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Engagement during COVID

With COVID-19 details changing daily, if not hourly, the information contained in these posts may not reflect the most recent developments.

Here are some questions that are going through my mind this morning. Maybe you can relate to these. It goes something like this… Is it Tuesday or could it be Friday? Did I send that email yesterday? Does my mom have enough food? Do I have enough food? Have my kids’ futures been adversely altered by the pandemic? What should I focus on today, and will I be able to be productive? What does it mean to be productive? Will I ever be productive again? Is this the new normal? And so on.

We’re in this together, and some of those questions might be like your own. And our experiences are not the same. Some of you have roles that were relatively easy to transfer to work-at-home. Others of you can no longer do the job that you were hired to do. And many of us are somewhere in between. Some of you enjoy being at home. Others not so much. Everyone’s reaction is different based on personal history, job expectations, home situation, social identity, and many personal and emotional factors.

Just as we are settling into new routines, some of us are starting to look at when and how we may return to our offices. How can we make sure that our staff and volunteers are safe? The only thing that seems clear is that this next phase, just like the previous phases, will not affect everyone the same.

We are all managing change and a broad range of experience and reaction. This experience has given us all the opportunity to develop skills around inclusion, patience, flexibility, and adaptability. That’s a lot of growth.

Despite all the growing you’ve been doing, I’ve heard many of you fret that you are not as productive as you once were. I’ve said that to myself on many occasions. But we need to let ourselves off the hook a bit now. Whatever standards for productivity that we held for ourselves and our team in the past don’t seem as reasonable now given the shifts we’ve had to make to manage our lives through the pandemic. It also might be true that our prior standards of productivity were applied across-the-board, not taking in enough consideration and appreciation for differences on our teams. Hopefully, we are more aware and respectful of differences now, given the experiences we are having with the pandemic.

Instead of asking ourselves, am I being productive enough, or asking is my team being productive enough, what if we asked ourselves how engaged do we feel, and how can we support the engagement of those around us? We all want to have an impact. Staff who are engaged will contribute and do their best work, the best they can. Being at our best means being proactive, positive, and solutions-oriented. The what and how of our work can look different than before for each of us, now and after the pandemic. Engagement is invitational and inclusive.

One key aspect of engagement is connection to purpose. That means each person being in touch with their own purpose, as well as seeing how it connects to the overall organization. Bring to mind your “why.” Make it a practice for you and your teammates to share that in meetings. Enjoy the breadth of what folks each share as their personal vision, see commonalities and differences, and celebrate both.

Another way to stay engaged or to foster engagement on your team is to look for opportunities to demonstrate special talents and use creativity. With the organization doing a lot of re-inventing right now, this may create the opportunity for you to share a new talent, or to contribute to the team in a new way. Let’s all work to bring our full authentic selves to our work every day and invite those around us to do that as well.

The third critical aspect of engagement is connection. We all may be getting weary of Zoom calls. How else can you connect with your team? How about a walking phone call meeting? Or using Zoom for fun too, like virtual social hours or time to share photos or stories. After you have worked independently on something for a time, test your new creative ideas with one or more of your teammates. Use your team to build on your ideas and to help keep you on track. Connect your work to the work of others.

So, at the end of the day today, instead of asking myself how productive I felt, I’m going to ask myself how engaged I felt. How engaged do you feel? Tomorrow, if we spend time speaking our vision, bringing our special talents, and connecting to our colleagues, I think we’ll all feel even more engaged.

For more ideas on engagement, check out TREC’s brief staff engagement survey and consider filling it out yourself or with your team.

I hope you have been taking advantage of the Supervisor’s Webinar Series. In these times, especially, good staff management is critical. The recordings of the prior sessions can be found here, and the registration for the upcoming session here.

Keep reaching out to TREC. We want to hear from you. And, as always, thanks for everything you do.

Background Image: American Rivers | Scott Bosse