Distance. Isolation. Lockdown. Words like these threaten human bonds and have become a prescription for survival with COVID-19.
While people confine themselves to the safety of their homes, they view the outside world through their screens and are looking for connections to things that matter to them.
Helping people connect is the first step to building a relationship. Now — in this 'Zoom era' — your relationship with your customers, employees and stakeholders is the new currency. You can build stronger stakeholder relationships remotely, and you can reduce the concept of borders and neutralise the restrictions of lockdown with people-centric initiatives at your company.
Here are tips for building stronger relationships with your team and customers, despite the screen.
Help people feel comfortable. Relationships don’t flourish under stress.
- Consider facilitating meditation sessions. A 30-minute e-meditation session is like a mid-week pause button. If you don’t have someone on staff who could facilitate this, consider hiring someone from a local yoga studio. Here are more tips for maintaining well-being during the age of coronavirus.
- Meet the family. Family members can inadvertently cross the frame during a video call. Host a meeting that intentionally includes children, spouses, flatmates and pets. Replace the awkwardness of a work-from-home setting by encouraging laughter and conversation between colleagues and family.
- Drop strict agendas. Don't let relationships become solely transactional. Have a coffee-break call. Drop a 'just wanted to say Hi' email. Share an article that could interest a teammate. Networking in a pandemic includes reaching out because you want to, not just because you've got a work request.
- Begin your meetings with a chat. Zoom can send people into a shell of formality. Ask colleagues how they are and maybe share a fun anecdote about your day. Consider using a Zoom virtual background to invite conversation.
Make staff feel confident. Relationships grow stronger with a sense of assurance and direction.
- Inform staff. The lockdown has raised questions about jobs, business continuity, working methods and more. Be as transparent as possible via email, newsletters and meetings with staff. Be sure to answer questions in the Zoom chat box. Show that you care and have the well-being of your staff in mind.
- Take a stand for staff. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have enhanced feelings of vulnerability, and the subsequent protests reflect people’s anger, frustration and anguish. Rather than shying away from the painful reality, consider facilitating courageous conversations about systemic racism and steps your organization can take to promote racial equity.
- Find ways to contribute. Instead of 'what can I gain?', think 'how can I contribute?' Understand what staff want to achieve and figure out how you can help. Taking interest in others’ growth and partnering with them in the journey will make you relevant — lockdown or not.
- Make staff part of the action. People feel valued when they are asked to participate. Find ways to involve them. Consider musical performances, sharing Spotify playlists, inviting teammates to Zoom dance parties or hosting fun challenges.
Screens have the notion of being a barrier, but the lockdown has shown us another side of the screen. People are keen to connect. Leverage this moment. Be there for them, genuinely, if you want to build a relationship. Focus on ‘The power of people’ as you navigate disruption and lead during difficult times.