How to Get the C-suite on Board?

Now is the time to invest in leadership development

Cost control efforts, including layoffs, are increasing across multiple industries. Leadership development initiatives can be an easy target. However, this is often the best time to invest in your organization’s leaders, when even more is going to be asked of them. So, how do you get the c-suite on board?

Some of your CEO’s top areas of focus for 2024 are likely to be: attracting and retaining top talent, continue with digital transformation and drive growth – and, you guessed  – reduce costs at the same time (source:  Conference Board 2024 CEO Outlook Report). And, they need leaders who can support these priorities. 

This opens the door for you to guide the c-suite on how to invest limited resources in leadership development that will be most impactful. How do you get the  C-suite’s crucial support for leadership development?

Frame it up: 2 Questions to ask yourself

Start by framing your conversation to address their biggest concern – positively impacting business results.

What is the business case for your organization?  Thinking like a CEO is critical to winning their support.

  • What are executives most concerned about in 2024?In a nutshell, it’s Growth, Technology, and Talent. If you want to dig deeper, take a look at the 2024 CEO Outlook survey from the Conference Board, and the most recent Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey Insights

  •  Find out not only what is most critical to your c-suite, but how they are talking about it. Be conversant in your company’s mission, business strategy, KPI’s / OKR’s and financial performance. Have direct discussions with senior leaders about what’s critical to them. Be prepared to provide relevant data (employee engagement, client satisfaction, attrition and talent acquisition, absenteeism, etc.). Business strategy documents, annual reports, and formal communications to leaders and employees are also good sources to prepare for discussions.
  • Create a direct link between your organization’s pain pointsand how the leadership development will help ease it. See more below.

What is the ROI / Impact?  If you have been able to demonstrate a strong ROI of past leadership development initiatives at your organization, that’s gold. If you don’t have that data, you can point to studies from reputable organizations that show a link between leadership development and business performance. Use this kind of data sparingly and targeted to your C-suite’s biggest concerns. This graphic from joshbersin.com provides compelling high-level support:

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Or some of these statistics could pique their interest:

Talking with the C-suite

In addition to data and framing it up, positioning your business case is critical. Here are some ways to talk with your c-suite about leadership development.

Alignment:“We need to improve our leaders’ ability to align with the organization on business strategy, goals, and culture.”

  • Alignment needs to be regularly reinforced at all levels of the organization, from the most senior leaders to the most junior employees. For example, innovation is one of our core business imperatives. Leaders at all levels need to create environments on their teams where people will share new ideas and step out of old ways of thinking, Strong leadership development can show them how to do this and apply it in their real work.
  • Better aligned leaders make better decisions. They are also faster at adopting new technology.Our business’s innovative strength will be a direct byproduct of helping our leaders and their teams to better align with our business strategy and goals.
  • Leadership development is best when customizedso that critical skills are taught and practiced in ways that reflect our strategy and values. And I will ensure any development program does that.

Engagement:“We know from our engagement surveys, leaders and managers want the organization to invest in them” (if you don’t have engagement surveys, use some of the statistics discussed above). Opportunity for development is one of the top motivating factors listed in virtually all studies and surveys on engagement.

  • The bottom line for better engaged managers and employees is better performance. Teams that are engaged work more productively; they’re more likely to got the extra mile to achieve organizational goals, and they collaborate across teams more willingly.
  • In our continually changing business environment, leaders are desperately looking to boost their ability to stay on top of their people challenges.
  • Developing our leaders has a trickle-down effect on the teams and employees. They will be better led and therefore more engaged themselves. That results in better retention, lower hiring costs, and increased productivity.
  • Showing our leaders how to build empathy and trustwith their team members builds connection and embeds engagement more deeply in the organization.

Performance:  “When our leaders have their teams better aligned and better engaged, they will perform better.”

  • Our leadership development will emphasize effective communication and collaboration, which leads to better working relationships and less operational friction. That means fewer misunderstandings, mistakes, and wasted time and resources.
  • We also need to improve team and individual accountability. That includes mutual accountability amongst team members and their leaders. When leaders share more accountably with their teams, it drives engagement and performance.
Growth:  “When our leaders are better aligned with our strategy, and have more engaged and productive teams… they will be better able to help grow the business. Their professional growth helps drives team and organizational growth.”
  • Leadership development hones skills like adaptability and continual learning. That helps create an organization that is agile in the face of constant change.
  • Over time it builds muscle-memory for how to shift gears quickly and effectively from one business imperative to a more urgent or critical one.
  • Well-developed leaders are also better at identifying organizational growth opportunities and mitigating risks that threaten that growth.

Of course, you will find language and examples to make this framework more specific to your organization. That will make it resonate more with your senior leaders.

The value of effective leadership development is that it supports and accelerates the business strategy. It helps create a culture of adaptability and innovation. All of which helps your organization stay competitive in relentlessly changing markets.

All of which makes leadership development a wise investment, and not merely a cost.

Contact us for more information on how we can help you build leaders who enhance connection, performance and growth in your business.

5 Keys to Making Better Leadership Decisions

Are you tired of your team struggling to make crucial decisions?  Looking for better results? Effective decision making can mean the difference between surviving and thriving as an organization. Here are 5 essential elements of a success decision-making process.

  1. Don’t approach all decisions the same. In a recent global survey, McKinsey looked at how ‘winning’ companies approach decision-making.  They differentiate decisions based on three criteria:
    • Frequency
    • Risk
    • Importance

This combination of factors helps define the decision, who’s involved, the level where the decision should be made, and which tools will help ensure the best decision is being made.  Decisions can be:

    • Big bet: infrequent and high risk/high importance
    • Cross-cutting: frequent and high risk/high importance
    • Delegated: frequent and lower risk/lower importance
  1. Define clear objectives: Before making any decision, ensure that everyone on the team knows the objectives and goals that the decision is meant to achieve. Too often we assume everyone is on the same page only to find out the opposite. Have explicit conversations about the goals and objectives it will achieve.
  1. Balance psychological safety with intellectual honesty. Jeff Dyer et. al. discuss how intellectual honesty and psychological safety are key to incremental and breakthrough innovation and learning – both outcomes of decision making.  Create a decision-making environment where people feel comfortable sharing their concerns, questions, and ideas while also allowing for difference and ideas to be debated and explored.
  1. Be aware of decision bias. We all have biases.  It’s part of how our brain functions.  However, we need to be aware of those biases and push against them.  Common decision biases include the sunk cost bias, confirmation bias, and the herd mentality.
  1. Evaluate and learn. After making a decision, take the time to evaluate the outcome and learn from it. This will help your team make better decisions in the future.

It’s important to note that decision-making, especially at the strategic level, should follow a process that fits your organization and culture.  With few exceptions,  the process should be followed consistently, so that everyone knows how it works, shortcuts aren’t taken, and that consistency creates efficiency over time.

If you’re not happy with results of your decision-making, no matter how long you’ve been doing it that way, or how recently you changed the process, don’t be afraid to review and revise the process. Most organizations can benefit from a third party to help them understand their strengths and weaknesses and how to re-engineer their decision-making. At the very least, start with these 5 keys.

4 Must-Do Items on Every Leader’s January Checklist

We’re starting another year. Like any other, it will be filled with opportunities and challenges, achievements and disappointments, zigs and zags. During these first couple weeks of the year, position yourself and your team for success in the months to come. Here are 4 actions that will help you start the year personally centered, organizationally aligned, and ready to go.
How can you and your team get off on the right foot in 2023?
Reconnect to your North Star.  What is your big “why?” Why do you do the work you do? How is it helping you live your values? How does your work advance your personal and career goals? Your business goals? What needs to change to move you further along this year?
  • There are hundreds of tools online to help you do this.  Here’s one.

 

  • If you’re already sure of your North Star, here’s a quick tool for moving you forward: with your north star in mind, create a “Start-Stop-Continue/ Improve” list. Focus on specific behaviors like “start spending 5 minutes preparing for every meeting/discussion by writing down how it aligns with my purpose and my goals and the top three things I want to accomplish.” Or “stop complaining in front of my team and focus on solutions.”

 

  • No matter what you do, write your thoughts down and put an alert in your calendar to check in with them on at least a quarterly basis. As this year ramps up we will be distracted by fire drills, urgent requests, and changes in plans. Aligning to your North Star will allow you to focus more fully on adding value and saying no to non-value-add activities.
Clarify goals.  For many of you, December and January are about setting annual goals for yourself and your team. Make sure you and your team are clearly aligned. Engage your team members in individual conversations about how frequently they want to check in on goal progression and the best way you can support them. Also, decide how you will reprioritize when inevitable change comes along. Even if you did this as recently as December, a quick check-in is important. People lose focus over the holidays, things change quickly and clarifying expectations at the beginning of the year leads to better alignment and happier team members.
Assess your personal routines.  Research shows that having routines can allow us to be more creative.  By creating routines around repetitive leadership tasks, we are able to direct our free cognitive resources to learning and creativity.  What are your current routines? What else could you routinize? For example, set up ‘do not disturb’ on your messaging while you’re doing concentrated work.  That way, responding to messages becomes routinized, and you’re able to respond at a time when you can focus more fully on the messages. Another way to improve your leadership is to consider your daily habits… what do you do almost without thinking or planning? What should you start/stop/continue?  Here’s a great list shared by 21 executives.
Do a mental health check.  How are you feeling as you start the year? Take an honest look at your emotional and mental health. Many of us are energized and ready to go. Many others are still feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, and daunted by what lies ahead of us. Commit time each day to taking care of yourself. Go for a walk. Connect with friends. Read. Do something that feeds your energy. Your company likely has confidential resources that you can access to help you understand and improve your health.
Being intentional around these four areas, you’ll position yourself for a great start to 2023.
What else do you do to start your new year with intention?

Does Your Business Discourage Dissent?

Diversity of experience and ideas, like other types of diversity, are critical to the success of your business. Even with a deep connection to your mission and strong leadership, an insular approach to strategy and decision-making can leave you vulnerable. It can hinder your ability to see early warning signals in the market or changes in customer profiles, and it becomes too easy to believe that past success will almost guarantee future success.
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In her recently published article from Harvard Business Review, Edith Onderick-Harvey provides some practical insights into how to ensure your organization stays resilient. The article was written for the family business audience, but the challenges and solutions are applicable to virtually all organizations.
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By Edith Onderick-Harvey

5 Minutes. 5 Days. (Re)gaining Joy at Work

Joy and happiness are two different things. Both impact things like creativity, individual productivity, and the company’s bottom line (yes, it’s true). But joy is more sustainable.  Here’s a 5-minute per day, one-week plan for kickstarting your path to getting more joy out of work.

Are you missing joy at work?  Or maybe, you’ve never even put the two words joy and work together in the same sentence.  May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Joy is important to mental health. Finding it at work is very challenging for many of us. However, finding it may be more important than ever.

Isn’t joy just another word for happiness?  Not really. According to Merriam Webster dictionary joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune. Joy comes from being connected to our uniqueness, authenticity, to others and to something meaningful. Joy is something we create and more intrinsic. Happiness is sparked by an external event or situation. Research shows both joy and happiness impact our creativity, energy, productivity, health, ability to handle stress, and the company’s bottom line. Joy is more sustainable.

Interested in (re)gaining joy at work? After all, we do spend most of our days working. Creating joy needs to be an active pursuit made up of small steps we take every day. I challenge you to take the 5-minute, 5-day challenge to (re)gain joy at work. It works best when you implement it over 5 consecutive days and jot your answers down somewhere so you can look back on them.

Day One: 5 minutes:  Reconnect to your North Star.  What is your big why?  Why do you do the work you do? How is it helping you live your values? How does your work connect with other important things in your life? What about it is driving you right now?

Day Two: 5 minutes:  What is one thing you can influence or change at work that will allow you to align with your North Star more completely – even if it’s a small thing. What is one task you could do? Or stop doing? What is one opportunity you could take to give yourself a few minutes to focus on something more meaningful? Or to laugh? Or to take a deep breath?

Day Three: 5 minutes: What colleague could you help?  Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have time to help a colleague because you have so much on your plate.  What if you grabbed them a cup of coffee when you go to grab one yourself? Could you have a walk and talk to help them think through a challenge while you both go to pick up lunch (that you may be eating at your desk so you can keep working!)

Day Four: 5 minutes: What are your strengths?  What energizes you?  What is one way, in the next week, you could more fully use that strength? How could you craft your job so that you are able to do this more consistently and frequently?

Day Five: 5 minutes.  Reflect and reward yourself.  What accomplishment are you proud of this week? How did you live your big why? What one thing did you influence or change? Who did you lend a hand to? How did you use your strengths more fully? Do you feel more joy today than you did 5 days ago?

Integrate this challenge into your daily routine every week. Assess the impact at the end of 3-weeks and 3 months. Let me know what happens.

Why Going Back to The Office Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea After All

Let’s face it – the world of work is unlikely to ever be the same again. Most companies that have been remote over the last two years are unlikely to ever require 100% office attendance of all their employees. And that’s a good thing.

No two employees are exactly alike.  They have differing capabilities for working productively at home, and different work-life balance needs. Companies are recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all. The best companies will find ways to accommodate the best talent. And every company will make decisions about how flexible they want to be. Likewise, every person will make decisions about which organization is the best fit for them.

Even with this increased flexibility, there are benefits to going into the office … at least a couple of days per week:

  • Your career – good companies will work to create a culture where your work location doesn’t dictate opportunities. All other things being equal, there will still be an unspoken bias that favors those who come to the workplace more often than their peers. For most executives and managers, this won’t be consciously planned. It’s just human nature.  People give opportunity to those they trust the most. And trust is built through relationships. Relationships that include face-to-face time are typically built more quickly and deeply. Grabbing lunch, a chance meeting walking down the hall, or popping into their office for a quick chat. That VP who just hired you? You’re sitting in her office and notice that picture off to the side with her golfing friends and begin a discussion about your favorite courses in the area. Those are meaningful ways that people develop closer personal ties. And they happen more effortlessly and more deeply face-to-face.
  • Your sanity – some people don’t miss going to work one bit. Maybe it’s the commute. Or you’re a complete introvert and don’t need or want social connection as much as the next guy. It could be you’ve just gotten used to the convenience of crawling out of bed, pouring yourself a cup of coffee, and firing up the laptop. Most people, however, need social interaction to maintain their mental health. Covid has been difficult for all of us for numerous reasons and social isolation is a big part of it. Even if you have a bunch of friends that you’ve been able to stay close to for the last two years, being at work provides a greater variety and number of interactions – both of which are healthier for most people. And sometimes we just need to get away from our home because there are distractions that we need a break from. For some people, there are times when “quiet time” to reflect and get things done is more doable at the office than at home.
  • Your options– being at work at least part-time opens up options that aren’t as easily available if you work from home full-time. Here is a partial list of things that are often done more easily, effectively, or enjoyably from the office:
      • Collaborating on the fly
      • Improving your health as you get up and move around. (It takes many more steps to go grab a coffee or lunch at the office than going to your kitchen.)
      • Work / life balance: the kind where work ends when you walk out the door, not when you finally eat dinner or go to bed
      • Networking before, during or after work
      • Developing a new set of daytime acquaintances that aren’t tied to family and “weekend friends,” which promotes mental health
      • Shopping for the perfect gift at that cool store around the corner
      • Celebrating team and individual successes, holidays and birthdays, and important milestones like promotions and retirements

There is no question that returning to work will also be difficult for many people, and that’s to be expected. It was a big change when you abruptly started staying home and it will be a big change if and when you go back to the office, even if only for a day or two per week. There are steps you can take to help yourself prepare and adjust once you’re back. And make no mistake, your attitude toward going back will impact how hard it is for you to return.

No one is better at gauging how to best meet your personal and professional needs than you are. And that’s why taking a second look at what you’ve gained… and lost… over the last two Covid years might lead you to a more nuanced view of the benefits of going back to the office at least part time. Even if it’s not your choice, appreciating the silver lining is good for your mental health and probably your career.

What’s Going On With You? A Little Introspection Can Improve Personal Performance

Recently, I’ve been talking with leaders, including mid-level leaders, about the challenges they are facing with staff shortages, continued ambiguity from COVID, and end of year pressures. In these conversations, the underlying theme is the toll these issues are taking on their emotions and their continual effort to push those emotions away or to simply plow through them.

The context for these conversations is a broader discussion about leading with emotional agility. Susan David and Christina Congleton, in their Harvard Business Review article, define emotional agility as the ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings in a mindful, productive way. When most of us get hooked by our negative thoughts, especially at work, we have one of two reactions. We buy into them (“I always do something stupid that gets in the way of my success.”) and avoid the situations that may evoke them. Or, we rationalize them away (“I shouldn’t have these thoughts. Just get on with it.”)

When we get hooked and choose one of these two common reactions, we are not giving ourselves the opportunity to respond effectively and intentionally. To choose to respond rather than react, the first step you must take is to recognize what is going on with you.

When I talk with these leaders, I ask them how many times a day they check in with themselves to assess what they are feeling. The overwhelming response is never. Some will say rarely. A very small fraction will say regularly. Then we do the following exercise:

First, we pause the conversation right there and I give them 30 seconds to just stop and check in with themselves.

Before the pause, I encourage them to work hard to accurately name what they are feeling. Don’t just tell themselves they are feeling stressed. Rather become more granular in the assessment. Are you angry? Frustrated? Overwhelmed? Constrained? To respond, rather than react, the first step is to accurately identify and understand what you are feeling. You can’t create an effective response or strategy if you are unable to clearly define what you are responding to.

At the end of 30 seconds, I ask them about their experience. They often say it makes them feel more centered, have more clarity, and are better able to manage those emotions than have the emotions manage them. It provides them the space to choose a response.

We then discuss how pausing 1-2 times a day – taking 1 minute out of an 8, 10 or 12 hour workday– can significantly impact the ability to become more emotionally agile and the impact of that agility on their ability to lead in challenging times.

Over the next few weeks, take a moment or two throughout the day to check in with yourself. What are you feeling? How are you reacting to those emotions? What opportunities do you have to pause to make the choice of how you will respond?

These are stressful times. You’ll find that this technique also works quite well at home.

The 3rd Key to Better Results in 2021

Everyone wants a competitive advantage. In our last article, we talked about the critical nature of purpose (a North Star) and strategic clarity. They provide much needed direction in a time of change and uncertainty. The third key to better results in 2021 is culture. And it’s considered by many to be the most important.

Peter Drucker famously said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and research supports that assertion. Just a couple examples:

Culture is what bonds people together (or doesn’t) – and it usually determines how effectively you pursue strategy. Whether your organization or team will be remote, blended or back in the office, one of your 2021 priorities should be ensuring your culture is positioning you to take advantage of opportunities.


Just Words on a Page?
Culture is often defined in terms of published values (or principles, philosophy, ideals). These statements are meant to guide the actions and decisions of employees throughout the organization. Do those statements actually create culture? The answer is no. Sull, Turconi, and Sull researched the correlation between 9 of the most frequently stated company values and how well the companies lived up to those values in their employees’ eyes. The correlation between the published values and actual values were very weak for all, and negative for four of them.  As the saying goes, “don’t pay attention to what they say, pay attention to what they do.”

Culture is a Reflection
It reflects how we actually navigate our relationships… with employees, peers, customers and business partners.  Culture is about where we spend our time. Do we spend more time fixing client problems than anticipating them, more time penalizing people for mistakes than recognizing effective behavior? Should we spend more time on service, on innovation or on building value? Ultimately, culture is the collective nature of what we value as a company. And it’s not what we write on a piece of paper, but what we do. Every. single. day.

Build, Maintain and Adapt Intentionally
Our behavior is how we define, demonstrate, and continually recreate culture. As a leader, what actions should you take to build a culture that supports peak performance?

Start with your North Star and strategy: 
Purpose and strategic clarity need to be defined and communicated regularly. They provide the context and direction for the culture choices the company makes.

Align it with the company’s brand:
 Your brand is how your company is perceived and experienced by the customer and other stakeholders.  David Matting, Head of Trends and Insights for TrendWatching notes “There’s really no such thing as internal culture anymore. Your culture is always public, and it’s your most powerful, public-facing asset or liability.” It’s difficult to tell the market you are, for example, positioned around an outstanding customer experience when your business doesn’t support an outstanding employee experience.

Define the behaviors that epitomize values.
 Values are often stated as words or phrases like ‘act with integrity’ or ‘delight the customer’. What does that look like? Define the behaviors that epitomize those values. By watching how people behave, what they say and what decisions and trade-offs are made, any leader or employee should be able to say what your culture is.

Connect roles and work to purpose
.  What does a salesperson, developer, machine operator or the CEO do (and not do) that represents the best in your culture? Go beyond traditional job descriptions and define how that role connects to the purpose and culture. Hire for those attributes; expect them, celebrate them and reward them.

Actively and regularly assess.
Whether through surveys, focus groups or an assessment by an external consultant, regularly take a step back and assess how well people in your organization understand the cultural goals.

According to Gallup, Only 41% of employees strongly

agree that they know what their company stands for

and what makes it different from competitors

Leaders also should be asking how well their teams reflect the stated culture. It’s easy for employees and leaders alike to become unmoored from cultural goals. An honest look will continue to position your culture as a competitive advantage, including when it comes to attracting talent.


Adapt in real time.
 Change can’t wait. When the culture no longer represents who the organization or team should be, adapt it to meet changing needs.
By defining your North Star, creating strategic clarity, and intentionally focusing on culture, you are well on your way to creating competitive advantage and an ability to take advantage of the opportunities presented in 2021.

The Two Keys to Better Results in 2021

In these first few weeks of 2021 one thing is abundantly clear – change, disruption and challenge are going to be with us for the foreseeable future. It’s time to move beyond survival mode and figure out how to thrive. Simplicity and focus are key. The organizations and teams that create sustained alignment, keep engagement high and outperform their competition will start 2021 answering two questions:

What is our North Star?
How will we create and maintain strategic clarity?

Without a clear purpose and understanding of what continues to be important in a rapidly changing environment, work becomes fractured, misaligned and frustrating. Recently, McKinsey examined how 30 top companies are preparing for the future. 83% are taking bold moves around their purpose, their North Star. Research by LSA Global shows that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performance in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer loyalty, leadership effectiveness and employee engagement. Research also tells us that finding meaning – having purpose, a North Star – is a universal intrinsic motivator.

Answering “What Is Our North Star?” Provides Clear Purpose

For centuries, travelers have navigated by the North Star. No matter the circumstance, it was a constant in the night sky. It is the answer to the questions, “why do we exist?  What is our purpose?” With today’s unpredictability and the need for agility, your North Star defines the constant core that will drive strategy, priorities and decisions. Without a North Star, agility becomes chaos. Decision-making and priority setting are reactive, siloed and lack alignment.
Defining the North Star should start with the executive team but not end there. Share the definition. Ask what resonates and what’s missing. Create a short statement that is understandable, memorable and defines the essence of why the organization exists. If the statement sounds something like “to increase shareholder value,” keep asking “is that really the core of who we are? Is our purpose larger than that?” Test how simple and memorable it is. After broad and intentional communication, ask 10 random people what the North Star is. If it’s not consistent, you have more work to do.

Strategic Clarity Provides the Map

Strategic clarity follows from strategic simplicity.
Donald Sull, a global authority on strategy execution, recommends three questions that create simplicity and actionable clarity  out of complex strategies.
  • What are your critical business drivers?
  • What are the 3-5 challenges we need to overcome to succeed in 2021?
  • What are our must-win battles?
I add one more question that I believe is essential in today’s environment:
  • How will we keep ahead of or quickly be responsive to changes that occur?

Answering the first three questions brings clarity to targets and daily choices. Why did we choose these targets and those activities? For example, why is our target 3 % growth instead of 5% growth? Why are we focused on digital transformation? Sure, it’s to stay competitive; but specifically, HOW will it help your organization? What business strategies will it support? Can everyone in the organization explain strategy and how it manifests in their function, and in their role? If not, some of your people may be rowing in the wrong direction.

The final question recognizes that change will remain constant and that as we address the challenges and must-win battles, tactics may need to be altered or changed completely. It tells people we recognize that change will occur and leveraging it (instead of fearing it) is how we succeed.
In 2021 we’ll have our next new normal. My prediction is that many people will still feel like their organization’s goals have little connection to their work because things have shifted… again.
By having a North Star and simplifying your strategy to create clarity, your team will be better aligned and more engaged.

Silver Linings of Covid 19

We are about a month into widespread WFH (work from home). As people tend to do during significant change, we notice the things that we are missing – our favorite lunch restaurants, seeing colleagues and friends without social distancing, and the opportunity to go to the office.

During my conversations with a number of leaders over the past couple of weeks, it’s been interesting to hear about some of the positive impacts the new way of working is having on them and their teams. They are simple but powerful examples of how leaders and their teams are responding to challenges.  Here are a few:

  •   A much deeper connection with each other. Leaders and members of their teams are starting conversations by asking, very genuinely, ‘how are you?’ It’s no longer a throw away greeting we use with each other. Communication is more frequent and it’s not just about the work. Leaders are finding and sharing the innovative ways in which they are creating connection with their team.  One shared that he interviews a member of his team each week and shares their bio with the entire team on Fridays. He said he talks to some of these people all the time and now knows them on a completely different level. Teams are building in other ways to have fun and strengthen connections and trust – trivia Tuesday, times to share something silly they did as a child, and so many more.
  • Intentional communication. Leaders are having short stand-up meetings at the start or end of every day to talk about what’s going on, issues that have arisen and what is on the horizon. These meetings are helping teams become more united because they are continually discussing common purpose and creating greater awareness of what each other are accomplishing, struggling with, and how they can support one another. Several leaders have shared with me the frequent check-ins they have with their teams. They are asking people if they are getting what they need, what else they can do and how they can improve the way they are working together. They are hearing that their teams are communicating more frequently and effectively than they ever have. One leader uses a survey to check-in. His team gave the current way they are working a 4.9 out of 5.0 and said they need to talk about how they continue communicating and collaborating this way once they are co-located again.
  • Greater agility. Working remotely when other members of your household who are doing the same or your children are home from school or daycare, creates distractions. Learning to use meeting tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams is new to some people and sometimes the technology is overloaded, so you can’t work as planned. Leaders and teams are being more agile in how they’re approaching the work — readily sharing best practices, calibrating expectations, creating alternate approaches in the moment,  laughing when someone’s cat walks across the keyboard, or understanding when you have to step away from a meeting for a few minutes because the 3 year-old needs something.

Even with all the positives, we are all still adapting. One area where people are struggling is how to make sure work doesn’t take over their lives (or at least anymore than it had prior to the pandemic). Most leaders have told me that it’s difficult for them and their teams to turn work off.  It’s easy to lose track of time – you aren’t catching a train, getting in your car, or seeing that everyone else has left the office. It’s just you and your laptop. You can just keep working or go back to it after dinner or before breakfast.

One solution to this challenge is to create a visual signal – for yourself and others you work with – that you’ve ended your work day.  It could be a simple “I’m signing off now” text. One leader I know has a brief team call right around 5:00 or so which has become the signal that they are done for the day. Physically putting your laptop away, shutting off the desktop, or closing the ‘home office’ door are other signals you could use.

No one is glad the coronavirus has changed our world. But we must and we are finding ways to rise to the challenge. The real silver lining is that the pandemic has forced us to become more agile in ways that will pay dividends long after things return to “normal.”

What are you doing with your teams to help them adjust, be more flexible and remain productive in these difficult times? I’d like to hear from you. Please email me at e.onderick-harvey@nextbridgeconsulting.com