As we navigate our way out of pandemic restrictions towards more hybrid working, the great resignation means we are now competing for the best people.
Fostering team wellbeing has never been more important. While individual wellbeing will remain important, the organizations that protect and enable team wellbeing to flourish will be the stand outs in securing the best talent.
People leaders play an essential role in fostering the wellbeing of their teams through the positive behaviors they model, and their ability to observe and act when they notice team members are having a difficult time, as well as calling out successes and discretionary effort.
In our work at Umbrella, we rely on some key leadership principles for supporting the wellbeing of teams:
- Having their back
- Validating their experience
- Matching their communication preferences
- Delivering meaningful feedback
- Modeling vulnerability.
Principles like these are vital to embed in your teams during business-as-usual so they can provide a strong foundation to fall back on when times are tough. What can you do today to boost these foundations?
Look after yourself
This is rule number one for getting the best from your teams. Research shows that the emotional state of our leaders is contagious among teams - especially pertinent during times of crises where emotional susceptibility may be heightened. Give yourself permission to make time to do something that brings you joy. Stop working to walk, run, laugh, connect with someone important to you. Get outside, get fresh air, get sunshine, move.
Ask yourself, “What else can I do to look after myself?” Alternatively, who do you have in your corner who can provide you with an honest reflection of how well you are performing when it comes to self-care?
We also know that having leaders who role-model wellbeing activities, such as finishing a little early, taking sick leave, or exercising during a lunch break, has a significant impact on team behaviour. There's a big difference between a leader paying lip-service to wellbeing but being “too busy” themselves to participate, and a leader who embodies wellbeing as a top priority.
Proactively check your team’s norms when it comes to work hours, taking leave, or taking breaks during the day. Is it common for people to loudly work through their lunch breaks or work late (by “loudly”, we mean doing it in a way that makes it obvious to others)? Do team members express frustration when they hear that someone has taken sick leave? Are people who finish work on-time at 5pm subtly berated? Language matters and sets the tone for what is permissible in the workplace. When it encourages unhealthy work patterns, it is also a risk factor for widespread burnout.
Provide an anchor
As your teams return to the office, even in a hybrid fashion, encourage your people to come together and to anchor. By ‘anchor’ we mean give space and sufficient time to conversations for people to share their experiences over the past two and a bit years. What positives have come from this time? What were the challenges? Share your own experiences to demonstrate vulnerability and learning too.
Integrate solid communication and feedback channels
Ensuring that teams are well-supported means ensuring that their problems and needs are heard regularly and – most importantly – acted on swiftly. Given the diversity of personalities in any workplace our methods of communication must be equally diverse.
Your teams will benefit when you provide various options for people to give feedback, via informal check-ins (face-to-face, text, or otherwise – as suited to the personality of the team member) and more formal meetings and forums. These should be in place at as different many levels of the organization as possible and should also be complemented by anonymous team surveys to capture opinions that some people may find hard to give in person.
The suggestions above are not an exhaustive list of what makes a good team leader – only you can determine that for yourself. We hope they are a starting point to encourage reflection. Are you doing all these things well? Or are one or two areas a bit wobbly? Use your leadership support networks, or a leadership coach, to have a conversation about the steps you might take to improve. And remember rule number one of taking care of your team: taking care of yourself first.
About the Author: Gaynor Parkin is a clinical psychologist and CEO of Umbrella Wellbeing. Umbrella specializes in scientific practices and solutions to enhance people's wellbeing and create positive, productive, and high perperforming workplaces.