By Liz DeCarlo
The pandemic, economic turmoil, stressful world events. Who doesn’t have days where they feel overwhelmed and unable to continue? But when you see one of your team members who can’t seem to pull themselves out of the slump, it’s time for you to step in. And it will likely take more than a “get-yourself-together” lecture.
“You can have all the great leadership platitudes in the world, but at the end of the day, if somebody is broken, you have to figure out what you can do to help them heal,” said leadership consultant Jill J. Johnson, MBA. “Any time a team member disconnects completely, leaders need to take immediate action.”
Open Up the Dialogue
Johnson suggests starting with one-on-one conversations. “Just say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen a real change in your performance and attitude. What’s going on?’ Have that real conversation.”
Then start looking for how you can help. Is there a way you can help them decompress? “That may mean giving somebody a two-week paid or unpaid leave to allow them to just be home with their kids,” she said.
Also, consider the possibility that your actions might be adding to the distress.
“We’re hard-charging and success-oriented people, but can we stop for 30 seconds and breathe?” Johnson asked. She encourages leaders to examine their own behavior and messaging to the team. “Often the reason people are shutting down is the avalanche of what you are putting on them.”
For instance, employee distress can result from high production goals, and you may need help with new strategies to overcome their slump. It might be talking with them and asking questions such as “How are you trying to build your relationships with prospects so that once they are ready to move, they will move? What are the steps you’re taking?”
Create a Support System
Johnson also noted that most employees have a strong desire to please their manager, and they’re generally aware when they’re not performing. Often though, they just don’t know how to dig themselves out of that hole.
“It’s incumbent on the leader to identify how they are contributing to the distress among their workforce, and how they can help,” Johnson said. She suggests creating small groups that can support one another. For instance, if part of the problem is staff struggling to balance their job and their children’s remote learning, it might be helpful to bring these team members together.
“You can ask, ‘Would it be helpful if we did a small group meeting at a certain time of the day so you can interact with each other? You can trade tips on how you’re managing and navigating this situation,’” she suggests. The other option is to go ahead and set up the meeting and tell them you’ve put it on the schedule, letting them know that you understand how hard the situation is and that you want them to be able to connect with others in a similar situation.
And the last thing Johnson advocates is no public shaming. For instance, if someone is unprepared for a meeting or phone call, don’t shame them while it’s ongoing, Johnson said. Instead, talk to them privately afterward to find out what’s really happening.
Jill J. Johnson, MBA, is the president of Johnson Consulting Services, a management consultant and author of the book Compounding Your Confidence. Hear more from her in the March/April Round the Table magazine, exclusively for MDRT Global Services members.
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