically underrepresented groups may feel less safe about speaking up.

Further Reading

“Now is a time for leaders to think about what type of leader they need to be for all of their workers, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized,” says workplace culture and human capital strategist, Daisy Auger-Dominguez. “As we [hopefully] move from rapid response to short- to long-term recovery, community, connection, and allyship — including deep awareness about how implicit bias shows up in decision making — will become even more important critical leadership competencies.”

Below I offer some specific tactics to make sure you are prioritizing inclusive behaviors in your workplace during this crisis.

Ensure that all employees have equal access to technology for remote work. This is always important, but crucial at this time, when access to technology could make or break an employee’s productivity and connection to others. There can’t be disparities in your organization when it comes to access to technology. Harvard Business School professor Tsedal Neeley recently wrote that managers right now need to “get the infrastructure right.” She urges leaders to ask themselves, “do people have the requisite technology or access to it?” If you expect employees to continue delivering comparable levels of productivity during the pandemic, you must ensure everyone has access to a steady internet connection, a device, and any other additional software or hardware. As a manager, don’t assume everyone already has these provisions – ask, and make them easily available for those who don’t.

Make virtual meetings equitable by turning on closed captioning, sending documents, and collecting input in advance. Speaking up in a virtual meeting may be even more challenging for some people than doing so during in-person meetings. Sending information in advance helps create opportunities for people to chime in — and not just those who are comfortable speaking while they think. Closed captioning is especially crucial during webinars or presentations, so that everyone, including those who may have hearing difficulties or spotty WiFi service, can fully participate. If you’re presenting, I also recommend using a chat function to reiterate important points, and opening it up to others who may feel more comfortable asking questions or making comments in writing. In addition, as Neeley suggests: “Follow up these virtual meetings with redundant communication to ensure that people have heard you and that they’re OK with the outcome…You should have multiple touchpoints through various media to continue the trail of conversation.” Again, this ensures that if someone doesn’t have a top-speed internet connection at home or wasn’t able to hear or understand everything during a video meeting, they still have access to the necessary information. Record key meetings and share the link with employees.

Begin meetings with acknowledging everyone in the room, not just those with high status or privilege. Make it a point to acknowledge the unprecedented situation we’re all in before you dive into agenda items. Leaders can set the tone by sharing their own challenges or vulnerabilities. Your team will appreciate it if you say, “This is hard.” In smaller meetings, check in individually with each person on how they’re doing. I had to quickly transition the last three sessions of my in-person college class online this month. And even though navigating it with 22 students wasn’t easy, I built in time during every class for each person to share “a win” or “a challenge” before launching into my curriculum. When I do these check-ins, I notice that more students speak up during the rest of the class, whether it’s virtual or in person. On the other hand, when I skip check-ins to keep us on schedule, I’ve observed that the same few students feel comfortable speaking up, while introverts and those from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to stay silent.

Understand how gender bias may show up. Research shows that in “normal” work circumstances, women are penalized for being visible caregivers, while fathers receive a fatherhood bonus — they’re offered offered more money or made to believe that they’re more reliable. During the pandemic, women are bearing the disproportionate burden of responsibility for child, family, home, and healthcare-giving, says Auger-Dominguez. “The reality is that we have not normalized what should be seen as the most natural and normal of occurrences in our lives. And to this add the layers of race, class, nationality, and other marginalized lenses, and you can see how many layers of oppression are holding women back from simply surviving in these precarious times.” Watch out for biased language in performance evaluations of female employees with children – especially with references to their productivity or reliability during the remote work period.

Show empathy for working parents by checking in with them, offering extra support or pushing back deadlines, and most of all, by showing grace when children of any employees interrupt video meetings.

Melissa Abad, a sociologist at Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab, also urges us to be more thoughtful in how we interpret the way women of color speak. “When Black or Latina women are stressed, that can be viewed negatively in work communication, compared with other people in the majority expressing the same emotion.” She recommends that managers be deliberate abut who they’re giving feedback to, especially around communication, and to take time to ask themselves whether that feedback could be biased.

Check in with employees who may be disproportionately impacted by this crisis. Unfortunately, there’s an uptick of racism against Asians and Asian Americans globally. Ensure that you connect with employees who might be affected, while reminding all employees that you take discrimination at work seriously. Share the proper channels and protocols for reporting discrimination at work.

This is also a significantly more challenging time for older and/or immuno-compromised employees, people who have at-risk family members, and employees with physical or mental health issues. Abad recommends proactively sharing resources on your organization’s health and mental health resources widely.

Above all, show compassion. Managers must recognize that crises affect employees differently — for many from underrepresented communities, this means not just worrying about and providing care for their immediate family, but also caring for extended family and the larger community. Give employees time off if they’re sick or need to care for a sick person. Liberally push back deadlines as more people adjust to a new normal. And remember, not everyone has the set-up be equally productive. Common barriers right now include inadequate access to technology, private space, or even the basics such as food or healthcare.

“The crisis gives us the chance to evaluate the structure of work and how organizational processes have to adapt,” says Abad. As we navigate uncharted territory, we have a unique opportunity to examine ways we could be more inclusive to all employees, but especially those who may be dealing with significantly more challenges.

When we get to the other side of this pandemic, my hope is that more of us learn to lead inclusively and with empathy, not only in crisis but also in calm.

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Virtual Offsites That Work

Executive Summary
It’s impossible to replicate the experience of an in-person offsite in an online setting.  But with the right preparation, a focus on good meeting practices, careful use of various tools, some rehearsal, and a willingness to experiment as a team, it’s not only feasible but relatively …

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8 Ways to Manage Your Team While Social Distancing

Executive Summary
Managing a remote team is tough, but add to that pressurized conditions, heightened uncertainty, and an overall sense of dislocation and your job just got even harder. The author shares several tips for supporting continued learning and the emotional well-being of your employees. The advice includes resetting your …

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The Key to Inclusive Leadership

Executive Summary

Inclusive leadership is emerging as a unique and critical capability helping organisations adapt to diverse customers, markets, ideas and talent. For those working around a leader, such as a manager, direct report or peer, the single most important trait generating a sense of inclusiveness is a leader’s visible awareness of bias. But to fully capitalize on their cognizance of bias, leaders also must express both humility and empathy. This article describes organizational practices that can help leaders become more inclusive and enhance the performance of their teams.

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What makes people feel included in organizations? Or feel that they are treated fairly and respectfully, are valued and belong? Many things of course, including an organization’s mission, policies, and practices, as well as co-worker behaviors.

But mostly it comes down to leaders. We find that what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included. And this really matters because the more people feel included, the more they speak up, go the extra mile, and collaborate — all of which ultimately lifts organizational performance.

Given this formula, inclusive leadership is emerging as a unique and critical capability helping organizations adapt to diverse customers, markets, ideas and talent. Our previous research found that inclusive leaders share a cluster of six signature traits:

  1. Visible commitment: They articulate authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority.
  2. Humility: They are modest about capabilities, admit mistakes, and create the space for others to contribute.
  3. Awareness of bias: They show awareness of personal blind spots, as well as flaws in the system, and work hard to ensure a meritocracy.
  4. Curiosity about others: They demonstrate an open mindset and deep curiosity about others, listen without judgment, and seek with empathy to understand those around them.
  5. Cultural intelligence: They are attentive to others’ cultures and adapt as required.
  6. Effective collaboration: They empower others, pay attention to diversity of thinking and psychological safety, and focus on team cohesion.

This sounds like a laundry list, so it’s not surprising that we are regularly asked which is the most important trait. The answer depends on who is asking. If it’s the leader, commitment is the most critical, because without it, the other five attributes can’t be fully developed.

For those working around a leader, such as a manager, direct report or peer, the single most important trait generating a sense of inclusiveness is a leader’s visible awareness of bias. To underscore this insight: Our analysis of the 360-degree Inclusive Leadership Assessments (ILA) of more than 400 leaders made by almost 4,000 raters reveals that while all six traits are important and operate as a cluster, a leader’s awareness of personal and organizational biases is the number one factor that raters care most about.

Comments from raters on the ILA tell us that they particularly notice, for example, when a leader “constantly challenges (their) own bias and encourages others to be aware of their pre-conceived leanings” or when a leader seeks insight into their biases by, for example, “[Asking] others to test whether their thought process is biased in any way.”

But this is not all. Raters are not looking for a simple acknowledgment of bias, tinged with a fatalistic sense that little can be done about it. They care about awareness of bias coupled with two additional behaviors:

  • Humility: Raters want to see that their leaders are determined to address their biases. Fatalism looks like “Hey, I know I have this prejudice, but whatever, I am what I am.” In contrast, leaders who are humble acknowledge their vulnerability to bias and ask for feedback on their blind spots and habits.For example, one direct report told us that their leader “is very open and vulnerable about her weaknesses, which she mentions when we undergo team development workshops. She shares her leadership assessments openly with the team and often asks for feedback and help to improve.” Our research shows that when cognizance of bias is combined with high levels of humility it can increase raters’ feelings of inclusion by up to 25%.
  • Empathy and perspective taking: Raters aren’t looking for their leaders to try to understand their viewpoint and experience as a dry intellectual exercise, but empathically.  That means understanding others deeply and leaving them feeling heard.  For example, one rater commented “[The leader’s] empathy in interacting with others, makes [the leader] approachable, trustworthy and shows [their] eagerness to work with and/or support peers, colleagues and superiors.”  When cognizance of bias is combined with high levels of empathy/perspective-taking, it can increase raters’ feelings of inclusion by up to 33%.

Why are humility and empathy so important in this context? Humility encourages others to share their feedback (e.g., that a leader might have favorites or have a tendency to interrupt people or regularly ignore a class of information). Empathy and perspective taking gives people hope that a leader cares about them and takes their views into account, rather than barreling on with preconceptions or a narrow set of ideas about their perspectives. Moreover, it creates a sense of personal connection between leaders and a diverse set of stakeholders, making it easier to make and implement shared decisions.

Putting the traits to work

How can leaders put these insights into practice? One tactic is to establish a diverse personal advisory board (PAD) — a group of people, often peers, who have regular contact with the leader and whom the leader trusts to talk straight. These trusted advisers can give leaders granular feedback on everyday interpersonal behaviors that support or inhibit inclusion, for example: Does the leader give equal time to all meeting participants, or favor those who are co-located over those who have dialed in? Does the leader always refer to one gender when giving examples or both? Does the leader use a broad spectrum of imagery when addressing a diverse audience, or imagery (such as sport metaphors or all male iconography) that represents only one group of people? Because a PAD is ongoing, leaders can receive feedback on whether the changes they make are hitting the mark.

A second tactic is for leaders to share their learning journey about recognizing and addressing biases. We have seen leaders do this by discussing their 360 assessment results with their manager, speaking at a town hall about their growth or creating a standing item in weekly team meetings (“inclusion moments”), during which they or a team member identifies what they have learned that week about diversity and inclusion. These actions express humility, help leaders to test and build on their insights and role model the importance of humility in addressing biases.

A third tactic is for leaders to immerse themselves in uncomfortable or new situations which expose them to diverse stakeholders, for example by attending an Employee Resource Group meeting, or sitting in different parts of the workplace each week. Exposure, combined with open-ended questions, helps to expand horizons and disrupt pre-conceived ideas.

Inclusive leadership is a critical capability to leverage diverse thinking in a workforce with increasingly diverse markets, customers, and talent. We have previously observed that only one in three leaders holds an accurate view about their inclusive leadership capabilities. A third believe they are more inclusive than they are actually perceived by those around them to be, while a third lack confidence in their inclusive leadership capability and so do less than they could to actively guide others and challenge the status quo.

Becoming more aware is critical to self-development, but awareness in isolation is not sufficient. Without humility and empathy/perspective taking, it’s difficult for leaders to gain deep insights into the nature of their blind spots or remedial strategies and, therefore, to grow. This requires effort, but fortunately the circle of learning is virtuous. Leaders who are humble and empathetic will be open to criticism about their personal biases, and greater self-insight into personal limitations prompts greater humility, empathy and perspective-taking. Not only are these behaviors critical for leaders’ personal development, they also serve to make others feel more included along the way. And that is, of course, the objective.

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How to Reassure Your Team When the News Is Scary

Executive Summary

Communicating through uncertainty is an essential leadership skill, regardless of whether or not you have a formal leadership role. In fact, the ability to communicate through uncertainty is part of what demonstrates your leadership readiness. The author recommends taking five steps: 1) Before you start communicating to others, take a minute to pause and breathe. 2) Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. 3) Seek out credible sources of information. 4) Speak clearly and confidently. 5) Provide your team with tangible action items. Discussing your own next steps or recommending next steps to your audience gives them a sense of control so they feel like they are contributing to stabilization. Use language such as, “Here are the steps we are taking” or “Here’s what you can do” to demonstrate action.

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We’ve all had that moment on an airplane where we experience turbulence. Maybe you are rudely awakened by a sudden jolt, or you stand up to use the restroom and have to hold onto the back of someone’s seat. Within a few seconds, the pilot’s voice comes over the intercom. What are you listening for? You are listening for reassurance through the uncertainty of turbulence.  

With Covid-19 concerns around the globe, it’s not just the airline industry that is experiencing a sudden lurch on its normal journey. Many business leaders are asking how they can communicate uncertainty both internally to their teams and externally to their clients — whether it’s about participating in an upcoming conference or delivering on a signed proposal. Communicating in the face of uncertainty is a constant leadership challenge.

In addition to working with the airline industry on this topic, my team and I have worked with Fortune 500 companies around the world who need to manage high-stakes communications to multiple audiences simultaneously. Here are five steps we have found to be incredibly effective: 

1. Pause and breathe.

Before you start communicating to others, take a minute to pause and breathe. When you are the most senior person in a room, your team takes its cues from you in terms of how to act and how to feel. Taking a minute to center yourself will ensure that you present a calm, rational force to your colleagues and clients. This applies over the phone or through email as well. When you feel anxiety, you transmit that to others. A study of empathetic stress found that observing others experiencing stress could cause observers to themselves to feel more stressed.

2. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes.

In public speaking, knowing your audience in advance is critical. In times of uncertainty, it’s paramount, regardless of the medium. Do a thorough strategic analysis of who you are communicating to. What are their concerns, questions, or interests? What do they need an immediate answer to? You might use language such as, “I know many of you may be thinking…” The quicker you can address what’s on their mind, the quicker you will be able to calm them down. If you are not addressing their most pressing interests, they might not even be listening to you.

3. Do your research.

In times of stress, misinformation can be especially destructive. Seek out credible sources of information, and read the information fully before distilling it into clear, concise language. Share those links with others, so that they too have a credible resource. As a faculty member at Harvard, I appreciate that the university created a separate webpage with credible sources for more information and that it sends frequent emails with updates.

4. Speak clearly and confidently.

You can speak with confidence even without 100% certainty. You can confidently express doubt or uncertainty, while still sounding like you are in control of the situation. You might say, “Reports are still coming in, but what we understand so far is this…” Communicate frequently with your audience, even without news to report, so that they know you are actively following the issue. Fellow communication expert Nancy Duarte wrote an insightful article on this topic several years ago and said, People will be more willing to forgive your in-progress ideas if they feel like they’re part of the process.”

5. Have specific next steps.

In times of uncertainty, it’s helpful to provide your team with tangible action items. Discussing your own next steps or recommending next steps to your audience gives them a sense of control so they feel like they are contributing to stabilization. Use language such as, “Here are the steps we are taking” or “Here’s what you can do” to demonstrate action.

Communicating through uncertainty is an essential leadership skill, regardless of whether or not you have a formal leadership role. In fact, the ability to communicate through uncertainty is part of what demonstrates to others your leadership readiness. Use the above steps to first find your own sense of focus and then allow yourself to transmit that reassurance to others.

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How the Best Managers Identify and Develop Talent

Executive Summary

Too many of us look for talent in the same old (wrong) places, or follow the popular trend of thinking the “best hire” is the “best culture fit.” These approaches undermine efforts to boost diversity (demographically and cognitively) and ultimately hinder creativity and innovation. While there is no one “best” way to hire talent, there certainly are better approaches than those we have relied on in the past. Researchers have outlined seven science-based recommendations to help managers update their hiring tactics, and develop their talent management skills along the way: think ahead, focus on the right traits, be data-driven, hire internally, be inclusive, consider who will add the most to your team as a unit, and never stop trying to make people better.

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Great managers are typically experts in their fields with a strong performance history and an interest in being in charge. But to lead effectively they need to develop another skill, one that is often overlooked: talent management.

The ability to see talent before others see it (internally and externally), unlock human potential, and find not just the best employee for each role, but also the best role for each employee, is crucial to running a topnotch team. In short, great managers are also great talent agents.

But becoming a great talent agent is not always easy. It requires us as leaders to be more open minded and to throw away outdated, albeit popular, hiring tactics. Too many of us look for talent in the same old (wrong) places, or follow the popular trend of thinking the “best hire” is the “best culture fit.” These approaches undermine efforts to boost diversity (demographically and cognitively) and ultimately hinder creativity and innovation.

While there is no one “best” way to hire talent, there certainly are better approaches than those we have relied on in the past. After carefully scrutinizing the performance of what makes a competent and incompetent boss, my colleagues and I have outlined seven science-based recommendations to help you update your hiring tactics, and develop your talent management skills along the way.

1) Think ahead.

Oddly, prospective employees are often asked during job interviews what their five-year career aspirations are or where they see themselves in five years; yet few managers ask themselves what their five-year talent strategy is. Most leaders know what kind of talent they are looking for in the moment, but far fewer think ahead to figure out whether or not their new hire has skills that align with their long-term strategy. If you know where you want to go, focus your efforts on hiring someone with the skills, abilities, and expertise you will need to move forward. Don’t assume everyone you have today will stay. You must simultaneously play the long game while executing your shorter term goals.

2) Focus on the right traits.

The two biggest mistakes managers make when they evaluate other people’s talents are: focusing too much on their past performance (even when they lack reliable metrics) and overrating the importance of their resume, hard skills, and technical expertise. The World Economic Forum predicts that 65% of today’s jobs will no longer be around in 15 years.  This means that leaders cannot place too much emphasis on the current educational curriculum, which is primarily designed to prepare people for present, rather than future, jobs. While we may not be able to guess what those jobs will be, it is clear that people will be more equipped to do them if they have certain soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, drive, and learnability. They are the foundational traits that determine new skill and knowledge acquisition. Moreover, these foundational aspects of talent are likely to become even more important with the rise of AI.

3) Don’t go outside when you can stay inside.

Firms often hire externally when they could source better talent from within. Scientific reviews show that external hires will take longer to adapt and have higher rates of voluntary and involuntary exits — yet, they are generally paid more than internal candidates. That’s why it’s valuable to look for talent internally before you search outside your organization. Internal hires tend to have higher levels of adaptation and success rates than external hires, not least because they are better able to understand the culture and navigate the politics of the organization. They are also more likely to be loyal and committed to their company. Further, promoting internal candidates boosts other employees’ engagement.

4) Think inclusively.

Most managers have a tendency to hire people who remind them of themselves. This tendency harms diversity and inhibits team performance. When we hire people just like us, we reduce the probability of creating teams with complementary skillsets, those with different and even opposite profiles. The only way to think about talent inclusively is to embrace people who are different from you and others already on your team. But we suggest you take it a step further and celebrate people who challenge traditional norms. The engine of progress is change, and change is unlikely to happen if you only hire people who perpetuate the status quo. We all know that companies with a diverse talent pipeline tend to have better financial results.

5) Be data-driven.

Every human — managers are no exception — makes bad decisions from time to time. But very few are interested in acknowledging this, which is why hiring biases are often so pervasive. In fact, research shows that hiring managers would rather inflate performance ratings than admit they hired the wrong person. Those of us in positions of power, therefore, need to be extra self-critical and test the outcomes of our decisions. For instance, when you hire someone, outline clear performance goals that can be easily evaluated by others, and see whether your view of their performance aligns with what others think and see. Likewise, before you nominate someone as a high-potential employee, arm yourself with solid data and evidence to ensure that your decision is fair and sensible, even if the future proves you wrong. Talent identification is an ongoing process of trial and error, and the point is not to get it right, but to find better ways of being wrong.

6) Think plural rather than singular.

We live in a world that often glorifies individualism and bemoans collectivity. However, almost everything of value that has ever been produced is the result of a collective human effort — people with different backgrounds coming together to turn their unique talents into a high performing synergy. Thus when you think about your talent pipeline, focus less on individuals and more on the configuration of your team: will people work together well, are they likely to complement each other, and do their functional and psychological roles align with what the team needs? On great teams, each individual is like an indispensable organ in charge of executing a specific function, making each part different from others, and the system greater than the sum of its units. Talent agents know that for teams to be successful, the individuals on them must embrace a “we before I” attitude.

7) Make people better.

Great managers recognize potential where others don’t — and so do great talent agents. No matter how skilled your employees may be, you still need to help them grow in new ways. No matter how much an employee is struggling, you are responsible for attempting to help them find their footing. As professors Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular recently noted, “The role of the manager, in short, is becoming that of a coach.” This means mastering the art of giving critical feedback, including the ability to have difficult conversations and address poor performance. It also means predicting your future talent needs so that you can stay ahead of the demand and have people on your team remain relevant, valuable assets for years to come. As our ManpowerGroup research surveying nearly 40,000 organizations across 43 countries shows, almost one in two employers report that they just cannot find the skills they need, which suggests that their talent planning strategies are not effective enough.

In sum, being a great manager is, in large part, about being an expert in talent matters. Fortunately, there is a well-established science of talent management, grounded on decades of industrial-organizational and management research. But unless you know how to apply it, this science is useless. And the most important part of this process is to never stop thinking about your employees’ potential and talent. No other factor is likely to make such a big difference when it comes to building a high performing team.

Source: HBR.org

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Let Your Team Have That Heated Conversation

Executive Summary

Sometimes teams pull back from important discussions for fear of triggering an emotional outburst. If that’s happening on your team, it’s time to address it. The first place to start is in developing a new mindset about emotions. Emotions aren’t something to be avoided, but rather, something to pay attention to and learn from. If you’re seeing an emotional outburst (whether that be crying, yelling, or table-pounding), it’s likely that there is some injury being done to the person. It might be because the discussion is challenging a deeply-held belief, or providing new and disorienting information, or causing the person to question their abilities, character, or self-concept. When a team member reacts emotionally, simply say, “This is important. What do I need to understand?” The wording is significant because you don’t want to make the person feel embarrassed or stigmatized. Paraphrase what you hear until you get a clear sign from the person that you have articulated the root of the issue. Then pivot your questions toward action, “What would a good path forward look like for you?” Ultimately, how you engage with emotions will be the most influential cue for how your team should. Your role as a manager is to guide your team into and through the most contentious discussions that face your business. Too many teams avoid conflict for fear of creating “drama.” Teach your team how to channel emotions to improve your decision-making, increase trust and connection, and make everyone feel seen and understood.

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Great teams are adept at engaging in productive conflict as a means of improving ideas, sparking innovation, and mitigating risk. Unfortunately, your team might be one of many that foregoes the benefits of healthy conflict because they’re unwilling or unable to deal with the emotions that conflict often elicits. I frequently see teams pull back from important discussions for fear of triggering an emotional outburst. If that’s happening on your team, it’s time to address it.

First, consider all the different reasons why it’s rational to avoid emotional conflicts. On one hand, people who have been upset by conflict in the past might have been labeled as immature or unprofessional. Given the hit to their credibility, it’s natural that they now try to avoid potentially volatile conversations that might trigger their emotions again. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those whose direct approach to conflict earned them a reputation as brutal or harsh. It’s just as logical for those folks to steer clear of contentious discussions for fear of saying something too direct. As a manager, you might have your own stories of unpleasant or unproductive emotional conflicts that cause you to steer your team away from contentious or confrontational discussions. Unfortunately, when you or your team members are not comfortable or adept at managing emotions, your team is likely to avoid issues and wind up in serious conflict debt — stifled by the sum of all the undiscussed and unresolved issues that stand in the way of progress.

You and Your Team Series

Emotional Intelligence

If your team is being held back by conflict avoidance and you all need to get more comfortable handling emotions, there are several steps to take. The change will require you to embrace a new mindset, to build a new skill set, and to adopt different practices. These techniques will reduce the likelihood that a fear of emotionality will hijack your progress.

The first place to start is in developing a new mindset about emotions. Emotions aren’t a liability for humans, they’re an integral part of the system that helps us capitalize on opportunities and protect ourselves from threats. For example, when you make a mistake, the emotional reaction makes that experience more salient and helps you remember not to do it again. When you say or do things that threaten your inclusion in your group, you experience an emotional reaction that’s similar to when you experience physical pain. That unpleasant sensation reminds you of the importance of maintaining positive relationships. As humans, emotions are a primary biological response to our experiences of our surroundings and not something we can “leave at home” (as one executive suggested to me recently). Emotions aren’t something to be avoided, but rather, something to pay attention to and learn from.

Once you understand that emotions play a role in decision-making, it’s your job as a manager to understand the source of the emotions so you can learn from them. It’s important to remember that — just like pain — emotions are symptomatic, but not diagnostic. If you’re seeing an emotional outburst (whether that be crying, yelling, or table-pounding), it’s likely that there is some injury being done to the person. It might be because the discussion is challenging a deeply-held belief, or providing new and disorienting information, or causing the person to question their abilities, character, or self-concept. In any of these cases, the person’s brain is telling them that their world is being disrupted and alarm bells are going off. You need to identify what is being injured so you can help them relieve the pain.

When a team member reacts emotionally, simply say, “This is important. What do I need to understand?” The wording is significant because you don’t want to make the person feel embarrassed or stigmatized as you might if you said, “You’re crying. Why are you crying?” “This is important” also works because it doesn’t presume that you know what the person is thinking or how they are feeling as in, “You’re upset, tell me what’s wrong.” Instead, it just makes the space for you to get insight about what is going on.

As an aside, I am often asked whether it’s best to continue with the conversation that’s become emotional or to adjourn and return to the emotional subject later. I encourage you, wherever possible, to keep going in the moment. First, because it reinforces the idea that emotions are not toxic and are a natural part of life. Next, because returning to an emotional conversation that you’ve paused can be very awkward. Use your judgment. If the person is crying or screaming to the point that they can’t catch their breath, you can say, “This is important. I want to understand what’s going on. Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and we’ll regroup this afternoon.”

Back to the conversation. As you listen to the person’s response, reflect what you’re hearing. Ask questions to help them shape their thoughts. You can try, “How are you imagining this playing out,” or “What are we not paying enough attention to?” Paraphrase what you hear until you get a clear sign from the person that you have articulated the root of the issue. Then pivot your questions toward action, “What would a good path forward look like for you,” or “What would need to be included in our plan to address that concern?” As you start to shift toward a plan, you’ll notice that the emotion dissipates.

But what if you aren’t in position to include their suggestion? What if it’s not a good idea, or it’s just not reasonable? If that’s the case, be transparent. For example, if they raised an important issue but asked for a remedy that’s not a viable, you might say, “I’m glad you raised that issue. We’re not in a position to do that, but I feel like we’re now taking that risk knowingly.” In the majority of cases, when the person feels heard and understood, regardless of whether they get their way or not, the emotions will subside. If they don’t, provide feedback about how the person’s emotional reactions are impacting their performance, the team dynamic, and your perceptions. Emotions are fair game for feedback when they’re getting in the way of the work.

When you have an opportunity, address the role of emotions as part of a broader team norms discussion. Share your perspective on emotions and ask for others to add their points of view. Consider having your own ground rules around addressing emotions in the team or including a behavioral statement about addressing emotions within an existing organizational value such as mutual respect or teamwork.

Ultimately, how you engage with emotions will be the most influential cue for how your team should. Don’t punish someone for showing emotion. That includes not criticizing them, not responding to emotion with more emotion, and not avoiding them. At the same time, don’t punish people for triggering emotions in others. Too often I see people ask a tough and probing question and then get reprimanded because that question elicited emotion from a colleague. Creating trepidation around what can and cannot be asked or explored on your team will stifle the quality of discussion and decision making. If the question was particularly blunt, you could reword it. Otherwise, create the space in the discussion to let the question or comment sink in and then guide the team through a rational discussion.

Your role as a manager is to guide your team into and through the most contentious discussions that your business faces. If you sense trepidation as you get close to a difficult topic, reassure the team that it’s worth addressing the issue to get to a resolution. Set the tone that the discussion might get emotional and that’s ok — you’ll keep working on it until you come to the best answer. Gently ask the questions that will open the discussion up. Then, as the road gets bumpy, steer them through the best path. Too many teams avoid conflict for fear of creating “drama.” Teach your team how to channel emotions to improve your decision-making, increase trust and connection, and make everyone feel seen and understood.

Source: HBR.org