Social Distancing Doesn’t Mean Isolation: How to be a Team Player and Lead Teams While Working From Home

No matter what your role is, you’ve likely felt in survival mode over the last week, if not longer. With the shuttering of schools, restaurants and other businesses, stay-at-home orders, transitions to work-from-home, and a multitude of other interruptions to our daily routines, the feeling of being overwhelmed has probably hit you like a ton of bricks. We are now being called upon to rethink all aspects of our daily lives, from how we teach our children while working from home, to sharing our work-from-home space, to how we’ll grocery shop and exercise. Meanwhile, at work we are having to reprioritize, possibly take on new or different workloads, navigate marketplace conditions and their implications, figure out how to be productive among all these new demands, and maybe even make business cuts. All the while attempting to do our best work and show up as leaders.

So, when our lives are turned upside down and we are trying to find ways to pivot quickly with new technology and routines both at work and at home, how do we continue to be team players? As leaders how do we model and ingrain in our team members the idea of putting the organization first when everything in us as individuals wants to preserve and protect our own interests?

No matter our role or title, we must decide what we want our personal brand to be. Despite the current climate and obstacles, we must ask ourselves who we want to be and what we want to represent. The power lies within each of us to show up in the way we intentionally choose to, for the colleagues we serve alongside and the teams we lead. Even while working remotely and juggling competing priorities, we can choose to create a new culture of connection and optimism all while positively impacting business results. Below are some ways to show up as great teammates and leaders both now and in the future.


7 Tips for Being a Team Player in Stressful Times

1. Be gracious and patient.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. We each find ourselves in stressful situations, and sometimes tolerance levels, tone of voice, and reactions will be on high alert.

2. Promote a culture of helpfulness.
Let’s turn our focus to serving each other when we can and ask for help when we need it. By doing so, we will feel more supported and connected to one another.

3. Communicate and connect often.
Utilize video conferencing as much as possible, turn on webcams, and don’t forget to pick up the phone. Remember 50% of our messaging is body language, 40% is tone of voice, 10% are words. The more we can be face-to-face, even if via computer or FaceTime, the more likely intended messages will come across.

4. Set norms for remote collaboration and communication.
Whether it’s just with a colleague or with teams, ensure everyone knows what types of communication are available, how they should use them, and when they should use them.

5. Consistently reach out to others.
To create connection and provide opportunity for alignment, set a schedule to connect on a regular basis with those essential to the work. As leaders, this is especially important to do with each member of our teams on a weekly basis.

6. Be available and open.
If you would have the conversation in the office, still have the conversation remotely. This is especially true when we are likely sending messages in writing more often. Being able to pick up the phone or hop on a video conference call can help all parties gain clarity and have more meaningful collaboration.

7. Create a new routine that will still ensure outcomes.
Goals are not out of reach. We may need to adjust how we reach them but making progress can still happen. We should be proactive by reflecting on what increases our productivity and recreate that in our new environment. This will help us be the best partner to our colleagues and will continue to build trust, especially during times of uncertainty.


Being a good team player starts at the top.

As the leader of an organization or team, it may be a scramble to ensure each team member is set up at home with the necessary equipment and technology to do their jobs, while also ensuring productivity. In addition to the tips above, here are some ways to set teams up for success, while also setting the stage for each team member to have an organization-first mindset while they continue to adjust.

Here are 8 essential things we can do to bring our teams together and direct their focus:


1. Reset direction.
We should ensure new priorities and strategy for the short- and long-term are communicated to everyone and made crystal clear. Align with other leaders to establish next steps and confirm messaging is consistent organization wide. People want something they can rally behind and work towards as a common goal.

2. Inspire others and instill hope.
We can help our teams see that even with sacrifice in the short-term focusing on organizational strategies will be what the business needs to survive and thrive during this time. Show them the light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s unclear what will be on the other side.

3. Show empathy.
Prioritizing our team’s wellbeing and mental health during this time of uncertainty and transition is essential. Connect on a personal level. This is a good time to reach out individually and ask how each member of the team is doing and what ongoing support they will need. This support includes being flexible (e.g., adjusting work hours) and understanding team members’ priorities and stressors (e.g., sick family members, isolation, kids at home) outside of work.

4. Provide what they need.
To the extent possible, we must provide our teams with the right tools and resources to be successful working in their current environment. For instance, ensure they have proper technology, systems access, and ideas for creating a productive work-from-home space. Be creative. There are tons of apps and virtual technology that can be accessed for free or at a low cost.

5. Emphasize their value.
Reiterate how each team member’s role is necessary to move the business through this time. Call on their strengths to help move the business forward and lift the team.

6. Simplify things.
Due to limited resources, workload capacity, and/or workforce transition or reduction, it may be necessary to readjust process flows to make work more efficient and effective. Prioritize reducing stress points for the team.

7. Be vulnerable and transparent.
By showing our human side to our teams, they understand we’re in this together. Additionally, the more we share with them to eliminate the unknowns, the more capacity they will have to focus on their work.

8. Be the calm in the storm.
Our teammates and team members will emulate us. While vulnerability is important as a leader, it is just as critical to be strong and optimistic. No matter how our business is affected, we have a unique opportunity to be creative, overcome challenges, and use this time to our advantage. Sending this message of hope is vital to the overall performance of our teams.

Ultimately, we all have the power to choose. We can cocoon ourselves up, isolate ourselves away, and not collaborate because of the current situation. Or we can step up as leaders, no matter our roles, and inspire a new and better way of working with one another. When we come out of this crisis, will we be able to say we banded together to serve our organization, cheered each other on along the way, and supported one another? Or will we come out of this disconnected, isolated, and alone? It’s our choice to fully engage in this opportunity to double down on our stated values and beliefs as a leader. Which will you choose?

Interested in more about this topic? Check out Rob Dwortz’s blog post on how he and his Become Unmistakable team are staying connected.

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