Review, Rethink, Respond: How to Reinvent Your Post-COVID-19 Business and Workplace

So many people have been saying they just want things to return to where they were pre-COVID-19.

Here’s a reality check for you: it’s not going to happen. So many things have changed in the last few months that the ability to return to “normal” has expired.

However, this doesn’t mean that we have to settle for how things are right now. Instead, senior leaders and employees can use this global reset as an opportunity to develop a stronger, wiser and better organization. The approach can best be delivered through the three words I learned from my family each New Year’s Day: Review, Rethink, Respond.

In my big Italian family, New Year’s Day was a day of celebration. After an always remarkable dinner, my dad (an engineer) would have us take out pads of paper, pens and start the process of getting our New Year’s resolutions ready so we would make the most of our new year. We would first be instructed to Review – to look at the year that just ended. What did it tell you? What did you learn from it? What worked and what didn’t work about it? With greater clarity about where we were at that moment, we were instructed to look to the future – to Rethink. We were reminded that a new year is a blank canvas, an opportunity to invent or Rethink what we want to have happen. It could be to do more of what worked over the past year, or to address and improve the things that didn’t work. When we were clear of where we were and what we wanted, Respond was the last step – to build a plan to close the gap between where we were and what we wanted so we could have a clear direction to work on achieving our goals.

This was our habit, so I guess it is no surprise that as a certified coach, I use this approach with all of my clients. This 3-word approach can also help any organization wisely and successfully land on its feet, post-COVID-19. Here is what I have been sharing in my Vistage program, Engaging and Retaining Talent in Crises and Beyond.

Review. At the start of the year, everyone was actively advancing progress on the 2020 strategy, marching up what I call “Hill A.” We kept our nose down and worked diligently to get to the top of the hill. Then COVID-19 struck and tumbled most of us off our hill. Now at the bottom of the hill, we have the urge to start racing back to where we were.

But this is truly an interruption. And with interruptions, they force us to stop. Consider using this unsolicited stop to Review where you were and where you were headed. Stop and notice what worked and didn’t work with Hill A. Some things were going well, but there were many things that were not. This moment to stop actually gives you the opportunity to develop an inventory of what belongs and doesn’t belong in the future version of your business and workforce. What was working and not working in your leadership, workforce, employee engagement, customers, suppliers, results? Take a moment to take inventory and know what is true for you.

Rethink. The COVID-19 interruption to work and life has given us the opportunity to realize that though we were racing up Hill A, Hills B, C, D and E are all other options, other opportunities, that we may have otherwise missed. So, even though Hill A is an option, don’t run back to where you were until you Rethink what else is possible that may not have been a few short months ago.

Consider these questions:

  • Based on how COVID-19 has affected you and your business, what new directions, opportunities and options are now available – whether by choice or by mandate?
  • What do you now know and consider about how and where work in your organization could be done?
  • What do you now know and consider to keep your employee and stakeholders engaged, safe, performing and loyal?

Create scenarios of what your business could look like, calling them Hills B, C, D and E. What if you started offering a service or product that was never part of your sales mix before – this is Hill B. For each Hill or business scenario you create, ask, how should work be done that will provide the service response you commit to that also accommodates the safety and needs of your employees? In each Hill or business scenario, you may need your workforce to deliver work in a different way – remote, not remote, remote but not at home. Whatever you consider, you will need to assess how you will be effective at managing and coaching them, what new software may be needed, how to deal with the office space (changes or elimination).

Use what worked and didn’t work about Hill A (because you took the time to Review) to determine what belongs and doesn’t belong in any of your future scenarios. After all, the reason for building scenarios instead of defining one path forward is that we don’t know where things are headed. Having a variety of options – of things that you have been Rethinking – can help you move faster once the post-COVID-19 world becomes clearer.

Respond. Up until a few months ago, I think most people would see the Respond portion of the 3-word approach as creating an action plan to achieve the specific goals for the new year. But as COVID-19 has shown, our world is always changing and life is, as a result, always uncertain. So, instead, Respond means gathering information and details in each of the future scenarios (Hills B, C, D and E) to start to understand each – the cost, the benefit, the changes, the impact – so each scenario can be wisely assessed at some point in the future against the other scenarios.

Put it into Practice
Review the business. Rethink the future business scenarios. Respond by building out the business scenarios, and for each scenario, Rethink what your workforce will need to look like to make that scenario successful (how the work will be done). Then Rethink how you will engage and retain that workforce since talent is still the driver of all performance. Once these details are defined, Respond by gathering information about cost, benefit and impact to be able to have a logical, mindful and process-driven approach to landing on your feet, post COVID. Be aware of your – and your team’s – urge to race back up Hill A. Don’t miss the opportunity the interruption of COVID-19 gave you to Review where you were, Rethink where you could be, and Respond with intention to become a better organization, employer, supplier, industry leader than you were before. Tough times make many of us want to retreat to the normal and the comfortable. But if you can fight that feeling, tough times also give us an opportunity to ask the question, what could make us better?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Your Workforce Approach Should be Based on What You Deliver to Customers, Not Just What Employees Want

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This article originally appeared on Vistage‘s Entrepreneurs and Small Business Network. Membership is required to see the post on the Vistage site.

Your Mood Affects Others; Manage it.

The grumpy customer made you grumpy. The impatient driver activated your short fuse. The enthusiastic employee made you smile. The supportive manager inspired greater team camaraderie.

How others act affects how you act. It is called emotional contagion. Emotion contagion can be positive and inspiring, or it can be negative and demotivating. It all depends on how you show up to a situation and how you decide to respond instead of react. This has particular importance for leaders and managers within an organization.

Leaders set not only the strategic direction of the organization, but how they show up to their interactions, challenges, successes and opportunities influences how they engage or disengage an entire organization.

Think about a time when you encountered a disappointment, frustration or aggravation. How did you handle it? Did you ensure everyone around you knew you were frustrated or aggravated? Or, did you take a breath, manage your emotions and stay clear, focused and intentional about your direction? What was the impact on others of your choice?

Now think about a time when your boss encountered a disappointment, frustration or aggravation. How did they handle it? Did they make a point of sharing how frustrated and aggravated they were? Or did they handle it calmly, wisely and intentionally? Again, what was the impact on others because of their choice?

When we let the challenges and aggravations of work and life get under our skin, we absorb the negative energy and share it without thinking. If we are upset, others know it. And the more leaders share it, the more they can take an upbeat and productive organization, disengage the employees and quickly send them running to other organizations where leaders have learned to manage their emotions.

Here is some good news: the same happens with positive emotions. Approach your day with gratitude, patience, resilience and optimism and you will spread it. The more you feel these positive emotions, the better your days are and the more you can counteract the negative emotions from others. Think of it as a forcefield that encourages confidence, enthusiasm and positivity.

Being able to call on these positive emotions when things (and people) around you are challenging requires you to have a daily practice of building positive energy. Reading, listening to or playing music, taking a walk, enjoying nature, spending time with those you love and care about are all ways for you to develop a successful distraction from the negative energy and people, and to remind you that there is always more good around you than bad; you may just have to work harder to see it. It is up to you to build your toolbox – the things that help you stay upbeat, calm and optimistic, regardless of the challenges, noise and nasty people around. These situations and others’ behaviors are about them, not you.

Make it your choice who and how you want to be. Building a practice of self-management and resilience through gratitude, optimism and care builds a positive forcefield that negativity cannot pierce.

Take Action
At the beginning of each day, identify 3 things that will make your day great. Do the same thing at the end of the day; identify 3 things that made your day great. Focus on being positive, optimistic and engaged. Identify when you brought negative energy to your workplace or life – and why. Be on the lookout for other times that will take you down and build your positive focus to meet them head on.

When you have a successful optimism and gratitude practice, it is easier and more successful to handle whatever life sends. From this place, you send off a greater, happier energy that can then ripple through your workplace or home. You encourage more positive emotions and actions in others, instead of allowing their negativity and pessimism to influence you.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right for Your Business

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Your Workforce Approach Should be Based on What You Deliver to Customers, Not Just What Employees Want

A couple of months ago, you quickly moved some or all of your employees home to keep them out of harm’s way.

Then you learned how to help employees perform remotely and helped managers learn how to manage remote employees. Most organizations thought this would be a temporary, true safety response and employees would return to the workplace when the pandemic’s danger had passed.

But now, some employees have expressed interest in remaining as remote employees. You may have seen greater performance as the time spent commuting has been redirected to performance. You may have found employees are more willing to work on projects and take calls later in the day and evening since they are already at home, and home is where work is [now].

At the same time, some employees who had a taste of working at home want to return to their workplace when it is safe to do so. They feel they work better at their old desks and with their friends / colleagues than trying to work at home with various interruptions or lacking the discipline to stay focused.

So, some want to stay remote and some want to return. What do you do?

In an effort to focus on employee retention, many organizations are engaging with employees to gather their ideas on how to move forward. A challenge, however, is that many employees see the situation uniquely from their personal perspectives, not what makes sense for the customer and business as a whole. This is what I believe to be the better starting point for organizations trying to decide what their new reality looks like.

So, as a workplace coach and consultant, the guidance I share with my clients is to assess and redefine what the business does or will do and what customers will need and want.

  • What is it you [now or will] provide?
  • How does your service or product need to be delivered to be successful, engaging and building customer loyalty?
  • What is the customer experience and service standard you commit to?

Let’s say you provide your clients investment advice and tools to assist them in financial security. To provide the service response and customer experience required to engage and retain your clients, your employees need certain technology, a quiet workspace and time to really listen and make recommendations for your clients.

Great. You’ve identified the requirements every employee needs to deliver a consistent service response. The next step is to explore where the work can be done to deliver the exceptional customer experience. Some questions to ask include:

  • Is it necessary to have employees in the workplace?
  • Can they do the work remotely, whether at home or from some other remote location?
  • Do your employees need to travel because their work is still done best face-to-face with your clients?
  • Of these options, which provides the expected client experience while still accommodating how to do business in today’s world?

Today’s most effective leaders listen to their employees and their customers/clients. Both provide critical information to ensure the decisions that come from the C-suite provide the responses that drive the success of the business while valuing and supporting its people.

Take Action
Assess the tasks of each of your roles and determine which can be done remotely and still deliver your customer or client experience. For roles that can be done remotely, assess your employees’ home workplaces to ensure they have an environment that will let them successfully deliver on their performance expectations. Create a policy about remote work that is bias-free and focused on performance success.

Focus on what you clients and customers need and build your work approach to respond.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Now That You’ve Had A Taste: Do You Really Like Working From Home?

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Remote or Not Remote? That is the Question

For a number of years, many employees have requested to work remotely and just as many organizations were insistent on keeping their employees in the workplace. Then COVID-19 sent much of the workforce home to stay safe and out of harm’s way. Those who were reluctant to have their employees work remotely were forced to implement stay-at-home policies, which were put together hastily and some were done without much strategy or support. And employees who wanted to work at home had the chance to try it out.

Now that we have had some time with this, the discussion of how to keep your business productive is shifting to focus on where employees do the work: do we bring employees back to the conventional workspace or do they stay remote?

Remote or not remote? That is the question.

After 3 months working from home, many employers are likely hearing an increasing amount of feedback from their employees. Some employees had a taste of working at home and are ready to come back. Others finally got their wish to work remotely and now don’t want to come back.

With all this chatter, how do you start to consider how to move forward?

First, answer these three questions to give yourself a clear understanding of what makes sense for you.

#1 What does your organization provide and how should work be done to provide it well?
You may have interest – and even pressure – from your employees to return or restructure what they want in their new normal workplace. But their options can be addressed only after you reassess how COVID-19 has changed your organization. Consider the products or services you offer. What is required from your employees to ensure the customer deliverable is done in a way that supports your commitment to the customer experience? Once you define or redefine WHAT you do, you can start to discuss the options of HOW to do it – remote, full workplace or some variation of the two.

Once you clarify the work that needs to be done and how it will best be done, move on to the next question.

#2 Can your employees be successful working remotely?
This requires assessment in 2 areas: abilities and space. Do your employees have the behaviors, skills and experience (abilities) to achieve the expectations of the role? And, do they have the ability to work independently, are self-disciplined and are organized to work without supervision? If you are confident that the employee in question can do the job well from home, ask yourself if the employee’s remote space can support the successful completion of the tasks of the role. Allowing someone to work at home doesn’t ensure they have the privacy, quiet, connection, space or even work surfaces to do the job well. Remember, there are some expectations that must be met in order to deliver an exceptional experience to customers or colleagues, regardless of whether that’s in a remote location or within the physical workplace. You may find that remote may not mean working at home, nor in the workplace, but rather some other place. Consider what some of those workplaces could look like and who on your team, if anyone, may need this as their work environment.

#3 Can your organization support and engage a remote workforce, capable of delivering world class service?
However you define how work will be done, assess how you will be able to engage them to be able to drive productivity, performance and retention. Workplace culture has always been an important part of the employee experience. Employees want and need to feel part of the organization, valued, supported and cared for. It will be important to (re)define what will engage and inspire your workforce and to determine how to consistently deliver it. If you are unable to do this, the result will be seen and felt in not only performance, but also increased turnover. Assessing how you will engage your workforce is a critical consideration in developing your future workforce. 

There is pressure to be remote. There is also pressure to return to the more conventional workplace. Invent scenarios to explore how you will have an engaged workforce that consistently and successfully delivers a remarkable customer experience, grows the business and achieves your goals.

Take Action
Your options or scenarios should be based on achieving your goals, not on the wishes of your workforce. This doesn’t mean ignore them, however. Solicit their thoughts and perspectives, then ensure that the creation of the new normal for your organization makes sense for who you are and what you do. Then, share with your employees how work will be for them and develop a plan to help them return that new normal.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Go Back to Normal. Instead, Focus on Becoming Better.

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4 Tips to Not Be Bad at Working from Home

I was talking with a client recently who kept saying they are “bad at working from home.” Throughout the conversation, they mentioned their ability to be a forward or strategic thinker was hindered because of distractions at home.

Though we can all relate to having distractions at home in whatever form they come in (kids, roommates, the pile of laundry you’ve been meaning to do, food, neighbors, pets), learning how to be more efficient in your work-from-home approach will help you in the long run, especially as we try to imagine what life will be like during cold and flu season just a few short months after the stay-at-home orders around the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, first, create your space. Assess what you need to get done and create the space that will ensure you can achieve your performance expectations. Do you need privacy and quiet? Do you need a large computer screen? Do you need additional technology and connections? Do you have Zoom meetings that will show your space on screen? Create what you need to be successful.

Second, remove the obvious distractions. Working at home can put many distractions right in your reach. Scan your area for anything that will distract you such as the TV remote, the availability of snacks, piles of laundry, dirty dishes, other household activity. Take a step back and just observe your workspace. Ask yourself: what could disrupt me in an unproductive way? Then remove it.

Third, create a daily to do list. Spend whatever time you need at the start of your day getting your head in the right place. Review your calendar so you know what calls or deliverables are required. Consider creating your to do list in order of priority with the items at the top of the list that need to be done today. Or, if you like to see the red marks as you cross things off your list, consider creating an “at work” list and an “at home” list. Identify 2-3 big things for each list you want to accomplish for that specific day and stay focused on getting those tasks done.

And finally, divide your day into blocks of time. This includes work and home times. For work times, set your day up to tackle the biggest, most important or thought-provoking items you need to complete during the part of the day when you are most productive. Be sure to define a clear start and end to your workday to also be able to accommodate the home requirements. This may take some time to notice what works best for both your work and home responsibilities, so challenge yourself to take note of what works best to get done what has to get done.

Working from home can be challenging when there are multiple distractions outside of your control. But following these four tips can help you set yourself up for success as a productive work-from-home employee.

Take Action
Take each step on its own. Master each one before you move on to the next. Take a day to get adjusted to the approach and give yourself some grace in learning this adjustment. There will need to be some flexibility for the first week or so, but stick to your new guidelines. You’ll see a drastic improvement in your productivity and mental capability.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Balance Working From Home With Kids

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Workplace Lessons Learned from COVID-19

COVID-19 caught many organizations by surprise. Yet despite being caught unaware, many rallied. They quickly gathered information, confirmed their goals (for their people, customers and the business) and shifted to a path to catch their breath and move forward.

But there were many that weren’t ready. The situation showed the gaping holes organizations have that caused stress, financial hardship and a variety of other challenges.

Life sends obstacles and challenges. We can be disappointed, aggravated or frustrated by them, or we can realize that it is in these obstacles and challenges that we do our best learning, discover our true strengths and learn to be resilient in a changing world. We can look at the stresses, challenges and financial hardships of the moment and redirect our energy to understanding them and using them to move forward. Spending time lamenting, complaining or feeling victimized by something you had no control over is a waste of the energy needed to rethink and respond to a new path forward.

So, what workplace lessons did you learn from your bout with COVID-19? Here are the four major ones I noticed in my conversations with clients.

  1. You are more flexible than you realized. Even in the chaos, when things got tough, most organizations quickly rallied and got their people home safely, made equipment available and kept their businesses running. You have it in you to respond when things are urgent. You will need that flexibility and adaptability as you consider how to move forward. Notice that you have it and can call on it, despite the external forces that may make things confusing and frustrating. Trust your gut.
  2. You identified your future leaders as well as those who don’t belong on your team. When you responded to the crisis, some of your people stepped up and did remarkable things. Some acted this way without asking. They say it is in a time of crisis that people show their true colors. Start a list of those who inspired you and impressed you in their response. Watch for those who brought their best ideas, who had a sense of urgency, were selfless and committed to the welfare of employees and stakeholders. At the same time, start a list of those who disappointed you. Who complained instead of responded (in leadership as well as in the ranks)? Who showed up with excuses instead of ideas, were slow to respond or were more focused on themselves at the expense of the team, their peers or others? When the dust settles, you’ll have a clear understanding of who belongs and doesn’t belong on your team. (Remember that we are also at a near 20% unemployment rate so don’t be worried about finding more A-level talent for your team – they are out there.)
  3. What works and doesn’t work about your leadership style became apparent. As I mentioned, the real you shows up in a crisis. What did your response tell you about your abilities as a leader? Did you show compassion and empathy as you ensured the safety and life needs of your employees and stakeholders? Or did you focus on the bottom line at the expense of your people? Will your employees choose to stay after the pandemic based on how you led during it? Take an inventory of your success attributes and those attributes that were unproductive or ineffective in your ability to engage and retain your team. What will you do more of and what will you look to improve on in the next version of your organization post-COVID-19?
  4. You now know some things that should and shouldn’t be in your next version of your business. As with your review of leadership, review all areas of your business for what works and doesn’t work. Don’t be in a rush to return to a normal that had many things in it that didn’t work. You have been given a reset. Take advantage of it to redefine and rebuild the areas of the business that were not up to par. This is the moment to brainstorm your new normal, to be a shaper of what you do and how you do it. Do a full 360-degree walk around your business, noting in each area what should continue in your new normal and what should be left behind.

Which of these lessons resonate with you? What else would you add to your list of great lessons learned?

COVID-19, as difficult as it has been, has a true silver lining. It created the time and space to review your organization to better understand – and see – the things that work or don’t work. It is providing the time and space to rethink where you could/should/need to be that may not look at all like where you have been. It is time to create a survive response (to get through the rest of the pandemic) and a thrive response (your plan-ahead team to steer you to the better versions of you post COVID-19).

Take Action
Rarely do we get a global reset. And we will hopefully not get it ever again. But since it is here, use what you learned in this moment of history to make yourself better.

Use this as a learning experience to get everyone in your organization involved, as well. Have all of your employees look at every aspect of your old way of doing things and ask the question, what could make this better?

Then engage them to build a plan and start to achieve it.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right For Your Business

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Now You’ve Had A Taste: Do You Really Like Working From Home?

For many organizations, the request from employees to work from home was nearly constant. In fact, many organizations touted work from home as a benefit, a way to differentiate their workplace and attract high-performing workers.

But now that so many people have lived through the experiment of working from home, does it still have the attraction it had just 60 days ago?

I think many people who are being honest with themselves will say “no.”

Consider this: in a survey of 2,000 US office workers conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Citrix, 36% of respondents felt overwhelmed working at home and 28% felt lonely.

We are social creatures and though we complain about our commutes, who left the dirty mugs in the sink and who keeps stealing our lunches from the fridge, we want and need our workplace interactions.

Our meetings are more effective because we can watch body language more effectively to know when we are rambling on and need to shut it down or to keep going because the team is into it. Our one-on-one encounters in the office to share an idea that just popped into our head are easier and require less structured planning than to set up a Zoom meeting long after the idea showed up. Or morning huddles that were truly huddles, sharing space, ideas, coffee and life with others.

Our complaints about others now seems like something we want back because it was ours and it felt normal. The person who speaks too loud on the phone, the one with the irritating vocal pitch or laugh, or the one who makes it to their desk only a second before their start time. Yes. All of it was normal.

So, with a little information and experience under our belts, it is time to check in on how remote work is going.

As a mindfulness coach, I always guide my clients to use the What’s Working/What’s Not Working approach to review any situation. Doing this can help you better understand the full picture of what’s happening right now. This is a mindfulness practice to expand awareness that ultimately improves decision-making.

When it comes to the work-from-home experience, I recommend that those who are new to working at home try this approach to check in on how things are really going. Start by creating a summary of What’s Working when working at home. How does working at home make work, performance, engagement, productivity, social connections, creativity and home life better? List all of the ways.

Then complete the list of What’s Not Working by working at home. Review the same areas and list everything that is unproductive about working at home.

Following this approach equips you with an inventory where you can clearly see both sides together. The next step: mindfully review what worked and didn’t work about the experience. Was it all you thought it would be? Or did you notice that sometimes, things look better until you actually try them? Do you still want to work from home?

I believe this approach is something that should be explored by not only individuals for their own unique work experiences, but also by managers. Conducting this What Worked/What Didn’t Work analysis about your remote employees can not only help managers better support employees who are struggling with this new normal by getting at the aspects of remote work that work and don’t work for the employee/the employee’s situation, but it can also shed some light on which employees may actually perform best in this way.

Some questions to consider answering include: did the work get done as it needed to be? Did your service standard get delivered? Did your employees feel engaged, valued and part of the team? Did you live your cultural values as remote employees?

No one really knows what will happen in our recovery period from COVID-19. However, now armed with some information about remote work from company and employee perspectives, does remote work fit into your future approach to work?

Use information from today to wisely guide you to better decisions tomorrow.

Take Action
Try using the What’s Working / What’s Not Working approach in every aspect of your life. Start with your working situation as both the employee and, if appropriate, the manager. Then try it out in other areas of your life: pets, kids, relationships, various life goals you’ve set for yourself.

Creating these lists provides you with information that equips you to make better and more intentional decisions.  

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Manage New Remote Employees

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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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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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