Three C’s to Successful Work in a Time of Social Distancing

By Marta Wilson
work

For those who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, work looks different today. Our morning chat with a co-worker has moved from the water cooler to online platforms. Our staff meetings have moved from the conference room to video from our home office. And our trip across the country to meet with a customer face-to-face must now be done by phone. The good news is I see my company and our customer organizations coping resiliently as they embrace new tools and practices to adjust to our current reality. Here are three behaviors that will help you continue to summon your superpowers at work during challenging times:

  1. Connect: Build Rapport With Others

Interpersonally-masterful people know how to enroll others in their goals and dreams by establishing authentic and meaningful connections with them. The importance of intentional connection has increased with our physical distance. That means showing genuine concern and compassion for others, looking for common ground, and making relationships the core of any partnership or endeavor.

If you need to build your skills in developing connections, here are two actions you can start taking right now:

  • Interact one-on-one, virtually: In our technology-driven world, it’s easy to become physically disconnected from others, even when we may think we’re staying connected because of email, texts, and social media. Nothing eclipses regular, intentional interaction for building bonds and strengthening existing relationships. By creating one-on-one relationships, we can put others at ease and help them feel safe. It’s hard to build a solid connection without trust. When we dare to be vulnerable with our family, friends, colleagues, and employees, it lets them know we don’t think we have all the answers. It shows that we care about their views and insights. Utilize your organization’s internal communication hubs, email, phone, and apps such as FaceTime and Zoom to grow your relationships.
  • Set an example, and set the tone: We can model the behaviors we expect from others. For example, if we want a work environment where failure isn’t punished and risk-taking is encouraged, then we can recognize those who try new things and try new things ourselves. That also means building a supportive environment where everyone feels they’re on the same team and committed to the same mission. When we model and foster a workplace that honors risk-taking and mutual support, we see more of both.
  1. Communicate: Hear And Be Heard

Communicating isn’t just about getting our message across. It’s also about engagement—a true conversation among family members, friends, or colleagues where everyone has a voice, is understood, and is shown that his or her contributions are valuable. How do we ensure our teammates are hearing us and that we are hearing them when our regular communication channels and style have been disrupted due to our new work arrangements?

Clear, engaging communication means we need to do more than just give directions. It means providing a clear goal—but not over-managing how it’s achieved. We can give people the freedom and authority to find their own best ways of accomplishing the mission at hand. With more autonomy, our team members will also find more meaning in their work.

Here are two tips for improving your mastery of communication:

  • Listen and learn: Let people know you’re curious about their ideas and open to hearing their problem-solving techniques. Listen to understand and learn. For example, if a team member has an innovative idea for increasing sales, hear him out, ask smart questions to understand him better, and think about how his ideas (or some part of them) might play into a future marketing campaign. Listen for learning and understanding, not just to respond.
  • Pay attention to nonverbal communication: Pay attention to the small cues that let you know not just that people are hearing you but that they feel you are hearing them. Physical distancing can make this more challenging, so today this often means seeking clarification and asking the right questions to ensure the understanding is mutual.
  1. Collaborate: Work With Others To Make A Bigger Impact

Do you fully appreciate the abundance of people and tools around you and know how to bring everyone’s skills to bear? Interpersonally masterful people know how to encourage collaboration for the greater good. They’re able to successfully communicate that the more ideas and talent one can bring to the table, the higher likelihood of true innovation and success.

Fostering an atmosphere of collaboration isn’t easy. It’s common for people to be protective of their ideas, to resist working on teams, and to operate in silos. How can you get everyone working together while they are geographically spread out? Here are two action items you can start using right now:

  • Recognize, reward, and celebrate collaborative behavior: When we notice and reward collaborative efforts, it sends a strong message about what we value. Encouraging collaboration doesn’t mean we have to enroll the office in a weekend team-building activity. Instead, build your team every day by encouraging people to talk to one another. Be known for saying things like, “Hey, Janet, I hear you’re working on some new product developments. Bill, over in marketing, expressed some cool ideas yesterday. How about the three of us talk about it?” The relationships we cultivate today may be key to our success tomorrow. All of our institutions are relationship based: organizations, government, business, sports teams, marriages, and all require collaboration.
  • Manage your agreements and be present: I continually advise my clients, “Don’t agree to do something you know you don’t have the time to do.” When we do say yes, then it’s important to follow through and deliver. People will come to see us not just as reliable but as interested. Being clear on our goals and committing to things that support our values are cornerstones of collaboration. Keeping the promises we do make and maintaining our commitments are part of treating people with respect. They won’t forget it.

People who summon their superpowers know the importance of interpersonal mastery. They constantly work to expand and leverage their connections, communication, and collaboration. It’s a choice to be conscious about the relationships we build. In the end, it’s about creating a supportive environment in which everyone can unleash their talents to be their best, do great things, have meaningful success, and achieve their transformation goals.