Despite formerly held, outdated expectations that emotions have no place in a corporate setting, anyone would agree that, in fact, the workplace is often an emotional war zone. Tears, tantrums and emotional outbursts are not so uncommon in the office; and when the office suddenly becomes someone’s kitchen table, stress levels tend to go sky-high.
In these uncertain times, where employees are facing isolation, fear of job loss and a blurring line between work and home, even the well poised can be caught reaching for the tissue box.
As a manager of a remote team, it can be tempting to brush the emotional issues aside, but that can be a costly mistake. Believing that you can choose to “ignore” an emotional outburst simply because it is not being witnessed by the rest of the team, can rapidly make you feel like you’ve just stepped into quicksand. A highly emotional individual can wreak havoc on a team and hijack productivity, even from a distance. Now, more than ever, it is imperative for managers to support their team members and promote open communication and expression. Now, more than ever, it is important for managers to have a high level of emotional intelligence.
Yet, how do we cultivate our ability to effectively manage emotional situations, especially when we are cut off from the subtle clues (like tone of voice or body language) that would normally indicate to us that something is off?
Start With the Basics: The Elements of Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
The EQ elements needed to manage a distributed team are no different from the ones needed to manage a team located in the same physical location. Good leaders need to demonstrate empathy, good team awareness and have higher-than-average social and relationship management skills. However, at the core of these skills are two very important elements: self-awareness and self-regulation. Leaders who cannot recognize, understand and regulate their own emotions, will not be able to practice empathy and so on.
If you feel you need a boost in the development of your emotional intelligence skills, our Mental Hygiene and Emotional Intelligence course will provide you with the tools you need to observe your own behaviours, control your emotions and develop the right language that will benefit the performance of your team.
Use Your EQ to Avoid Misunderstandings
Working in a remote environment, means relying heavily on technology and communication tools, instead of face-to-face interaction. Often, people can feel bombarded with emails, calls and instant messaging that disrupt their tasks and jeopardize their timelines. Add catering to multiple time zones to the equation, and maybe a kids quarrel in the background, and there you have it, the perfect recipe for an emotional overload.
Working from home doesn’t mean being less busy. Yet, answering those piling emails or instant messages too fast, might result in unnecessary anxiety for the recipient. So before you hit that send button, make sure you proofread your messages. Double-check your tone and the clarity of your message. As the leader of a remote team, your words are more important than ever, so make sure you are conveying the right message.
Also, no well-written email will ever replace the sound of your voice. Therefore, if you are approaching a delicate subject, your best bet is to schedule a video chat or a call. This will reduce the chances of misinterpretation and avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary stress.
Encourage Face to Face and One on Ones
One of the major disadvantages of working remotely is missing out on the human interaction and team building that comes with working at the office. Relationships are often built through those quick chats in the kitchen or by the office printer. How many great ideas have come from a conversation after a meeting or while waiting for the elevator?
For these reasons, it is important to encourage video conferencing and scheduling extra time before or after meetings for informal conversations. Video chats with your team members will also allow you to pick up on those subtle sensory clues you would usually rely on.
Keeping up with face to face meetings and one on ones also demonstrates your willingness to remain visible and approachable, as well as your eagerness to support and be a resource to your staff.
Drive Change, Even in Unprecedented Circumstances
In this time of uncertainty, it can be tempting for leaders to just focus on staying afloat. However, as we are learning to adapt to a new normal, there is no reason why we should not strive to do better.
Pursuing organisational goals despite the setbacks and committing to meet new standards of excellence, regardless of how temporary the situation might be, will not only create an optimistic climate that will spread through the team, but it will also inspire team members to be more productive and positive as they will feel part of something bigger.