Over a year into a global pandemic, COVID-19 has altered the day-to-day reality for most people around the world – including significant changes to where and how teams get work done. Many have transitioned from a traditional office setting to remote work locations. With this, managers and their teams have navigated many and sometimes daunting adjustments resulting in unknowns and firsts.
In this new, still-evolving reality, managers must lead their teams through this transition and provide direction and reassurance in times of uncertainty. Most are finding the old “command and control” leadership style to be far less effective.
Rather, enlightened leaders are working to build trust with their team members and lead by making the most of teachable moments. This requires fostering their team members’ capacity for critical thinking, a skill often developed by asking powerful questions. This is central to a “coach approach” to leadership.
To bring a coach approach to their teams, managers can start with the three C’s of connection, communication and culture.
Though often taken for granted, the connections people make through casual day-to-day interactions are crucial for building familiarity and trust. With that foundation, teams can share ideas, feedback and allow each other space to make their contributions without undue pressure or fear.
Before the pandemic, connecting with employees and co-workers was often as simple as an exchange at the water cooler, some small talk in the hallway or a stop by a teammate’s desk. In the current remote work arrangement, many of those opportunities are no longer possible.
As a result, managers are tasked with finding new ways to foster meaningful connections. This might include establishing new ways to bring the team together as well as optimising small opportunities during meetings to share some human connection while also getting the work done.
Communication has always been the connective tissue that keeps teams working together effectively toward shared goals. When a team is remotely based, however, communication becomes even more crucial and must be tended to with greater care.
A coach approach to leadership can increase team members’ self-awareness, help them unpack challenges and build their capacity to think critically about how to approach the work in front of them. A coach approach can even help a team to navigate major changes with resilience and a positive outlook.
All of this starts with strong, clear and open-ended communication. If a team leader can facilitate communication to build trust and empower the team’s critical thinking, they can significantly reduce the challenges of working together in a remote environment.
While the pandemic has presented challenges for just about everyone both personally and professionally, there are some silver linings. There has been a shift in the way workplace culture is thought about and discussed. This change has offered an opportunity for a culture reset.
Taking a coach approach to rebuilding the culture of a team (or even a full company) offers an opportunity to engage employees in the process of rebuilding culture in a way that makes the team feel valued and heard — and ultimately, empowers everyone to make their best contributions to the work.
Simply asking questions such as “How are you doing?” “Where are you?” or “What do you need?” can help the whole team shift the culture forward. Managers can advance this further by considering what values should inform the work they do, how the team accomplishes their work and what that looks like in day-to-day practice. This can elevate both the team and the work in a way that facilitates positive gains long after everyone adapts to a new normal.
Leading through change with a coach approach
The world may be far from a “new normal.” Managers can, nonetheless, make positive changes now that will help their remote teams stay productive and feel supported today, tomorrow and wherever the new normal leads post-pandemic.
With the three C’s framework of connection, communication and culture, managers can utilise a coach approach to not only survive remote work but find new ways for their teams to thrive together.
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