Ask SGO: Supporting Your Team

In Ask SGO, Blog, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by Fatima Dainkeh

View the full video transcript below.

As a people manager and or a leader within your organization, we have to be thinking, especially in these times, about how to support our teams during times of crisis. And I can tell you from my perspective, this is an ongoing conversation because, to use a sports metaphor, the goalposts are always moving. We can plan for every possibility that we think we can plan for and then the next day when we’re actually in the moment of crisis, it’s going to be a whole different situation than we thought would happen.

So what I would recommend is just think about first of all, how do you already support your team? And do you have practices in place that are going to be your go-tos, so when you’re in a moment of crisis, you don’t have to implement something new, you already have a go-to to really help support yourself. And this means things like:

  • What are your communication practices? 
  • Do you already have a way to easily communicate with your whole team? 
  • What are the relationships that you have built already with your team?

Do you have a practice of being able to just quickly chat with somebody and say hey, how are you doing? You know, I want to make sure that you feel supported, or is that a newer conversation that you haven’t really had with your team members so far.

And then finally I think just really being vulnerable and transparent is such a huge positive for people managers because, listen, we’re all in this together, none of us has figured out how to be a perfect person. Whether that’s a manager, an individual, a parent, a caregiver, a spouse, whatever that looks like in a time where we are in a pandemic, we are in a state of political unrest, we have all sorts of things happening that we’ve never had to deal with before. And so I think it’s okay to say, you know, I’m also reacting in real time. 

But really it’s about creating a space to have these conversations and then remembering that we are not robots. And so if you are feeling stressed, your team is feeling stressed. If you are feeling distracted or worried or anxious, your team is feeling those same feelings too. And so I think just having a space to open up conversation to allow people that opportunity to discuss with each other, to share their fears, and also to let them know that it’s valid to not be a hundred percent focused on work because no one should be a hundred percent focused on work when there are things happening in the world around them, and I think that’s part of really being a leader and modeling that kind of leadership approach is to be transparent and say hey things are going off the side of the cliff, you know, if you want to take off the rest of the afternoon you can take off or if you need a space to process, here’s a space to process. If I can help support you, my virtual door is open. Those are all things that I think are going to be really key. Not just in this very moment, but in the future going forward.

As someone who works for an amazing company there are a lot of things that have been super helpful, right? Especially if we’re thinking about the social unrest and we know that, to be honest, a lot of people are going to be in a crisis for a very long time. And with that I’d say one thing that I appreciate as an employee is first having you know, whether the CEO or my team just naming what’s happening, right? I honestly would say a lot of times I’m not even paying attention to the news, like I might have my notifications off and what I notice is that you know, it would be one of our CEOs, or both of our CEOs, or someone else on the team that might say, “Hey, like this is an issue, this is happening. Let’s bring awareness to it.” But also doing check-ins, right? 

So that would be my second point.  Like one-on-one check-ins, team meetings. During our team meetings, we do a really good job of just asking ourselves, “How are you feeling?” Like that question might be so simple and we’ve all heard it before, but not just asking how we’re feeling, but making sure that you have enough time, or you’re creating enough time for people to actually answer, respond, and for you to also respond, right? We also ask the question of like, how can we support you during the week? Right? So if there’s something happening in our personal lives or it’s related to a crisis or social unrest, we are creating space within our workplace, and on our team to say, hey today I need to, you know, take a step back. Or tomorrow I’ll be better. I’ll feel better. I’ll keep you updated. Those two things are super important.

And then the third thing I’d say is just really recognizing where people hold privilege and don’t hold privilege. As we know, a lot of the issues that have been coming up are related to our identities, right whether it’s race, whether it’s class and so forth. And one thing that is so important is to know when to step in with your privilege right and say “Hey, you know, this is an issue. We see it happening. I’m going to go ahead and say something right because I recognize I hold power and privilege in this in this respect or in this specific topic.” And that’s the thing that we do at SGO which I’ve appreciated a lot to just say okay this is around Black Lives Matter or social unrest right and so what’s our role in this and how do we check in on our BIPOC employees to see how they’re feeling, right. We’re a small team, but we’ve been really practicing that. And those are three things that I would offer to other companies and organizations that are thinking like how do I support my employees, especially during times of crisis?


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