Although leaders often start meetings by asking the ceremonial “How are you doing?” the gesture is often seen as more of a formality than a sincere interest in hearing people’s answers. A leader’s ability to support their employees, customers, and even family, depends on understanding what people are dealing with at work and home. Leaders who genuinely want to support their employees in the pandemic should schedule a stand-alone meeting with the sole purpose of understanding their team members’ experience.
Set the Context for the Meeting:
Prior to the check in with employees, it is important for leaders to set the context for why they are meeting. If they have a standing meeting with the employee, leaders can simply connect with them prior and share something like “Hi ___, I want to use our next meeting purely to check in. We are hitting the six-month mark of working remotely, and I wanted to hear how things have been going for you.” If not, reach out and schedule a time to meet in the coming weeks using a similar message. It is also a good practice to share the questions you plan to discuss prior, in order to give them time to prepare. You may use the questions below or some of your own.
Mark Goulston, author of the book Just Listen, says it best: “It is less important what we say to others than what we empower others to say to us.” Work and personal lives have always been intertwined, but since the pandemic, they are two and the same. Where prior to the pandemic understanding what people were dealing with at home may have been less important, now knowing what they are going through is vital to supporting them. When asking the questions below, the goal is to give individuals an opportunity to express as much or little as they need about what they have been dealing with. It is the leader’s job to make it safe for people to share freely.
Question 1: How have things gotten harder for you since the start of the pandemic?
What are the biggest barriers the employee has been facing at work and home? Is it childcare, technology, struggling to focus at home, dynamics with coworkers? How have they been adapting to these challenges thus far? By asking this, leaders give employees an opportunity to share both their challenges and ability to adapt. It also shows the employee that the leaders wants to understand what life has been like for them over the last six months.
Question 2: How have things gotten easier working from home?
What are they enjoying about working remotely? Is it more time with family, less time commuting, fewer distractions, or less time on the road? By asking this, leaders not only get a window into what is working now, but also into what was not working prior to the pandemic. It is also helpful to understand people’s work preferences and how they work at their best.
Questions 3: What are you most proud of over these last six months?
For some people, they may be most proud of something they accomplished at work, for others, it may be something they accomplished at home. By asking this question, leaders give their people an invitation to share that which is most important to them, which they may not have seen.
After discussing the questions, acknowledge the employee for their openness and ask them if there is anything else, they would like to share. Next, move on to having a conversation about how you can best support them moving forward.
If leaders want to support their people to work at their best, it is important they carve out time every few months to step back from the work and check in.