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
- start complaining about each other
- keep missing deadlines / deliverables
- seem nervous or twitchy
- are having mood swings
- seem less confident or motivated than
How to help those under pressure
Different people on your team will react to stressful situations in
different 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
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