While the live sessions of the Professional Leadership Program for Women at Towson University have been on hiatus since March 2020, our program has continued to support participants with 1:1 executive coaching sessions. As the pandemic has stretched on, I had anticipated that the areas of concern for those in the coaching sessions might evolve. In reality, the issues are unchanged. The top topics of interest remain:

  • How do I help my team channel their energy toward the highest priorities?
  • How do we generate energy, rather than drain energy, in our meetings?
  • How do I maintain or increase my visibility with senior leaders?

Let’s dig a bit deeper into each of these points.

How do I help my team channel their energy toward the highest priorities?

Focusing on priorities (remotely!)—the Manager’s Challenge

One of the challenges for focus in our current work environment is the increased distraction by working from home with other family members. Many of us do not find the strength of FOCUS in our top five strengths, including many leaders and managers.

For most of us, we survive and thrive by developing workarounds to generate the results that might be more natural if certain strengths were in the top tray of our toolbox. Here are some ways that I have coached our women leaders, which may be helpful for you:

  • Articulate key priorities for the team and review them at the beginning of every meeting
  • Link how the current tasks and projects drive the priorities
  • Highly customize 1:1 check-ins with each team member—determine the balance of direction and/or good-old-fashioned emotional support that will help her be most successful on her key projects and tasks in the coming days

How do we generate energy, rather than drain energy, in our meetings?

Generate energy and connection—the Team’s Lifeblood

As the pandemic has continued to keep us in the work from home state for nearly nine months, many of us are feeling fatigued with the virtual platforms, endless meetings, and all day engagement with the computer screen. Our program participants are asking me and each other, “How do I generate energy in virtual team meetings?” Here are some of the suggestions and best practices that have surfaced:

  • Start with “heart” work
    •  Open with a go-around where everyone shares what “color” they are feeling today and why
    • Ask the team members to voice an appreciation for one other team member
    • Have each team member bring an item that reflects how they feel, or something that makes them smile, or something that motivates them to make it all work
  • Keep it conversational
    • Use breakout rooms or chat rooms to replicate the connection that staff naturally have when in the office together. Build in time for small group discussions about issues or just “catch up” time

How do I maintain or increase my visibility with senior leaders?

Convey good news and showcase your people

One of the most strategic ways to engage with senior leaders is to provide insights “behind the curtain” into the great work that your team is doing.

  • Develop a template for “FYI updates” to senior leaders from the front lines
    • These are in addition to the regular reports, written with a more casual conversational tone and sent by email—allowing for easy reply and forwarding
    • This provides the senior leadership with means to congratulate and extend praise and encouragement
    • It shows that you are monitoring and supporting your staff and aligning with the strategic priorities of the organization—by what you are spotlighting
    • It is a means of showcasing your leadership by the strength of teamwork that you bring forth and the acknowledgement of the team’s role in the bigger picture
  • Stay in tune with what is happening across the organization—division updates, etc.
    • Think about where you might contribute one of your skills and/or strengths as an advisor or consultant to a special project, or a contributing participant and step forward
    • Consider how your team can support efforts in other areas and step forward
  • Forward articles and news bits that you are reading to selected senior leaders when appropriate as “FYI” in case they haven’t seen it—especially good with an analytical comment or note of why you think this is relevant. Good for best practices that other firms are evolving during the pandemic dynamics—shows you are in the game!

All these possibilities are based on the philosophy of Chris Gardner, author of the Pursuit of Happyness and self-made millionaire. His advice when facing adversity is to Start where you are.

Our present times are challenging for each of us. Being the beacon of focus and connection is a leader’s choice. Though the circumstance may be new and different, human nature remains constant. Connecting, motivating, influencing and supporting human beings (including yourself) is the pathway to achieve success.