The PeopleCap Playbook

Timely insights and actionable people strategies for leaders.

Reinforcing and Nurturing Culture During Major Disruption

My cat interrupted PeopleCap’s team meeting this morning. With children at home from school, a strong desire to do our part to keep our neighbors safe, and the great privilege of work flexibility, we’ve been working and meeting via Zoom for the last week. I expect distractions from my kids from time to time, but hadn’t calculated the feline fussing.

We’re facing an unprecedented and very disruptive moment in history – one that is full of anxiety and questions with few answers. The uncertainty is being exacerbated by – for those fortunate enough to have the option – the significant changes we’re required to make as we join the remote workforce.

Leaders: setting, reinforcing, and nurturing your culture is paramount to help your team minimize their stress and to ensure you are as effective as possible during this time as well as ready to pick back up when our work routines resume more familiarity. There is a silver lining – it is possible to come together as a team and strengthen your culture while working remotely. And, you may pick up some good habits that make you stronger when you eventually get back to the office.

Back to the cat – we realized that one of the upsides to meeting remotely is that we have the opportunity to be authentic with one another and get some insight into our team members’ lives outside of work. When Gunther sat next to me to verbalize his desire for attention, our entire team experienced a moment of levity and we made a conscious choice to embrace the authenticity of our working from home realities. In that moment, we reinforced values of being ourselves and placing our community and families above traditional “professionalism.”

So, a few suggestions for how to reinforce, and nurture your culture during this moment of extreme disruption:

  • Meet regularly as a team. If you haven’t used video conferencing much, you’ll be amazed at how well you can engage one another and actually build relationships and trust.
  • Establish a meeting structure that is both productive and engaging. Set an agenda that includes updates and sharing of important information, but that also seeks everyone’s input and allows for some “water cooler” talk.
  • Avoid being “all business.” We may never see another moment like this in our lifetimes. Now is the opportunity to be real with one another and to get to know one another more fully. We’re sharing common anxiety and the most extreme of circumstances. If that doesn’t draw us together, what will? Take time during your meetings to check in. What has people stressed out? What are people seeing that makes them feel optimistic?
  • Be honest. Share the bad news. And then tell people what the options are.
  • Seek thought partnership. There is absolutely no one who has all the answers right now. Let that fact loosen your armor a bit. Place the hard questions on the table – this is why you have a team, after all. Calmly say, “let’s think this through as a team.” You’re more likely to find a solution together and you’ll get leadership points on the spot.
  • Celebrate. Take time to remember that we’re still having birthdays and other life moments to share together.
  • Let your values shine. Revisit your values and ask your team how you can all live into them during this time. Refer to them as you make decisions – ask, “does this choice align with our values?”
  • Use technology to prompt and promote communication among your team members. Ask them what’s working with communication. Ask them what more they need or how they prefer to catch up. Establish methods for everyone to intentionally communicate more frequently than you would in your office.
  • You’re no longer running into each other over the coffee pot – you’d be amazed at how important those brief conversations are to shaping and reinforcing your culture. Find ways to ‘bump into each other” virtually. Send a text to let people know you’re thinking of them. Email relevant articles. Have a virtual bag lunch to discuss the state of your industry, a book you’ve all read, or just your Netflix faves.

This is the time for leadership. But we can no longer lead in vacuums. Rally your team, seek their support, and be your true selves with one another. And use your culture to gel you together, keep you all connected, and fuel trust and productivity.

And, if you need outside support, call us. We’re always happy to share our thoughts.