Ask the Coach – September 2020

Q. How Can I Keep My Team Engaged During These Uncertain Times?

A. This has been the most common and widespread concern of CPA and attorneys.

Professionals at all levels are uncertain about their job security, financial future, and the emotional states of family and friends. These genuine concerns are often exacerbated by corporate mandates around working from home and/or coming into the office and increased pressure for time and billing reports. These professionals listen to the woes of their clients’ struggles and the media paints a daily dire picture. Research and brain science support the fact that people thrive in groups (after all, we evolved from pack animals) and professionals enjoy increased productivity and job satisfaction when they feel part of something bigger than themselves. The good news is that you CAN positively impact your team members’ professional experience during this unsettling time. Here is how a Coach does it:

Ask Questions – Then Listen

Some of the best questions to ask include: What do you want and how can I help you? (This might be framed in an e-mail to encourage the person to figure out what they need from you before having the conversation – an example might be “I am just checking in because I understand that the work situation continues be in flux – let’s discuss what you want or need and how I can best support and assist you. Let’s talk on Thursday of this week – what’s a good time for you?

This motivates the team member to collect his thoughts and clarify what the issues are. During the conversation, it is imperative that you actively listen – generously – so the team member feels fully heard and validated (remember, there are no judgements); you can interject appropriate comments or follow-up questions during the conversation to gather even more information – such as “Tell me more…” or “What exactly do you mean by that?”

Offer Options for Solutions wherever Possible

Despite what information is gathered during that conversation, you can be assured that your time and energy was appreciated. If there is an action item, you should both discuss what can / will be done, by whom and when. Some of the things discussed might just need to have been heard. Some things will require some suggestions for improvement or resolution by someone other than you. Some will be easier fixes than you might have expected (technology needs can be easily met, or training be offered to the individual to help overcome the expressed challenge).

Empower Team Members to Innovate & Improvise New Strategies

For those issues that require resolution that you cannot personally provide, you can offer options. Asking more questions such as “What do you think is the best way to address that?” or “What is a reasonable outcome of this situation” “What is the one thing that we can do – or get someone else to do – to help us figure this out?” Ideas that can help include putting a pair of staff in charge of a small project, creating an internal task or focus group to investigate the issue or arranging for a meeting with the Managing Partner or Executive Committee directly. Your attention to following up on this conversation is vital to assure this team member that he is a valued part of your organization.

Unity through Community

Recently, we coached a senior partner of a national firm to invite his team to a meeting outdoors to share food and drink and have a safe, open, and honest discussion about their situation – personally and as a professional team. No topic will be off the table and the senior partner will facilitate the discussion with questions such as, “How have you been holding up through all this? How is your family? What is your biggest fear? What has been the hardest part? How will we get through the winter?

Try it – and please let us know how it worked for you!

There is an old expression, “Sharing is Caring” and I believe this rings true for all of us! When was the last time someone took the time to stop their busy day and give you all their attention to hear how you were doing – let alone at work?

Lisa Tierney, CLSC is a certified life strategies coach and a marketing specialist who has empowered professional service providers in the accounting and law professions throughout the U.S. for over twenty years. She is founder and President of TIERNEY Coaching & Consulting which offers a unique and highly effective blend of traditional consulting in tandem with professional coaching to address all the nuances of success – including mind, body & spirit. The professionals who work with TIERNEY coaches enjoy increased self-confidence and higher self-esteem, adopt a more relaxed, yet authoritative demeanor, start asking power questions, treat their clients with a more consultative approach – and benefit from a natural growth in their practice or service area. They usually report a significant increase in their overall satisfaction of their professional experience.

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