How to make your employees feel heard and understood during crises

By Clint Pulver | May 13, 2020
Vital status meetig video-Clint Pulver-cmi edit

Something I think is important right now, especially in the chaos of COVID-19, is a word that I call “status”. This word comes from my past life in the medical field. Before my professional speaking career, I spent five years in operating rooms working as an orthopedic consultant helping physicians and the medical team to operate on patients. One of the words that was always used was the word “status”. The doctor would often ask “what's the status of the patient” or “can I get a status update”. What they were asking for is the vitals of the patient. Every human being has vitals. These are the things that make sure we're healthy, moving, stable and alive. Those include your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and respiratory rate. If you don't have one of those things, you're not doing very well. We were constantly monitoring the status of our patients. 

In the medical field, the status or the vital signs of the patient would determine treatment. If there's something wrong with the heart rate or the body temperature, that would tell us how to treat the patient to make sure we've achieved a good status. Then you repeat. You recheck the vitals. Then we treat again. You repeat this process until healthy stability is maintained long term. Now more than ever we need good managers and leaders to conduct what I call status interviews with their people.

I think it's easy right now to get caught up in the big problems. You're worrying about finances, investments, expenses, current operations, strategies. But your strategies are only as good as your people. We cannot forget about the power of our people. During this time of chaos where most of us are working in the virtual world, the well being of everybody needs to be looked after. Employees still need to be seen, heard and understood. The goal of the status interview is an intimate one-on-one setting where you reach out to your employees and say “I just want to set up a meeting to catch up and see how you're doing”. 

To be clear, this is not a time to talk about performance. This is not a time to talk about the goals of the company or the vision statement, or the agenda of what we need to do to keep operations flowing. This is simply an opportunity for you as the manager or the leader to create a connection. It is an opportunity for you to really check the vital signs of your people. 

The 4 Best Questions to use during a Status Meeting

I want to be sensitive to our current situation. Below are a few examples of questions that only certain businesses might find useful right now.

The first question of a great status interview is: 

  • What can I do as your manager to keep you here?

The second question is: 

  • What's increased your sense of happiness the most at work? What's working for you right now?

The third question is:

  • What is causing the most amount of stress and worry right now for you at work?

Lastly:

  • How can I make things easier?

Right now, you have a great opportunity to make sure that everybody is being seen and heard. In doing that, we maintain healthy stability long term with our people. We become a more empowered workforce, and empowered workforces always create greater productivity. We become an organization that truly becomes the best for the world in a time when it's needed the most.

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