Founder Fuel: Spotting stress in your startup team even when you’re remote

In turbulent times, it can be tough enough to manage your own stress as an entrepreneur and startup leader (see your tips here in part 1), but being present and supportive with your team is what will really get you through these tough times as a business; and build effective team relationships in the long-run too.

Keep an eye out for overwhelm

In these unprecedented times, it is impossible for work commitments and life commitments not to clash. People may be facing challenges with childcare, caring for older relatives, or worrying about relatives faraway. As such, it’s possible that members of your team may be experiencing extreme stress and with
all the working from home, you may not know about it. In the long run this would mean that everyone loses.

So what should you keep an eye out for?

If one of your startup team gets to the point of being tearful or being aggressive then this is a sure-fire sign that something significant is going on in the background that’s leaving them feeling stressed and overwhelmed. But ideally we want to spot the signs and intervene before it gets that far.

The golden rule is to look out for anything unusual for that individual. Not very obvious I know – but as people we’re so different and don’t come with an instruction manual. As such, different things push us over the edge when it comes to stress and we all show signs of stress in different ways. As a leader that means we can only take a personalised approach. Look out for team members:

  • being unusually quiet
  • being unusually talkative / loud
  • have arguments (often over less significant things)
  • start complaining about each other
  • keep missing deadlines / deliverables
  • seem nervous or twitchy
  • are having mood swings
  • seem less confident or motivated than normal

How to help those under pressure

Different people on your team will react to stressful situations indifferent ways. The number 1 rule is to be sensitive.

Most of the time as humans we just want to be heard and understood – so first off make time to listen. Try to understand their challenges, talk through how they’re approaching these and be supportive of them.

Make sure your team members have the flexibility and resources necessary to take care of their families first – basic human motivations according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs mean nothing will supersede the basic needs of safety for self and family, so help them sort that and the team will be back together as a unit faster than if you don’t help.

A practical way to approach this is to use a 1:1 video call to understand the commitments of each of your team – do they have kids, do they have elderly relatives? Then have an open honest conversation with them about what that means for them and their working pattern. If you approach the problem together, and you’re seen as trying to help them juggle, rather than a ‘boss’ that’s demanded deadlines to be met, then it is likely that you can agree flexible working hours that enable them to commit quality working time around their commitments, rather than doing a half-baked job trying to stick to 9-5 routine that’s no longer fit for purpose.

Part 3 in the series on how to set up effective remote communications for a startup team is here.

Written by Christina Richardson, founder at weare3Sixty
Founder coach & trainer | Startup exec-team coach | FounderCircle® creator & head-coach. Passionate about sustainable founder performance, wellbeing and the leadership transition from founder to C-suite.

About the FounderFuel Series: Actionable tools and bite-sized insights to empower entrepreneurs and founders to get the best from themselves and those around them as startup and scaleup leaders. Get the fuel direct to your inbox by signing up here.

At weare3Sixty we believe in supporting the humans behind the world’s ambitious startups and our mission is to make sure that every founder and startup leader in the ecosystem has the support and skills to reach their full potential as resilient, high-performing leaders.

Here you’ll find 1:1 founder coaching, team coaching and team training all dedicated to the unique ride that is starting up and scaling up. Not only that, with our group-coaching FounderCircles® you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of other talented founders on the journey too – all committed to fuelling themselves, their teams and each other for the ride.

Calling all accelerators and investment partners: We work in partnership with investors, accelerators and incubators to complement programmes of support and learning with the human side of startup performance. Find out more here.

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