Without the intricacies of in-person meetings, it can be difficult to understand exactly how your teammates are feeling. Meeting over Zoom can make it impossible to read body language or chat a bit in the hallway before getting down to business.
And in the third year of a pandemic, when women are more stressed, burnt out and exhausted than ever, putting on a bright face for work can feel like putting on an act for a part we don’t want to play.
TED Talk-famous researcher, author and professor Brené Brown has defined a practice on her podcast Unlocking Us that puts empathy on center stage during virtual meetings — without making things awkward or triggering evasiveness.
Directly asking your reports how they're feeling usually results in a quick “I'm fine,” making it difficult to understand and empathize with them. So, to gauge emotion, Brown starts each meeting with a two-word feeling check-in.
Each member of the team, including Brown, kicks things off by naming two emotions they’re feeling. It’s quick and it gives people permission to share true descriptors of their emotions without feeling judged. It also acknowledges that there are more feelings than “good” and “bad,” and grants permission for professional relationships to carry on even if you're openly managing complex emotions.
“What I'm seeing right now are these weird paradoxical feelings and emotions,” she said.
After everyone has named their two emotions, Brown says that the air is cleared and they can get to the core of the meeting. But if someone has said two emotions that concern her — like anxious, overwhelmed or scared — Brown follows up with them after the meeting to check-in.
For Brown, checking in isn’t telling her coworker that she’s worried about them, but rather offering active support.
“What can I do to best support you right now?” Brown asks.
By asking this question, Brown gives her coworker a safe, empathetic space to ask for help — without any guilt. She says these kinds of check-ins allow her coworkers to really ask for what they need, whether that’s help with a project or a few hours off to tend to something in their personal lives.
Supporting people, in all of their complexity, during these turbulent times encourages greater productivity and morale, and allows for the trust that results in more effective teamwork. Plus, it feels good for everyone involved.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Una Dabiero is the Associate Contributors Editor at CNBC Make It. Prior to joining CNBC, she managed the editorial career advice at Fairygodboss.
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