Distance is one of many challenges 2020 has brought. No, I am not referring to social distance -- one of the strange word combinations birthed in 2020. I am referring to physical distance and relational distance. As a leader, you do not have much control over the former as much of our work and many of our interactions have moved to virtual. But you can influence the latter. Everyday physical distance can contribute to relational distance which can lead to relational strain and worse. When that happens, the people involved struggle and the team struggles.
What is a leader to do to battle relational distance? My advice is to invite. More specifically my advice is to invite, invite again, and invite yet again.
First, invite vulnerability. Share with your team what you are dealing with in 2020. Go beyond the surface-level, everyone-knows-that stuff. Share how you are struggling. Share things you are learning. Be OK with sharing still-in-progress stories. Go first. That is part of being a leader. Be vulnerable to invite vulnerability from your team members. Second, invite space. Block time on your team members' calendars, perhaps a couple hours on Thursday or Friday afternoon. This will be a very different invitation. Give each person time they can use on their own in any way they choose to refresh, energize, brainstorm, learn, etc. Let your team members spend this time individually or with others. Have no expectations for outcomes. Encourage your team members to share with others what they are doing, what they are learning, what they are asking, etc. as they are comfortable doing so. Again, you have to lead here. Model this. Take the time yourself. Third, invite help. Bring in an outside expert. Offer individual coaching to your leadership team. Bring in a coach to facilitate team time along with some individual time coaching with reflective exercises. Create a safe space for people to be real and to open up. Virtual meetings with video from home have already opened up more of our lives to our co-workers. Invite your team members to bring their whole person, their authentic self. Let an outside expert help you. How should you lead differently now? Care for your team as you care for yourself by inviting vulnerability, inviting space, and inviting help. Let me know how I can help. I would welcome the invitation.