This past Fall, my family and I took a week’s vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine. We have been there several times in the past, but this was the first year we decided to take a sailing tour with Captain Rich on the Schooner Eleanor. It was a gorgeous, sunny and early September day as we sailed through the channel and out into the Atlantic for a couple of hours up and down the rocky coastline. As the captain steered back towards port, it became obvious that he was waiting for something rather than making a direct turn back into the narrow waterway between the rocky outcroppings where the ocean and river met. When asked about the pause, he quickly responded that while the way may look calm and easy, there were incredibly strong waters just under the surface that could make the way back to port treacherous for the inexperienced. Many of us on the boat were distracted by dinner plans, being a few extra minutes late for happy hour and getting back to the hotel. While we possessed a desire to accomplish what we were certain was important, and we were sure that we knew the destination, we were missing one key ingredient. After twenty plus years of sailing, Captain Rich had a keenly developed a sense of what was necessary to make it back safely to shore that evening—discipline.
As the COVID-19 news unfolds and more people are staying in (check out www.cdc.gov/covid-19 for the latest accurate information), some of us could be spending more time at home than we had planned this spring. While I am lucky enough to have the kind of job that I can do from home, I’ve never figured out how to do it well. On the odd snow day or sick day that I’ve attempted over the years, I’ve always felt that working from home is far less productive and more tiring than being in the office where it’s easier to focus.
If you are like me, your inbox is full of COVID-19 response letters from every vendor, doctor, airline, restaurant or business of any kind you’ve interacted with. These external communications serve their purpose, but not nearly as essential as your internal response.
No matter what business you are in, if you are the CEO or an executive leader, you're thinking about how your business is responding to (and being affected by) COVID-19. Your people are worried; everyone is worried. At the very least, your job is to lead them through this anxious and uncertain time, and it's also to prepare for the worst, just in case. This is why we always recommend using the 5c's of communication framework to ensure that everyone has all of the information that they need.
We all know we need to be prepared for the worst—while striving for the best—when it comes to the effects of COVID-19, and the market has proven that leaders who remain calm and focused are better able to steer their team through turbulence and uncertainty. However, my experience is that many leaders and leadership teams do not know how to do this.
I'm being asked by CEOs worldwide, "What few things must I focus on now?" Even when leadership appears calm like a duck on the surface, many leaders today are paddling like mad underwater with only a finite few that have clear direction.
Great strategic meetings don’t happen by accident. They happen because someone is committed to THINKING through the purpose and outcome, PLANNING all of the details in advance, and DOING the hard work of running the meeting. This is the role of an excellent annual planning facilitator that can help you better define your strategy, create a winning annual plan and leave with an action plan to get your annual initiatives done. In order to facilitate a planning session, there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done. These same techniques should be used for in person sessions and virtal strategic planning sessions with your management team.
For many managers, leading a remote team is something new. After a few months, you’ve probably worked out many of the technical issues and settled into a rhythm of remote work. As many companies go back to the office, some team members may remain remote due to childcare issues, caring for family members, pre-existing medical conditions that increase their risk, or myriad other reasons. Some companies may continue remote working for the foreseeable future. As you navigate shifting team dynamics, how do you know if your team health is as strong as it should be?
In a Remote Work Report released by HubSpot in 2019, lack of social connection (29%) and communicating with co-workers (29%) were the two biggest challenges faced by remote workers. If you can’t see your co-workers and interact with them in the office, how do you know your team is experiencing these problems?
If you are like many of our clients, you may be considering adjusting travel plans for your team in the midst of the concern surrounding COVID-19. This will obviously have a big impact on most businesses, which makes it more important than ever to prioritize your team’s quarterly planning meeting. You’ll need to spend time thinking about the impacts to your team and your business, so even if you are canceling travel, don’t cancel your session! This is likely to be the most important virtual strategy session in the history of your company - even if you can't meet face to face. You need to be agile to respond to the ever changing market conditions.
Employee engagement for remote workers is a huge topic in the market today, especially with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) limiting travel and forcing a large part of the working population to work from home that don't typically do so, throwing their work life balance into chaos. It is difficult enough to engage employees that are in the same office as you, let alone keeping a geographically dispersed group of employees engaged. In today’s hectic and fast-paced work environment, organizations need to do everything they can do to create an engaging workplace that helps find, attract and develop A-players no matter where they are located.
According to CNBC, since the onset of COVID-19, Zoom use has surged to over 300 million daily participants. Microsoft Teams has more than 75 million daily active users. and Rhythm client Connex International's business has dramatically expanded as they help companies connect, collaborate, and expand their business. Other video conferencing platforms have surged as well. For many people, all of the in-person interactions—team meetings, project work, strategic planning sessions, one-on-ones, daily huddles, coffee breaks, happy hours, and even personal social gatherings—have been replaced by video conferencing.
While many teams are heading back to the office, increased usage of video conferencing platforms in the workplace is likely here to stay. As different people cope with their health risks, childcare and eldercare challenges, and the need for more flexibility to work from home, remote work will likely only increase as we move forward from here.
A little peek behind the proverbial curtain for you: I have a digital notebook (I use Evernote) where I capture blog ideas as they come to me. I periodically review that list to see what topic ideas I may be able to research and write out as a full post. I had an idea in January to write about the need to invest in workplace training to help upskill team members for the future of work.
I wrote the following draft of a first sentence: "Maybe 2020 isn’t quite the future we imagined.” Looking back on that now, I can confidently say most of us never predicted a global pandemic, economic upheaval, and social unrest—and we are only through the first half of the year.