Last summer I started taking my friend Carol’s Zumba class. I got hooked and became a regular. I’m very awkward at it but I love the cardio, fun music, routine, and camaraderie that the class provides — or now, I should say, provided. I haven’t been able to attend the class for several weeks in order to do my part in preventing the spread of COVID-19. I have missed it!
I was thrilled this week when Carol sent out emails with videos of her routines that I could follow from home. They aren’t done in a professional video studio with perfect sound and lighting, and the participants aren’t in matching outfits with lovely smiles. Instead they are my friends, in their workout clothes, doing the routines that are familiar to me and that make me smile.
As humans, we seek the familiar and the routine. Habitual behaviors in both humans and animals can induce relaxation to help us manage stress during these uncertain times. These patterns heighten our belief that we are in control of our situation even when we aren’t. At this time of constant change, help provide both structure and routine to your employees and colleagues by encouraging these behaviors:
- Get up and get dressed, just as you did before.
- If you typically had an in-person staff meeting on Mondays at 9am, continue with that day and time. Keep the agenda as similar as possible.
- If you had lunch with Alex most Tuesdays, continue this plan. Just do it virtually.
- If you previously listened to background music in the office, use the same soundtrack at home. You may never have liked it, but now is not the time to switch it up.
- Create as many routines as possible. Work the same hours, stop for lunch at the same time, and end your work day as you always have.
Please let me know what routines you have established. What’s working?
It was just a few weeks ago that I was sitting at lunch with a future client, Salim. Salim shared with me that he was recently hired by an organization in a new HR director role. He was excited about the position since he was an experienced professional of 25 years and felt confident that he could lead the HR department in a positive direction. Unfortunately, he came to realize that there is no HR budget, no infrastructure, and no systems in place.
The CEO whom Salim reports to is a brilliant engineer, very accomplished in his field, but he is not respected in his company for anything other than his engineering background. Read between the lines…The CEO is not an effective leader.
At our lunch, we also talked about our personal lives. Salim had just bought a new condo and was setting up a workshop in his garage. He was very excited about it.
I shared this perspective with Salim: Both the HR function of Salim’s company and his condo are blank slates, waiting for him to make them effective. Salim knew that the HR function needed an automated payroll system, an applicant tracking system, an employee development plan, and a performance management system (just to get started!). His workshop also needed enhancements, such as a workbench, table saw, and drill press.
We agreed that Salim would start building a robust HR department and that he would stop waiting for direction or asking for permission. He would spend money on well-researched and necessary services, processes, and systems.
When I checked in with Salim last week, he was not yet building any of the systems we had discussed. Instead, he had formed an ad hoc committee with the CFO, the CIO, and two members of the board to make recommendations to the CEO regarding the Coronavirus. In an absence of leadership, Salim had become a leader.
Even if you are new in a role, you are a leader.
Even if you don’t have a budget, you are a leader.
Even if you haven’t been given direction, you must be a leader.
When you are in an organization where leadership is lacking, step up and fill the void.
If you coach a youth sports team, send encouragement and stay connected to the kids. If you sing in a choir, set up a virtual practice. If you are an employee and you can see a way to help, step up!
If your organization is giving direction, follow it. In the absence of leadership, collaborate with colleagues and stakeholders and move forward. Everyone is a leader!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing new information every day in order to help you make the best possible decisions for your organization. If you want to be followed as a leader, lead.
When I was beginning my career, I supervised a woman named Kristin. Kristin worked at the front desk and was the first person visitors who came to our department met. Kristin was a brilliant editor and writer, but when guests entered, she barely looked up from her work. She didn’t greet them with a smile, sometimes she even grunted!
Her colleagues didn’t even know whether to say good morning or just walk by her desk.
Now in this new, virtual workplace we are experiencing, I am being cc’d on a lot of internal messages. Whether you are using Slack, email, or another virtual platform, a few of you are virtually “grunting”!
When employees are stressed, every interaction is magnified. And trust me, everyone is stressed! And everyone is juggling.
When employees are virtual, texts and emails can be interpreted as impersonal or even harsh. Think of each message you send as an opportunity to create more connection, camaraderie, and support. Ask how your employees and colleagues are doing, take time to read their answers, and respond with kindness.
When it’s appropriate, use this time to create social connections with employees and staff. My daughter Katie is home from college taking part in remote learning. When she logged in for her first online class, she just saw a dog on the screen with her professor’s voice in the background. That certainly brought humor and levity to the course! Feel free to use his same idea.
What interesting and workplace-appropriate ways can you start meetings?
Please let me know how you are doing!