Mark Topley explains why connecting with your dental team during lockdown is the most important part of your week.
If you’ve tried to keep connecting with your team when they’re not turning up to a physical place of work, then you’ll know how hard it is. Some people are really keen to stay in touch. Others not so much, and some just outright refuse. They insist that they’re on furlough and therefore don’t have to do anything.
So what do you do? I’m fortunate to work with clients who are winning in the connection game right now. Although they’re all different in their leadership style, there are some common things they’re all doing to ensure their team remain as buoyant, connected and loyal as is possible in what is, let’s face it, an abnormal time. This post will tell you what they’re doing so you can choose the connection strategy that will help you successfully connect with your team during the lockdown.
Just to be clear what I define as the difference between communication and connection:
- Communication – the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium
- Connection – two-way flow between two parties, linking ideas, information, help and concern.
If you’re looking for the principles that will help you win the connection game, make sure you cover these three areas.
If you’ve ever had your team complete any kind of personality typing, you’ll know that they’re all different. Whether it’s Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, DISC or something similar, you’ll know that people like to give and receive communication in different ways. They connect in different ways too. Some like group work, others can’t stand it. Some like intense 1:1 conversations, others prefer to correspond in writing or digitally. And some like Zoom calls, others feel extremely vulnerable on camera.
What this means for your connection plan is that you’ve got to mix it up. Use different media – phone, face-to-face (at a distance), Zoom calls, Whatsapp. Have a range of group sizes – 1:1 chats, small group chats, whole team chats. Not everyone will like your virtual coffee morning. Not everyone will engage with the Whatsapp group. But if you cover a range of styles and formats in a planned way, you’ve got the best chances of success.
- Weekly/bi-weekly 1:1 phone call with each team member
- Whatsapp/chat groups and channels for different teams or areas of interest
- Kick the week off with a ‘aims for the week’ whole team Zoom, and finish it off with a with an update over a glass of wine
- Special interest groups can be a good idea depending on the size of your team – I’ve seen yoga, meditation and professional education as great ideas
- None of these ideas will break your furlough rules, but they will keep people connected.
Which brings me to the next point. Now that we are a few weeks into the lockdown, you should have a rhythm of communication and connection. What you cannot afford to do is assume everything is ok unless you hear otherwise. No news is not good news. We may all be in the same storm, but we’re all in very different boats. Different sizes, different levels of seaworthiness, and with different numbers and types of people on board.
It’s really important to be consistently connecting with your team to make sure that they’re ok. Even if you’ve nothing new to communicate – just give them a call and ask how they’re doing. And then stay quiet and listen. The fact that you’ve made the time will speak volumes.
- Create a daily, weekly and bi-weekly rhythm
- Cover different content – information and updates, fun, learning, individual check-ins, planning
- Cover different formats – 1: 1, small group, whole team.
All this takes time. It takes emotional effort. And it is absolutely worth it.
As the leader, you have to make the running in every working relationship right now. This is particularly important if you have team members who are in the ‘refusal’ category. Every person is different, but there’s a good chance they’re not connecting because they don’t feel a part of things. So help them to feel more like they matter, and that you want them connected.
You have to be prepared to spend the time reaching out to people and listening. Whatever kinds of groups or connection strategy you have set up, you need to commit to dropping in on each one. Not every time they convene, but enough to make sure you’re providing the calming influence that the whole of your team needs.
- Set aside some time each day for connection – both planning, connecting and reviewing
- Have a list of your team and keep a record of when you’re able to connect with them during the week. Note down whether it’s in a small or large group, or 1:1. Reflect each week on who may need an extra call or message
- Send things through the post – cards, flowers, small gifts etc won’t break the bank but they will be an invaluable investment in your team’s morale and engagement.
With five weeks gone, what should be remembered is that lockdown is not the biggest battle we will face as business owners and leaders. This is just a holding pattern, it’s not the main event. The main challenge comes when we return to work. The economic situation is out of our control. The clinical guidelines will be set for you. But what you can affect and control, is the team spirit and cohesion of the group of people that show up alongside you on the first day back. Will they be a tight, mission ready and relationally fit for purpose team, or will you have to add a list of team rebuilding work to the mountain of challenges you will face post-COVID? How well you play the connection game will be the determining factor.