Sometimes It Has Nothing to Do With You

I was speaking with a parent who was concerned about their child’s behavior.

“He’s just so angry all the time! I’ve tried everything I’m not sure what else to do. I don’t know what I did to make him like this.”

So I asked a very pointed question: What makes you think it has anything to do with you?

The parent was caught off guard. “He’s so young! I can’t imagine it would be anything other than me making him angry about something.”

So I said, “Sometimes, it has nothing to do with you.”

The parent was quiet for some time before they said, “I had never considered that it wasn’t me.”

This was an eye-opening moment. They were able to stop and notice the situation as it was without looking to assign blame or find fault. Each situation has information for us if we learn how to pay attention, without judgement. Part of the process of gathering information is to be neutral so you can stay clear and be able to more intentionally decide what to do. In this situation, the parent was able to focus on the event (child’s anger), what’s happening because of it and how they want things to be. This allowed the parent to see potential options on what could be the next step, options that were not able to be thought of when they assumed the behavior issue was related to them.

Consider these situations: the people whispering nearby; the person who cuts you off or steals your parking spot; the rain cloud that seems to follow you on a particularly tough day. Sometimes what happens has nothing to do with you.

For a child, sometimes their behavior is a direct consequence of something their parents did or didn’t do. Sometimes, it’s a stronger power directing them, like hormones or mental capacity or genetic makeup. Many times, it has nothing to do with you.

So keep rocking on as the best parent you can be. Be open, stay tuned in to your kids and don’t make assumptions. Sure, we all wonder if we’re doing it right but sometimes, it has nothing to do with you. Some kids are just born creative. Some are born with a seemingly unnatural energy. Some are born a little more serious. In each instance, they bring something unique to the world and none of this is because of you.

Consider, instead, that you are your kids’ guide. Be there to understand them and help them understand their world. Your role as the parent is not to tell them who to be; it’s to help them learn how to be in their world. Give them the space to discover who they are and how to find where they fit in life. Help them identify their guardrails until they’re old enough to do it for themselves.

Be there to guide, support and encourage your kids to figure things out, own their decisions and find their way.

Take Action
The next time you see questionable behavior from your kid(s), take a deep breath and ask yourself why it may be happening. Assess what’s inspiring the behavior. This can help you better guide, support and encourage your child through their behavior challenge.  

Sometimes it is you. We all get aggravated, tired and lose our cool. And if it is you, own it. Get calm. Slow down. Make a change.

And sometimes it is just your child working through some things. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with you.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading What Type of Parent are You?

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Welcome (and Learn from) Negative Emotions

There are six core emotions that we all experience: sadness, disgust, anger, fear, surprise and happiness. Though all of these emotions are how we interpret, understand and connect with our world, four (sadness, disgust, anger and fear) are what most people identify as negative emotions. Though negative, most of us spend more time experiencing these than the positive emotions of surprise and happiness.

Take a moment and notice how much of your day you feel sadness, disgust, anger or fear. What choices are you making in work and life that inspire responding with these emotions?

Remember that the negative emotions aren’t “bad.” They can be productive to help you sort through challenges and successfully deal with your world. It becomes a challenge for you and those around you, however, when you stay in negative emotions. You are not learning the lessons they are teaching. When I work with my coaching clients about negative emotions, I suggest they visit but don’t move in. To do this, you have to develop an awareness of the emotions you experience, and understand why and how those emotions make you feel.

As these four emotions are available to you, remember that so are the two more positive ones. What would it take for you to learn to spend more time being surprised by and happy in work and life? As so many mindfulness teachers share, all of life is a choice. Though you can’t control what happens in life, you can choose how you respond to it. Noticing how you are feeling – which emotions are going on for you – is the start.

Life is meant to be a great adventure. If we learn to see it from the positive side, our experience will be remarkable. If we are experiencing it from the negative side, we will drag ourselves through life, taking others down with us. You know of those who can’t ever seem to be happy; they are always aware of what is lacking, missing or why they should be angry, disgusted or afraid. Are you one of them?

The world is the way the world is. You choose how to experience it. How you approach and experience your life will determine the quality of your life. Use your emotions wisely to have a really remarkable life experience, regardless of what life actually sends you.

Take Action
For the next 24 hours, tune in to the emotions you experience throughout the day. Each time you stop to notice, record the emotion you are feeling (sadness, disgust, anger, fear, surprise or happiness), then record the event that inspires it. At the end of the day, notice which emotions you spend most of your time with. If you find them to be on the negative side, what changes in your attitude and environment would help you shift to more positive emotions?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading The Value of Setbacks

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One Size Fits All

If you’re anything like me, one size does not fit all. I’ve never been the person who could wear the hat that fits most people, who could wear the poncho or other decorative item or accessory. One size fits all never applied to me.

This was a hard pill to swallow when you’re a teen girl – high school was hard enough! I couldn’t wear the stuff everyone else did because my body was so different. It didn’t fit. I just didn’t fit.

It wasn’t until I got older (and we’re talking like 10 years older than that frustrated 14 year-old me) that I realized one size should never fit all. We’re not all alike. We don’t all share the same strengths and talents and we certainly don’t share the same triggers. We each have our own experiences in life that make us who we are, a combination of nature and nurture. Since our insides are different, why would we expect our outsides to be the same that one size could fit all?

I am seeing this now, once again, as a parent. What works for me as a mother of three boys with a husband who works long hours might not be the approach for a single parent, first time parents, or even parents with older kids. There is no one right approach to parenting – no one-size-fits-all parenting. In fact, we even parent each of our own kids differently than their siblings because they are each unique. I think everyone with kids can agree there’s at least one of your kids that doesn’t seem to know how to listen, or requires a different set of guidelines that lead to time-outs.

So the next time you find yourself wondering why you can’t act like other parents, remind yourself that your approach to parenting has to fit you and those you parent. Remind yourself to recognize that your unique attributes are what make you you – you are never supposed to be the same as everyone else. Instead concentrate on being the best version of you and bring that best you to all you do.

Take Action
Read the poem “I Am An Individual.” It’s something I was required to memorize in 6th grade and the words have stuck with me ever since.

You are a uniquely wonderful person. The way you look, the way you live, the way you parent, the way you work – it is unique to your strengths and talents. What a boring world this would be if one size truly fit all.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Being Uniquely You

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 17

The days have honestly been blending together because it’s the same routine over and over. But honestly, I’ve found my groove. I’ve always been aware of my kids’ schedules – especially when we approach that hangry timeframe – but I’ve been more in tune to their behaviors over the last 17 days because I’m with them all the time. Though I thought I really knew them, spending so much time with them has helped me know them at an even deeper level.

I know when a minor nuisance will be brushed off and when it will escalate (and how quickly).

Yard work with Mom

I know when my 3-year old starts to ignore me (I mean intentionally tuning me out), especially when I’m telling him to stop, slow down or just a flat-out “no,” he’s tired.

I know when my 2-year old starts to run around like a Tasmanian devil with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc, it’s because he’s tired.

And I know when my 5-month old burps, 9 times out of 10, it will be followed by a surprising amount of spit-up.

I am seeing their strengths and challenges appear more clearly. I am seeing their passions and interest developing. I am seeing them start to share who they really are.

And I have to say it’s been amazing. My first real “break” from it all came yesterday, day 17. My husband was able to monitor work emails from his phone while he ran point on childcare and I took care of my own work and things around the house. It wasn’t without interruption, but the extra hands and eyes helped me tackle a significant to do list.

But as I got the boys ready for bed, I realized something: my day felt off. I didn’t get to be part of their days the way I was for the last 16 days. I didn’t get to read with them, play with them or find new activities for them to stay busy with. I didn’t have to break up (many) fights. I was the back-up.

And it made me realize how important this role is to me. Sure, it’s tiring, but when it wasn’t there, I missed it.

I am now aware that I’m going to miss the crazies. I’m going to miss the giggles and running around in circles. I’m going to miss hearing the boys get each other riled up. I’m going to miss having this happen all day, every day when things get back to “normal.”

It took a solid 2 weeks for all of us to get our footing, but once I got into a groove with my new reality, I had an enlightening moment: I see that as the moments of life, I am starting to be okay with whatever it sends. This new normal suits me just fine. Truth be told, I stood in the kitchen completely unsure of what to do with myself when I realized the baby was taking his nap and the big two were entertained and supervised. I’m usually so pressed for time, I didn’t know where to start on my to do list. And then I found myself wondering what I’m going to do when the big two are back in school and everything goes back to the old routine.

Brief meeting

But that’s another topic for another day…

My Top Lessons

  1. Treasure the moments, however they show up. Because in a blink of an eye, they are changed. See the amazing in the tough situations. Appreciate when a moment of growth has given you even a moment of peace and quiet. Don’t want more of it. Don’t lament that it’s happening (so fast). Just appreciate what you get. All too quickly, things return to their “normal” and those moments will be gone. Take a mental snapshot and feel grateful. That moment when everyone is sitting together at the dinner table? Take a mental snapshot. That moment when you find them sitting quietly together reading or playing? Take a mental snapshot. That moment when you realize they look cute but may be in cahoots and what might follow may be absolute mayhem? Take a mental snapshot.
  2. You cannot do everything. I’m going to say this again for the people in the back. YOU. CANNOT. DO. EVERYTHING. And even if you do somehow manage it, you will not be able to physically or mentally give 100% to everything. That in and of itself was a hard pill for me to swallow. I don’t like doing anything half way, so I often felt frustrated, tired and defeated every night when I fell into bed. Realizing that I can’t do everything I wanted to, was a significant mindset shift that drastically changed the intention of the day.
  3. Journal. I have a journal I write in every night. I write one big thing that happened that day for each of my boys. That’s it. That’s my journal entry. But it allows me to remember both the big moments and the small moments that would otherwise be lost in the bustle of every day. Flipping back through it will absolutely bring a smile to your face as you remember something little, like when your 5-month old started driving his toy car across his play mat, or something big, like when your 2-year old asked to stop using diapers or your 3-year old has a brilliant idea to use a fork when painting pasta to avoid getting paint on his hands (*mind blown*). Big or small, write it down.

Some Activities

  • Weather – We had a variety of weather over the last few days in New England. We got outside when it was nice and talked about the blue sky and the clouds. We talked about the wind and we talked about rain. We used the moment to talk about the things around us that in other moments, we would have passed right by.
  • Yard work – This was a first for me: I let my 3-year old help with some spring garden clean-up. We were only out for about an hour, but the physical activity, combined with the guided focus took a lot out of him. He was so excited to be the helper, carrying rakes and shovels out to the garden. He talked about it for the next 24-hours and got my 2-year old excited to help next time. He felt productive and proud that he was able to contribute to something on my to do list. In his eyes, he helped Mommy do something that would otherwise have been something I’d have to do without them. And, we got some important things in the yard done.
  • Read a book and do an activity – We started finding things to do that we read about in a book. For example, If You Give a Moose a Muffin is a recent fan favorite, so as we read it, we picked out a few things the moose does: eats muffins, makes sock puppets, paints a scene, tries on his Halloween costume. We picked one thing (paints a scene) and set off to do our own painting adventure.
  • Talk – To your kids. To your partner or spouse. To your friends. To your neighbors. To your family. Talk to people. Whether it’s the lack of human contact or that the pandemic has made people realize the importance of relationships, tap into your ability to just talk to people. Listen to what they have to say. Share your own stories, concerns, lessons learned. My favorite is asking everyone, including your kids, “What is the best thing that has happened to you so far, today?” or at the dinner table, “What was your favorite part of the day today?”

COVID-19 created a new reality for us, one that we were thrown into without the chance to truly digest. Each day has its own unique challenges as we navigate working and parenting (and teaching and staying healthy and taking time for ourselves) in a 24-hour day. But it’s possible. It just requires a mindset shift – one that accepts our reality and uses our energy to be happy, safe and productive in it.

Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center to help you create a more mindful response to our evolving definition of “normal.”

If you feel like you’re struggling to find an approach to working, parenting, teaching and staying healthy in a 24-hour day, join me for my 1-hour Group Coaching Class on Wednesday, April 1 at 8pmET to learn how to implement a health mindset shift to find success in every element of your day. No guilt. No frustrations. Just productive action.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 12

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Staying Productive When Your World Goes Quiet

Our days are frequently filled with important commitments in our business. From connecting with customers and clients, developing employees, addressing challenges and implementing our strategic plans, we rarely have a moment to think. That is until COVID-19 opened up our schedules.

As a Coach and speaker to CEOs and HR professionals, much of my life is on the road. But last week, this changed. Now my no-longer-fully-booked March and April has me almost feeling like I am either on vacation or a sabbatical.

It’s easy to lose momentum this way. It’s easy to feel defeated. So it requires a mindset shift to ensure you staying productive and purposeful.

If you are in a similar place where you have found yourself with more time than you normally have, it will take some intention to redefine how you want your days to be. A couple of leisurely mornings feel good, but without a plan, you may find your screen and Netflix time increasing with no other reason than to fill time.

To stay productive in your changed workday, planning and intention will be your best allies. Consider these ideas to help you stay focused, grounded and performing.

  1. Define your priorities. What is important to accomplish in the next week, 2 weeks or month? What do you want or need to do for work? What do you want to learn or develop? What do you want or need to do in your leisure time? Once you’ve spent some time thoughtfully answering these questions, break the priorities down into meaningful and productive weekly and daily goals. Without clarity, the days – then weeks – will run away from you and you will not have made any of the progress you intended to make.
  2. Create a daily schedule. With a clear set of goals or things you want to achieve, create a daily schedule, including times. Achievement requires structure. What time are you getting up? What time do you work out, read, work, connect with others, learn/grow? What time do you connect with family, make time for yourself, do your planning and centering? Having a daily schedule provides you with the structure and focus you need to ensure you achieve your goals.
  3. Eat wisely. Sleep intentionally. If you are normally out of the house and now find yourself at home, be intentional about what food you bring into the house. Extra time and the wrong food at home is a recipe for future challenges. Plan your meals and snacks. Keep the junk food out of the house. The same intention is required with your bedtime. Don’t allow yourself to drift off to sleep on the couch in front of Netflix. Plan what you want to watch and go to bed each night at a committed bedtime. Keeping your sleep pattern regular in this period of less structure will help you stay energized during the day so the days are productive (and will help you more easily slip back into the out-of-the-house routine when it starts back up again).
  4. Engage an accountability partner. When our calendars were filled, others kept us on track. Now without the blocks on our calendars, the days can quickly go by without much happening. If you know you will struggle living to your daily schedule, engage a coach, friend or colleague to hold you accountable to what you defined as your goals. Having someone you are accountable to can shift you from wandering during the day to staying on your schedule and achieving what you want to achieve.

Soon, we will all be back to our busy days with schedules that allow us too little time. Having a lot of time now may feel good at the moment but will quickly get away from us unless we take control and build in some structure.

Take Action
Stop and notice how successful you are with an open schedule. Based on what you notice, determine how to use these four steps to help you create structure, goals and organization around your days. This will help you keep your success routine regardless of whatever changes the world sends your way.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Why Things Don’t Always Work Out

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Your Impact is Greater Than You Think

“Don’t ever underestimate the impact you may have on someone else’s life.” -Anonymous

“Everything you do has some effect, some impact.” -Anonymous

The social distancing / quarantine imposed as a result of COVID-19 has shed a lot of light on so many things, primarily impact. Your impact on the world, and the impact so many people have on ours.

Let’s start there: the impact of others.

I’ve seen countless memes and posts on social channels about the value of teachers, and how so many parents didn’t realize just how much work they do and how much time and dedication are required to teach young minds.

I’ve heard about the lines at grocery stores and pharmacies and how, despite the risk to themselves, the employees are showing up to do their jobs, to ensure each of us have the food and medicine we need.

I’ve heard about truck drivers working tirelessly to help stores restock shelves, and delivery drivers trying their best to get things to where they need to be in a timely fashion because people are heeding the advice to stay home.

A week ago, these people were just doing a job. Today, these people are a lifeline. Impact.

Imagine if grocery store employees decided not to show up, to restock shelves, to help you get what you need. Imagine if teachers decided not to be available to help parents continue teaching their children at home. Imagine if delivery drivers decided they didn’t want to travel in a potentially infected area.

What would the impact of those decisions look like for you?

Now let’s look at our impact, specifically on our planet.

I’ve had a few conversations over the past week that addressed the significant reduction in traffic and what that may mean – or do – for the air we breathe. And then I stumbled on this article about the water in Venice. For those of you who haven’t seen, the water is CLEAR.

Imagine if the benefit to this social distancing / quarantine is not just to flatten the curve, but to also let the Earth heal itself from the beating we put on it every single day. Imagine what our world could look like in a few months, not just a few weeks.

So remember that everyone has an impact on someone and something.

Now that you’re aware, what will be yours?

Take Action
As a coach, awareness is something I work on with my clients: awareness of you (self-awareness), awareness of others and awareness of your world (world-awareness). It’s not just about what you’re thinking and feeling, but also about being aware of the impact you have on others (this is also called emotional intelligence) and your surroundings.

Over the next few days, take notice of your impact on those around you. How does your mood impact those in your house (both a good mood and a bad mood)? How does your ability to say “thank you” to someone impact their mood, and possibly even their day? (Remember that video of the little boy who hugged the pizza delivery man? Turns out that man needed that hug after just losing his daughter.)

Impact. How can you ensure your impact will leave a positive and productive mark? And be sure to tune in to our new video, 3 Tips to Stay Calm When COVID-19 Has You and the Kids Stuck in the House.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Power of Journaling

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 12

The last time you heard from me was the Day 6 recap – the completion of nearly one full week in quarantine. Coming to you a few days later, I can confidently say we’re doing well. We made it through the weekend and as I slammed into Monday morning, I found myself repeating my new mantra: “What day is it?”

This wasn’t the normal groggy Monday morning wake-up where you have to remind yourself that yes, you have to get up with your alarm. No, this was the “will the day be any different than it’s been for the last 10 days?” question.

Admittedly, if I wasn’t keeping a journal to mark days in quarantine and what life looked like for the family at home together, I probably wouldn’t even know what day of the week it is, never mind the number of days in quarantine.

So, in honor of my “what day is it?” mantra (because honestly the last few days have blurred together), I’m going to give you a high-level summary of how things went:

  • We went for walks. Apparently, this was a big activity of choice for many in New England as we were given a few very nice, unseasonably warm days. I was outside in a t-shirt with the kids and was NOT cold. That never happens in March!
  • We attempted organized activities. Some of them went well (like dot paints) and some of them did not (like a scavenger hunt through the neighborhood).
  • We tried changing things up. Normally, I’m very strict about keeping toys in the playroom. That is the room designed for all the playthings, so I encourage my kids to keep the toys – especially the small ones or the millions-of-little-pieces things (i.e. Legos) in there. There’s a less likely chance of losing anything and I don’t need to worry about what the baby and/or pets will try to eat. But we changed it up this past weekend, at least a bit: I told the kids they could take some of those off-limits-outside-of-the-playroom-toys out. Some of it went well, other parts did not.
  • Planned meals. I normally create a meal plan for the week to ensure that we aren’t wasting time figuring out what people want to eat and having about 100 different ideas and then no one eating what’s actually made. I was a bit too loose on this over the last week so I implemented the planning again. We saw significantly fewer refusals and the boys ate right away (instead of goofing off or slipping into a hangry spiral that got too far out of control).
  • Potty training. Part of me is still not entirely sure adding this level of stress and frustration to the current situation made a ton of sense, but then again, we’re home and we have zero interruptions. Now makes sense. As of this writing, we’re on day 3 and the process has been… what you can expect. I swear, this is the part of parenting I was woefully unprepared for. The patience. The time it takes for this to really sink in. The anger from the independent and stubborn children when you tell them it’s time to go back to the potty to try again. The confusion when they don’t listen and stand up soaking wet…

My Top Lessons

  1. Make the little decisions – I know there’s a lot of guidance readily available about helping toddlers feel like they can make their own decisions and that by doing so it helps inspire and build independence. Let me tell you something: pick your battles. If you know letting them pick what they want for breakfast could result in a 30-minute discussion that eventually leads to a break down because they’re now starving, just make something for them and put it in front of them. They’ll eat it. Let them exercise those independence muscles elsewhere, like what to watch on TV or what shirt they want to wear.
  2. Pick your battles – Similar to the process of making little decisions to just make family things go more smoothly, sometimes, you just need to decide when it’s worth arguing about. My rule is that the playroom always needs to be cleaned up when we sit down to eat – whether it’s a snack or a meal. This is something I won’t budge on. Same with wearing shoes in the house; they come off when you walk in the door. But I’m picking my battles about other things, like changing their pajamas a few times before actually getting into bed or letting them eat their yogurt pouch while on the couch (*cringe*). Some things are just ok to turn the other cheek to. Sometimes.
  3. Be aware of you – I realized mid-disciplining moment that I went from 0 to 60 much faster than was necessary for that specific situation all because I was hungry. I was literally in the middle of reprimanding and my mind said to me, “dude, you’re hungry. This is so not the battle to pick.”Instant guilt and complete frustration with myself. I needed to just take a few minutes to take care of myself when all day it was about everyone else. I realized in that moment I hadn’t eaten anything since 11 a.m. – it was 5:45 p.m.
  4. Remember to appreciate the moments – Whether big or small, you’re bound to experience some pretty epic moments during this time. Don’t forget to stop and really experience it. For example, in the last 48 hours, my 5-month old started hugging, doing the baby kiss, sitting up nearly on his own and crawling (it’s the early stages of crawling, but he’s getting to where he wants to go pretty efficiently). These are big moments that could easily be overlooked by the stress and bustle associated with everyone being at home. But there have also been some amazing “little” moments too, like when my independent 2-year old told me he just “needed a quick hug” and my 3-year old hugged me after dinner saying, “I just love you so much.” Recognize the big and little moments and remember to appreciate each of them.
Some activities with Painter’s Tape

Some Activities

  • Painter’s Tape – This can be used in so many ways for so many activities. Try putting it on some paper and let your kids paint around it. After the paint dries, slowly remove the tape to see the design or words they made. You can also put it on the floor and create a ladder, a game of hopscotch, “balance beams” or roads. We used it as a ladder at first, then I created numbers to allow for additional games, like number identification, small addition work, and using the squares to do color identification and matching (see image).
  • Sidewalk Chalk – We haven’t used sidewalk chalk very much (there always seems to be an injury or the chalk becomes a weapon of some sort), but the boys were excited about something different outside. We set parameters to keep them in the safe part of the driveway (“don’t cross these lines”), which of course became a game and a required starting point for all artwork. I think a lot of people had a similar idea to do something intentional outside, especially after seeing the social engagement idea to write messages to neighbors on your driveway in sidewalk chalk.
  • Run it Out – My kids love to run. They run in circles inside the house, they run up and down the hallway and they run forever when they’re outside. So we set up races: “run to the edge of the fence and back to me as fast as you can… go!” “Run to the shed and back to me as fast as you can… go!” It got some pent-up energy out while making it a game and adding a bit of competition.
  • Mindful Practices – My 3-year old does some yoga poses at school and his teacher was kind enough to share those with the parents. So, we’ve been doing them together and teaching some to my 2-year old. Let me tell you: “take a yoga breath” has done WONDERS to stop an outburst in its tracks. Do the same for yourself. When you feel a meltdown coming – warranted or not – take a yoga breath. I like saying that much better than “count to 3.”

Share your ideas on what’s working and not working for you. Tell us how you are doing and what you are experiencing. Remember: none of us is as smart as all of us. All of us are learning as we go and the more we share, the faster we learn.

Hang in there everyone. We’ve got this.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 6

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How to Manage New Remote Employees

COVID-19 has made us rethink many things about our businesses: how we do our work, who remains and who goes, how we keep our employees safe, how we share information and how we support our customers, just to name a few. One of the newest changes from this pandemic is that many of our local employees have become remote employees.

As a manager, how will you ensure their success as remote employees?

We believe it has everything to do with the way you manage (and actually coach) them.

Let’s say you have used a methodical process to assess which roles can be shifted to remote, and that you have evaluated whether the employees in these roles have the capacity to work remotely, including having a remote workspace. If they are incapable of working independently and don’t have workspace to complete their jobs, they should not be allowed to be remote.

But let’s say they are a good candidate for remote work. They are now set up at home and, because they haven’t done this before, you know you will need to interact and connect with them differently. The reason? You want them to be amazing in their roles, to be productive, successful and happy, so they will contribute, grow and develop with the organization.

Consider these four tips to help your new remote employees rock at their jobs.

  • Think and act like a coach. You have to start with you. Regardless of how you managed this employee / these employees before, what they now need is a coach. Coaches make time to ask, listen, support and guide. Coaches hold others accountable for their commitments and their work. Coaches help others solve their own challenges instead of filling in the blanks and doing the work of others. This approach activates greater personal connection, accountability and loyalty. Before you start managing your remote employee, learn the fundamentals of coaching. These include learning how to be self-aware and self-managed to shift the attention on the other party. Focus on gathering information, brainstorming ideas, choosing ideas and implementing performance plans. As you shift from controlling (managing) to guiding (coaching), you will interact differently with your employees, both those who are local and those who are remote. You will make time to explain, review, support and develop your employees. The reason for this is that it gets the work done more effectively while building rapport, increasing engagement and encouraging loyalty from your employees – particularly remote employees. This helps the remote employee be more committed to their role (that now has less direct supervision) leading to successful performance.
  • Define or redefine the performance expectations of the job. Since the remote employee may not be new to the job but new to the remote environment, defining, redefining or reconfirming the expectations and assessing what is reasonable based on the new environment is critical. The goal is to help the employee be successful in this new arrangement, and business as usual is not likely to happen. This could include a daily huddle or 10-minute review of expectations and challenges. As a coach, making time to review, guide and support encourages the employee’s confidence and competence. This helps to make a more effective remote employee.
  • Regularly assess performance. As this approach to work is new for the remote employee, increase the amount of time you assess and evaluate their performance. This isn’t to come down on things not done, but rather to create a recurring performance conversation about what’s working and not working so the employee knows they are supported, can improve in areas needing improvement and is applauded for successes. Again, acting more as a coach than a manager encourages an easy discussion about performance instead of one that is defined by worry about being reprimanded or scolded for things not done well.
  • Include the remote employee in local employee meetings and activities. Being remote may create a benefit for the employee in one respect, but it also can interrupt their ability to feel connected to their team. It will require intention to continually include remote employees in the discussions and activities of local employees. Challenge the team to develop ways to constantly and successfully include all employees and to ensure morale, engagement and the feeling of inclusion remain high. Activities such as team meetings, brainstorming sessions and even birthday celebrations can include remote employees so they feel included. Get creative in how you can have remote employees participate in the things local employees do.

New remote employees will need support. Though they were capable employees in a local environment, even the best employees can find themselves distracted, disconnected and disappointed in a new remote environment. Unless, of course, you create a successful environment for them.

Take Action
Stop and assess your management style. What is effective and ineffective about it with your new remote employees? Make the time to ask how your connection and support with your new employees is working. This will give you feedback and set up an honest exchange that will facilitate your working relationship and their performance success.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Get Your Employees to Want to Do More

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Developing Bench Strength to Accommodate Business Interruptions (COVID-19)

As we have seen, things change quickly in today’s world. Organizations that weather the constant challenges and changes do so because they have intentionally cross-trained their talent to be ready to assist in other roles if needed.

Take the current situation with COVID-19, for instance.

  • Some employees will develop the coronavirus and will not/should not be in the workplace.
  • Some employees will have to shift to remote work because of their home situation and the need to manage their kids because schools have been shut down, making them unavailable for some aspects of their roles.
  • Some employees will not feel comfortable with being out in the world or with the safety practices in your workplace and choose to be laid off or take an unpaid leave. This results in a vacant role with unmet responsibilities.

Regardless of the reason, the presence of COVID-19 has illustrated that we need to expand the capabilities of our teams to accommodate changes in both the workplace and the world. Without a plan, vital employees may be removed from your roster leaving significant holes in your staffing which will directly – and immediately – affect your operations, service and performance.

Developing employees through cross training, at least for vital or key roles, expands an organization’s bench strength. When more employees can handle responsibilities expected from other roles, the organization is more resilient and responsive to internal and external changes.

To build your bench strength, consider the following.

  • Introduce the need for all roles to have backup support as a means to achieve the goals and service commitments of the organization.
  • Identify the key roles in the organization that would require a support employee or team if the person in the role were not available for whatever reason (think back-up). After developing a back-up plan for those key roles, identify the support team for all remaining roles to be activated when necessary.
  • Identify the critical responsibilities in each role (starting with key roles) that can be shared and create resources to educate and train support employees.
  • Select the support employees who could learn aspects of these roles and start the education process.
  • Develop and implement an incentive plan for those who accept additional responsibilities as support employees when business interruptions happen.
  • Have managers for all key (and ultimately all) roles. Coordinate this initiative in their department to ensure they are able to deliver on their department’s goals and objectives.

Expanding what employees know and can do in the workplace not only creates the support if an employee is unavailable, but it also develops employees and shows management the additional capabilities employees have that may not have been previously noticed. This could also be an effective way to identify potential future leaders

Take Action
All too often we wait until a crisis is here to realize a key employee is not available and their work is now not consistently happening. Using the wakeup call of COVID-19, develop a plan to build your organization’s bench strength to be able to successfully continue operating the business, regardless of the interruptions.

Who will you charge with the responsibility to create a backup team or expanded bench for your organization? How will you advance the priority of this initiative to ensure your organization is not interrupted by the personal or world challenges that affect employees?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Your Employees: Help Them Grow or They Will Grow with Someone Else

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COVID-19’s Silver Lining: Filling Your Talent Pipeline with Other Organizations’ Layoffs

I know. It is hard to imagine that there is anything positive coming from the increasing presence and impact of COVID-19. But as it has been said, “in the trying times and the good times, life is just doing what life does. How we use these moments is how we create or give up value.”

Knowing we will survive this pandemic because we are smart, resilient and tenacious, we should also be focused on what things will be like after we move past this challenge. What decisions should we be making now with an eye to the future? What new information do we have in this moment that can affect our future?

So as other organizations struggle to keep their teams employed, an opportunity presents itself. There are many talented people now unemployed because of COVID-19. How do you want to use this moment to expand your talent pipeline and locate talent that will help today or in the future?

Not all industries are furloughing or laying talent off. If your workplace could benefit from this surprise talent surplus, or if you see the rebound coming soon, it is important to approach this period wisely and methodically.

  • Commit to building a talent pipeline. Talent acquisition and development should always be directed by a strategy. Review your current staff. Review your future talent needs. Ensure you have a plan that provides the organization with the right number and performance levels needed to provide the service vision and deliver the planned results.
  • Create a performance profile on each role. A performance profile summarizes what the job does and the behaviors, skills, education and experience of someone who would do it well. Most organizations miss this step. Instead of crafting a performance profile, they use outdated job descriptions that don’t clearly identify the success attributes in the job. This makes it difficult to inform the world what you are looking for when hiring, and more difficult to successfully interview and assess candidates. Spend time clearly defining the role and its success attributes, and all other parts of the hiring process will be both easier and more effective. In today’s world, with a sudden greater amount of talent on the market, it is important that you are clear about what you want and need, or your hiring process will bring in the wrong people.
  • Expand your website to include a career center and employment opportunities. Nearly 75% of today’s workforce job hunts online (and on their phones). To get the attention of today’s talent, every organization should have a mobile-friendly online career center that does the following:
    • Attracts job seekers by getting their attention through videos, community presence, job fairs or other means.
    • Informs job seekers what the organization believes and does, what each role does and how the jobs add value to the organization (i.e. purposeful work).
    • Engages job seekers by providing something of value (white paper, information, fast track job consideration, access to a talent assessment, etc.) in exchange for their email to be able to stay in touch. Today’s layoffs have created far more intentional job seekers. Getting them to leave their name and contact information should be easier.
    • Assesses job seekers who leave information by encouraging them to submit a resume and respond to key performance or skill questions so you have a preliminary idea of their skills and core abilities. This makes it easier to determine which candidates may be the best fit as roles become available.
  • Redefine the interview process. We quickly left a period where organizations were desperate for talent, and were therefore willing to relax some of the role requirements to get talent to come on board. Now, it is important to refocus on hiring for fit – both for the role and the organizational cultural. Use this time of scrambling workplaces to rethink how you interview and who on your team is involved. Develop the prove-it-to-me approach in your interviews by including more activities and more proof of performance abilities, particularly in remote environments. Also, be aware that more of your interviews may need to be remote, which means you will have to redesign your interviews to ensure they allow you to continue to be effective at assessing and evaluating candidates.

A changed world means a change to some of the things we habitually do. Times like these provide an interruption, showcasing our outdated and ineffective habits when it comes to hiring. Consider the benefits to adopting more effective ways to define, source and interview talent in a way that identifies and connects with those who fit both the role and the culture.

Every organization should have an opportunity-focused mindset when it comes to talent. Since it is the driver of everything in the workplace, it is critical to continually review, assess and modify anything that will improve your ability to create and implement a process that consistently and successfully hires the right employees, even in the middle of COVID-19.

Take Action
Create an objective to assess the increase in talent available in the workplace. What is the supply of available talent in your market? Review the roles where you require new talent or a change in talent. Even if you don’t actually hire at the moment, consider the improvements you can make to your process of defining, sourcing and interviewing. Doing so now will put you a step ahead of the competition; when the workplace and world rebounds, you will be ready to take advantage of the available great talent that was laid off during the pandemic.

The best people released to the workplace with be snatched up in a hurry. Be sure you know what you are looking for and you are ready to get it when things turn around.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading You Can’t Manage the People You Don’t Know

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