How Managers and Leaders Can Create [Workplace] Calm After the Storm

There is no doubt that this past election created a storm. Raging tempers, severed relationships and extreme emotions have marked this period both in and out of the workplace. Add to it the tensions around protests for racial equality, a raging coronavirus and the destructive impact of nature’s storms and wildfires and it’s easy to see that anyone – regardless of their level at your organization – is at their breaking point.

What we all desperately need is calm after all this turbulence. Our best thinking leads to our best solutions, but we can only get there when we are calm. Being calm unclouds the mind, which lets us be present enough to wisely understand our situations and identify meaningful responses. Most often, this is done by engaging productively with others. After all, raised tempers encourage reacting not responding.

Creating organizational calm may seem foreign or even out of reach at the moment. But we can’t just wish for calm or less turbulence; we need to create an intentional plan to get ourselves free of the heaviness of this past year, and it starts from the top down. Today’s leaders can be ready to help their organizations successfully learn to access a place of calm once they figure out how to do it for themselves, first. Here are some ideas how:

  1. Be a role model. Your teams watch you and how you respond. As you go, so do they. Use this moment to develop your mindfulness practice, a way to stay calm on the inside regardless of the noise and distractions on the outside. Developing a mindfulness practice includes making time each day to calm your body, quiet your mind and open your heart. This can include taking time to meditate, reflect, journal or just sit quietly. When this becomes part of your day, it inspires a greater sense of inner calm. Without making the intentional effort to develop the internal stamina to show up wisely, compassionately and intentionally, it’s easy to get caught in the emotional reactions of today’s challenging situations. When you do this, you miss the opportunity to engage and inspire others to work toward successful outcomes.
  2. Understand your employees’ stress level. As with any change or period of stress, it is important to be more tuned in to what is going on with your employees. Consider increasing the frequency and type of contact you have with each employee to better understand what is going on with each of them. During these touch points, ask more direct questions about their stress and anxiety levels, and watch and listen for challenging, distracted or destructive behaviors. This type of connection plays a critical role in giving you accurate insight into where your employees are and it will therefore guide you in knowing how to help (or if you need to get them help). This might seem like something else added to your plate, but when you make this an intentional practice, it becomes second nature and helps you become a better manager, too.
  3. Help or get them help. Offer some of your own experiences in your efforts to stay calm to help guide them in a direction that works best for them. It could be taking a greater number of short breaks, writing lines in a gratitude journal, increasing exercise or staying in touch with people they care about. Sharing your approach can give your team ideas to consider and try. After all, the ability to be responsive instead of reactive is their responsibility. Separately, be aware of what mental health support options are available if any of your team needs professional help to handle today’s storms. Ensure that you support their self-care and respect that this moment in history is exceptionally demanding.

Though storms will always be part of our days, this seems to be a particularly complicated moment. For many, this may be what tips them over the edge, amplifying their feelings of anxiety, fear, concern and distress.

Take Action
So ask yourself: what can you do as a leader at your organization to ensure the wellbeing of each of your employees is met? Consider how you can help them help themselves to stay calm in any storm, whether it’s personal or professional.

A little calm goes a long way.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 4 Things Managers Can Do to Help their WFH Employees Celebrate the Holidays

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3 Ways to Help Your Team Start 2021 Strong and Focused

A new year is associated with so many good things. It’s a chance to start fresh. It’s a chance to try something new. It’s a chance to identify what could be better and create a plan to make it happen. And that’s what so many of us will be doing as we approach the countdown on December 31, ready to ring in 2021 with welcome arms.

After all, 2020 was certainly filled with some unique challenges. A variety of natural disasters, weather, a hostile election year and, to top it all off, COVID-19, which was not only a challenge in itself, but the ramifications it created sent many companies reeling.

So how can you inspire the fresh start feeling of a new year with your employees when 2021 will still reek of the challenges from 2020?

It’s actually pretty easy: relationships.

Relationships are the driver of employee engagement as employees want and need connection, support and guidance from their managers and their peers. If you could only focus on one thing in 2021, make it relationships.

So, as a new year welcomes you and your team to the workplace – in whatever way work is done – here are three relationship-focused things you can do to help your employees (and you) start your year off strong, focused and engaged.

1. Reconnect personally with your team. Make it a point to really get to know your employees. To effectively manage and coach your employees, it is important to know their strengths, interests and values. It is important to know what engages and disengages them about their jobs and the organization. It is critical to know how they best communicate and learn, and what are their most and least favorite aspects of their jobs.

Another element is to get to know them outside of work – what are their hobbies? How is their family? Is there anything they’re worried about? Are they struggling with anything? Is there anything you can do to help? Though some employees may prefer not to share too much personal information, the fact that you asked goes a long way, especially now when so many people may be grappling with challenges of COVID-19, like foreclosures, concern for high-risk family members or access to enough food, to name a few. Gather important information about each of your employees to understand them better and to know how to best connect with them and coach them. Employees want time with their managers – use this increased time to get to know them and to develop a plan to connect with them more effectively going forward.

Remember: people quit people before they quite companies.

2. Include your team in creating shared goals. Goals are important. They provide direction, clarity and focus. And by including employees in the creation of goals, or more specifically team goals, they feel more included, valued and part of the organization. They know you are interested in what they think. A workplace culture that asks employees for input not only benefits from greater employee loyalty, but also from expanded ideas that come from empowering and expecting employees to actively think throughout their days. An added bonus: those employees share their working experience with others, attracting other top talent and top performers to join your team (a huge benefit since networking will look drastically different as we all navigate the continued effects of COVID-19 on how we do business).

3. Commit to sharing more performance information. You want your employees to be more focused and engaged, but few feel that way when they work in the dark. They can’t connect their work to its impact or value with information about why they’re doing what they’re doing isn’t made clear. By improving your relationship with your employees, you create the space to have more candid and honest conversations about performance. Now, feedback is welcomed as it is delivered from a place of care, support and guidance, instead of reprimand. Invoive employees in creating their own performance expectations that help them amplify their strengths and connect with areas that interest and excite them. Again, these are things you don’t know if you have not first taken the time or made the effort to better understand each employee. An added bonus: employees take ownership of things that benefit them and the organization. They learn and grow and the organization improves.

A recap:

  1. Reconnect personally with your team: What is one thing you can do to connect more personally with each member of your team?
  2. Include your team in creating shared goals for 2021: How will you involve your team in the creation of shared goals?
  3. Commit to sharing more performance information: What information will you share in 2021 and how will you share it?

Take Action
As the New Year approaches, commit to enhancing the relationships with your employees. It really all comes down to communication – both listening and talking. Ask questions, be supportive, engage them in organizational goals and share performance feedback more regularly. Observe, ask, listen and guide. That is what employees want from you. And, in return, they work hard, bring their best performance and stay loyal to the organization.

Start the new year off strong. Make relationships your priority.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How To Keep Your Team Energized When Some Now Work Remotely

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How to Be Okay When You Are Not Okay

The holiday season brings out great emotions. The ones it is associated with most are joy and excitement. We see it in commercials and on ads, and we see it in our neighborhoods as people decorate their homes with festive lights. We hear it in the way people talk about their plans and activities. And we feel it when we see the first snow of the season, when we walk through a walkway that is perfectly lit with Christmas lights, when we hear about family celebrations and when your company starts decorating and planning events to celebrate the season (and the end of the year) with their employees.

But these are the productive emotions. The holiday season also brings out other emotions, like stress, sadness and loneliness.

Let me tell you a secret: it’s okay to not be okay.

Say that again, nice and loud: its ok to not be okay.

This year, it’s possible the unproductive emotions will impact the holidays. And it will be very easy to let those unproductive emotions move right in. After all, with COVID-19 completely changing our world over the past year, it’s hard not to throw your hands in the air when presented with something else that has (or will) change and screaming, “why not!?”

Holiday traditions, family gatherings, office parties, networking events, trips to visit Santa; it will be different, or may not happen at all.

I know many people are feeling sad or hurt or lonely. I know many people are upset about the changes to the holiday season this year. The traditions we’ve enjoyed in previous years, the feelings of comfort and security when surrounded by friends and family, the fun and excitement that radiates off kids who are visiting Santa – it will all change.

Things will feel different because it will be different.

Guidance we share with our clients is to feel every feeling and be intentional in WHY you feel it. This mindful approach helps you understand your feelings so you can more successfully deal with them. When you stay in hurt or tough feelings, they can take you down. Something we share with our clients is, “visit but don’t move in.”

Understand the emotions so you can deal with them. Then focus on the good, the great and the amazing that are also available when you choose to see it.

Visit your disappointment, frustration or aggravation with today’s situations, then move past them. Visit but don’t move in. I believe this is a mantra everyone should adopt when they feel strong unproductive emotions like sadness or frustration, and not just around the holidays.

So, be ok knowing you’re not ok this year. Give yourself some grace to feel the big emotions. Give yourself permission to be sad or lonely. Be intentional in your decision to be ok not being ok.

Then take a deep breath, find the good and make an intentional decision about what comes next.

Take Action
When you find yourself experiencing big emotions this year, remind yourself it’s ok to visit but don’t move in. Try setting a timer if you find it hard to get out of a funk. Let yourself feel the emotions, be present in them, but then challenge yourself to see the good.

After all, some days are great, others are not, but each one gives you the unique opportunity to make the next one better. When you take advantage of this, you not only benefit from making things better, but you are happier in whatever life sends your way because you intentionally focus on the positive instead of the negative. When you find yourself in negative emotions, remember, visit, but don’t move in.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Why Things Don’t Always Work Out

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Why Presence Really Matters Most This Year

Have you asked your kids what they want for Christmas yet? I admit, I started asking before Halloween. A part of me doesn’t want to worry about not getting something in time. But a big part of me used it as a distraction. When that Amazon holiday wish book arrived, I told my boys “Santa’s magazine is here!” and set them off to circle the things they wanted. It gave me 30 minutes of quiet without leaning on screen time.

Though they may have a wish list that is about 10 pages long, they know that Santa will only be able to bring them one thing. To my (honest) surprise, my boys didn’t argue or get upset. They sat quietly for a minute flipping through the pages, picked up a different color marker and circled one or two toys saying, “I’ll give mine to my brother instead… I think he’ll like this the best.”

Queue the proud mom moment.

I share this story with you because I think it illustrates a very important concept: presence is more valuable than presents.

This year, I think a lot of parents and grandparents and caregivers will feel a little guilty for not spending enough time with their kids. Trying to juggle all the responsibilities of life while also playing primary caregiver 24/7 is exhausting and, honestly, impossible. It’s hard not to feel like you haven’t done enough in some area of life as you finally lay down at night. So, I think people will spend big this year, giving kids exactly what they’ve asked for and then some. It will alleviate some of the guilt we feel that life has been so weird this year. So unpredictable. So, different.

But instead of worrying about the money, or worrying about buying the exact right gift, what if, instead, you created a gift of presence? Maybe it’s a movie night and you wrap a box of popcorn and a new DVD (or a picture of a new digital version of the movie). Maybe it’s a family campout and you wrap up the ingredients for smores. Maybe it’s a sleepover night and you create a pillow / blanket fort to sleep in.

In each of these gifts, you’re giving the gift of [your] presence. To be fully and completely tuned in to your kids. Whether it’s a group event or a single event for each kid to experience your presence individually, these are the things they’ll remember. They won’t remember the toy that broke on Christmas Day night, or the toys that didn’t have the batteries they needed when they unwrapped them.

They will remember how you showed up in a big way to make it the best holiday ever.

So how will you give the gift of presence this year?

Take Action
As you’re scouring the wish lists from your kids, try getting a little creative. If they ask for movies or books, how could you make it something you can do together? For example, if they ask for books, maybe you write and illustrate one together.

And get others involved! Ask friends and family members for their ideas to find ways to be more engaged and present in your kids’ lives without giving more toys and stuff.

Remember where the memories are made and traditions start.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading I’m Thankful For…

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I’m Thankful For…

Did your family have a tradition of sharing something they were thankful for before dinner was served on Thanksgiving? Mine did. As everyone got older, the things we were thankful for shifted. I remember as a young kid, I never knew what was the right thing to say, so I often just reiterated what people said before me. Thankful for family. Thankful for friends. Thankful for this wonderful meal we were about to eat.

As an adult, I find it hard to pick just one thing to share as my item I’m most thankful for, especially this year. My family. My family’s health. My health. Our home. The ability to put food on the table. The list goes on.

But my kids? They had no problem picking one thing.

My 4-year old shared he’s most thankful for “dump trucks!”

My almost 3-year old shared he’s most thankful for “the roaring T-rex!” (note: he doesn’t have this toy yet; he asked Santa for it).

And my 1-year old smiled at me and pointed to his truck. And a Mickey book. And his airplane. And then walked away with some Mega Blocks.

When I asked them again the next day, their answers changed: “my dolphin toy because they are so cool when they splash.” “My t-rex Halloween costume!”

And their answers changed again later that afternoon: “TV time!” “A new book from Mommy.”

The moral here is to keep it simple. Life is hard and challenging and can throw us curve balls, usually when we least expect it (or when we’re already feeling pretty run-down).

So when you’re asked what you’re thankful for, be present in that moment and answer truthfully.

As I write this post, I’m thankful for a lazy afternoon when the entire house settled for just long enough that I was able to sit with my kids and read an article in a magazine I had wanted to read for the past 2 weeks.

That was enough.

Take Action
Don’t overthink what you’re thankful for this year. Be present in the moment. What makes you smile? What makes you feel happy?

What are you thankful for?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Rethinking the Holidays

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Navigating Family Events

Last year, we shared guidance on how to navigate family events when some family members may feel it’s their job to ask you all the uncomfortable questions in a judgy way. Though that guidance still applies to the upcoming holiday season, there’s a new factor we need to consider: the impact of COVID-19.

Family events will take on a whole new look and feel this year. For some of you, this may be a gift. You don’t have to find an excuse to get out of a family function, or be worried about finding yourself stuck at the dessert table with creepy Uncle Bob, or find yourself stuck answering questions about why you’ve changed jobs three times in the last 3 years from your self-righteous Aunt Sally. These see-you-twice-a-year family members are likely not going to make the cut for many of the family functions that do still happen.

But for the family that is still gathering, there is almost undoubtedly going to be some tension about how each person interprets COVID-19 guidelines. For example, you may feel it’s important to always wear a mask, practice social distancing and stay outside as much as possible. Your mother may think masks are ridiculous but she practices social distancing and your brother may think the entire thing is a farce.

How do you navigate a family function when you all disagree on what the proper protocol should look like?

Here are our three tips to help you navigate family events in the time of COVID holiday:

1. Define your limits. We talked about this in another post about rethinking the holidays. Defining your limits is about creating rules for you and your family, and knowing how much you’re willing (or not willing) to budge. Though family members are often our toughest critics, it frequently comes from a place of love, so though you may not all agree all the time, they should be open to hearing and respecting what you are and are not comfortable with as it relates to how you want to celebrate the holidays this year. After all, your limits are for you to define, not them. Be able to explain why you have created your limits. This will help you and them better appreciate the thought behind your choices. So, define your limits and share them so everyone can be on the same page.

2. Control what you can control. You’ve shared your limits and you’ve been told the event will happen within those limits. But when you arrive, you realize it’s far from what you’ve been promised. A small gathering of 10 has turned into a party of 50. No one has masks and the party is inside a small house where social distancing is not possible. What do you do? You have two choices: 1) go to the party and operate within your limits (wear your mask, keep your distance as best as possible, stay outside as much as you can) or 2) you can respectfully let the host know you aren’t comfortable staying but you’ll be in touch to reconnect at another time.

Both of these options has the potential to be calm and thoughtful or loud and angry. It’s your choice. You control what you can control.

3. Accept that things will be different. Yes, you may get challenged on what you decide for yourself or how you may need to respond to the situation in the moment. I have always found that approaching any situation from a positive and grateful way gives you more options to consider, and helps you deliver your comment or actions with grace and care. You may not agree with the rules of the family for the holiday and therefore decide not to attend, but you can appreciate that you differ, respect their perspectives and hold fast to your own while still caring, loving and supporting each other.

Take Action
Holidays can be tough because of the magnitude of traditions and expectations, but remember this: we have seen how adaptive and flexible we have been this year. So many things this past year have made us rethink what we do. It is time to apply this approach to our holidays with a commitment to first stay safe and keep the people we love safe, then to celebrate the things we celebrate at this time of year. Let people know your rules for yourself and others and be respectful of others’ rules for themselves.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Little Moments of Remarkable

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What is a Leader?

Someone said the first week of October was the most “2020” week that had happened so far in 2020.

It’s hard not to agree.

A lot of conversations I’ve had in the last few days have focused on the topic of leadership. It’s hard not to talk about leadership when it’s all over the news as the underlying theme in some of the biggest areas of discussion, such as the upcoming elections, organizations continuing to navigate the impact of COVID-19 and families working through challenges with schooling at home. Leaders are needed in each of these situations, and they need to show up in a big way.

But we’re not seeing it. So it begs the question: how do you define leader? What makes a person an effective leader vs. just carrying the title?

Here’s what I think:

A leader is someone who is in charge – earned or not, they have the title (and we know a title doesn’t make a leader… read on).

A leader is someone who can make decisions.

A leader is someone who has (often) worked hard to obtain the knowledge they have that got them to the place where they are today.

But an effective leader is different. An effective leader is someone who:

  • is aware of their strengths and how to manage them up or down as the situation requires
  • can make confident decisions in a short amount of time with the information they have
  • knows the importance of being adaptable, flexible, resilient and agile, because the world is constantly changing
  • is able to change direction without pointing fingers or complaining because they are confident in themselves
  • is aware of their liabilities and blind spots and seeks out guidance and insight from others who are strong in those areas and can provide the information needed to help reach the greatest and most effective decision
  • isn’t afraid to admit they don’t know
  • is someone who inspires confidence in others and challenges and encourages others to work towards their potential to be the best versions of themselves
  • inspires trust and loyalty

An effective leader can be a parent, a family member, a friend, a colleague, a teacher, a neighbor. Regardless of their role, they have and live the attributes of an effective leader.

Take Action
So, how do you define a leader? Think about those who you would consider leaders and assess their attributes. Summarize what you feel makes a productive and unproductive leader. Then, check in on yourself. How you are a productive and effective leader in the areas of your work and life? How are you unproductive? What do you to work on to be more successful?

Titles are great but they don’t define the person from the inside, and that is where leadership resides. You know a leader not by what they say about themselves as much as what others say about them. Those who guide, engage, support and encourage others are true leaders. Be one. Set the example. Set the standard. Inspire others.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Coronavirus: 3 Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Organization for the Unexpected on TLNT (written by Jay Forte)

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Successfully and Intentionally Raising Little Humans

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone so confidently tell me they never yell at their children. Or the number of times I’ve seen child experts share their guidance that yelling reduces children’s self-esteem and therefore shouldn’t happen. Or that yelling isn’t a productive response.

Let me tell you something: as a mother of three boys ages 4 and under, yelling most definitely is a productive response. But there’s a time and place for it: yelling only happens when it’s an intentional choice I made that makes sense for the situation.

Here’s why.

I have a 4-year old, an almost 3-year old and a 1 year old. Did I mention they’re all boys? They’re extremely physical, all of whom are in seemingly perpetual motion. And when they’re not bouncing off the walls and furniture or pushing each other to “get there first,” they’re cackling at jokes only they seem to get and – it seems – finding ways to push me over the edge.

I recently had a neighbor tell me they can hear me yell, and one name seems to stand out more than others (the middle guy because second kids, man, right?).

And in that moment, I never felt so embarrassed or so confident ever before in my life. It was a completely unexpected and confusing response to hearing my neighbor say they can hear me. I mean, we were always taught to never air our dirty laundry – doesn’t disciplining your kids fall into that category? So, yeah, I was embarrassed, but…why wasn’t I more embarrassed?

It’s because I’m self-aware and I’m tuned in to each of my kids. I know what each of them need to thrive and I know how far they’re willing to push me to test their limits (and how far I know I can let them push those limits). I know how much sleep they each need so they’re not bears the next morning. I know how quickly I need to get breakfast for each of them when they wake up and I know what bedtime will look like if I let them stay up just 10 minutes longer. I know whether or not an extra book at bedtime is a good idea for them (honestly, it varies based on how their day was) and I know when they need a few extra minutes of individual attention during the day. I know when a fun “tubby time” event with everyone involved is a good idea and when they need to be separated. I know when one of them needs to just relax in the tub for a bit. I know when one of them needs to get some extra energy out and just run for a bit. I know each of their interests and I know how hard (or if I should even) push to get them to explore something new without writing it off immediately because it’s different.

I know me. And I know my kids. Because I’m self-aware enough to know where my limits are and my strengths are. And I’m aware enough of my surroundings – and especially my kids – to know when I need to push and when I need to let go.

For that reason, though my neighbors may sometimes hear me loudly guiding my kids (I’m going to start calling it that instead of “yelling”), I’m confident in the fact that I know when and why I raise my voice. It’s never a reaction; it’s a response. In fact, I’d say that 90% of the time, I loudly guide to just get their attention, to create a stop and notice moment for them, to bring them back to reality as I see one of them hanging the other over the back of the couch upside down while another one claims they’ll catch them while doing a backbend over the dog (ok, this is a bit extreme but you get the idea).

Sometimes, I have to raise my voice to get their attention because, after all, though they may be active little boys, they are also their own unique person.

They have their own thoughts, ideas and opinions.

They have their own (developing) sense of individualism.

They have their own preferences and desires and wishes and dreams.

I try to remember this when I get frustrated with how easy it seems to be for them to so easily tune me out in one moment only to bombard me with a stream of endless questions in the next.

I try to remember that we’re all unique individuals living in the same house under a specific set of rules. Our rules. The rules my husband and I created to do our best to raise good, kind humans. The rules we created to keep everyone safe and healthy. The rules we created based on what we believe is the right way to raise them, especially in this crazy, ever-changing world we live in.

They’re figuring out who they are – their likes and dislikes, what’s fun and not fun, what’s right and wrong – and they’re doing it with guidance from me. It can be exhausting. It can be exciting. It can be so much fun. And sometimes, I have to loudly guide to be sure they hear me and, more likely, to be sure no one gets hurt.

So, the next time (because we know there will be a next time) my neighbor tells me she can hear me yelling at my kids again, I’ll remember to say “thank you.” I’ll thank her for giving me a stop and notice moment to reflect on why I’ve been raising my voice. And I hope I’ll be in the same position to know each time was a response and not a reaction because, after all, I’m loudly guiding my boys to figure out who they are as individuals.

Take Action
To raise your tiny humans the best way you can, ensure you are self-aware. You know where your final straw is. You know what buttons are never ok to push. You know what rules make sense for your family because you’re not only aware of yourself and your limits, but you’re tuned in to your kid(s) and what each of them need to thrive.

A great way to start is to ask questions. Though I may loudly guide from time to time, I always follow it up with a question. “Can you explain to me why you thought that was a good idea?” or “Why did you do that?” are two of the more common ones in my house, but questions could be anything. Just keep them open. A yes/no question doesn’t allow for a discussion; get them talking and you’ll engage with them in a way you didn’t think possible the moment before.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Mood Affects Others; Manage it.

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This article first appeared on Thrive Global on October, 21, 2020.

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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