Leadership & Management

The Supportive Leader:
Fostering Effective Team Conversations
During COVID-19 

By Sarrah Lal (@SarrahML), Yusuf Yilmaz (@YusufYilmazPhD), Teresa Chan (@TChanMD),
Originally Published, March 30, 2020

Communication has changed dramatically since you settled into your new reality of remote work. A short in-person conversation has now become an email, everyone is feeling a bit disconnected and any communication seems to take so much more time! As a leader, how can you ensure continued team productivity, group cohesion and effective communications?

Many thoughts are probably flooding your brain. How can you decide which tool is best for your team? How can you make sure that the tools are used right for your needs to accomplish a given job or task? How can you protect your team from burnout and ease the learning curve while implementing new tools for the workplace?

At the end of the day, define the meeting goal(s), the types of interactions needed to achieve these, and choose the right technology from there. Here are some questions that might guide your thinking?

Check out this post which lists a number of platforms that can help you bring small groups together. You should consider having both formal work-related chats, but also some unrelated and fun chats.

Maybe you need an asynchronous connection platform which will allow you to all hang out in the same digital space, even if you’re not always in direct contact. This allows for you to have “hallway” or “water cooler” discussions if you see colleagues online and just want to say hello (maybe with an emoji!).

These may benefit from a shared virtual whiteboard (You can use Google Docs, Google Slides or Google Draw to create this). While using Google Docs, there are several methods that you can benefit. Assigning and mentioning team members on the part of the document can be used to notify responsible people and let them mark as completed. “Suggesting” is of value for training the changes, and merge onto the final document. Version history is especially vital when you want to roll back a document, and always name a document at different stages as quick snapshots.

You may need a polling feature or a survey tool (e.g., Google Forms). Either anonymous or named data collection is possible through Google Forms. This way you can instantly open up a survey and get your results. Team members can see the results instantly once they fill out the form.

Explore other collaborative spaces to help you really think outside the box like IDEO’s new Shape platform. Another way to engage users into a collaborative environment is to use Padlet for open posting. You can make different boards and add images, videos, drawings etc. Users can also contribute anonymously without needing an account on Padlet. The free version of Padlet can be suitable for many of small groups, the paid version has more storage space and ‘padlets’.

Thanks for reading this piece, we hope it was helpful in your development as a newly digitally-enhanced leader. Stay tuned for more content soon from the @MacPFD team.

Sarrah Lal , MBA (@SarrahML) is an assistant professor in the Division of Education & Innovation (DEI) within the Department of Medicine. She is a entrepreneurship and innovation expert and directs various educational efforts within the Michael G. DeGroote Initiative for Innovation in Healthcare. Currently she is also the lead of the Leadership & Management team in the McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Program for Faculty Development (@MacPFD).

Dr. Yusuf Yilmaz (@YusufYilmazPhD) is a postdoctoral fellow at McMaster University.  He is situated within the  McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Program for Faculty Development (@MacPFD), MERIT (@MERIT_McMaster), and the McMaster Department of Medicine (@MacDeptMed).  He is an avid scholar in health professions education, and conducts research and scholarship within education technology. 

Dr. Teresa Chan (@TChanMD) is an associate professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine at McMaster University.  She is the assistant dean for McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Program for Faculty Development (@MacPFD).  She is an avid scholar in health professions education and works with the MERIT group (@MERIT_McMaster), and conducts research and scholarship within this area.