No matter how engaged, inspiring, and positive we usually are as human beings and as leaders– these are unquestionably trying times for everyone. None of us anticipated or signed up for a prolonged period of total upheaval in our lives like the one this pandemic has thrust upon us. Navigating the disruption in our own lives and routines is challenging at best, but leading a team in the midst of our own personal turmoil is a true test of our leadership skills. Here are a few things you can do to help you keep your team energized as you navigate this period of upheaval.

Focus on fostering positive emotions

Research shows us that engaging in positive emotions allows us to cope with whatever challenges or ordeals we encounter with greater resilience and fortitude. Acknowledging your team member’s contribution, telling someone how much you value him/her, asking more questions, and just listening and paying more attention to your team during trying times can all foster positive emotions. Making people feel good about their strengths and what they bring to the table can remind them of the positive influence their efforts make on the bigger picture, and help them stay energized..

Display empathy and cut people some slack

With kids being schooled remotely, families sharing remote work spaces in their houses, and the boundaries between work and home life becoming more blurred than ever, people are trying their best to keep all the balls in the air without dropping any. Acting as if business is usual is not only unrealistic–it displays a lack of empathy. Be more patient and flexible with juggling and moving meetings, set more realistic deadlines, and check in with people more often and ask how you can support them. Now is not the time to get irritated if you hear a dog barking or a child yelling in the background of a Zoom call. Assume that your team members are doing their best.

Create opportunities for deeper connection 

With everything that everyone has going on, the last thing most people want is to attend another status meeting or to get on yet another Zoom call with the video on.  However, creating mechanisms to foster deeper connections amongst team members during this time is critical to keep people feeling included, energized, and connected. Try scheduling a monthly team “check-in” meeting (and don’t require it to be on Zoom) where the only agenda item is to have each team member talk about how they are doing personally, what they are celebrating, and what they are inspired by. This people vs. task focused practice allows a space for people to stay connected and collectively share positive emotions to inspire and energize one another.

While you may be inclined to disconnect and communicate less during these times as you focus on the tasks at hand, your people leadership is needed more than ever now. Your attention, inclusion, interest, and inspiration can make a key difference in a time when people feel more disconnected, overwhelmed, anxious, and unsure.

Paying attention to the human element of leadership is more important than ever, and will differentiate leaders from managers.