10 Ways to Make a Zoomtastic Holiday

Face it. This year will likely not have many of the face-to-face holiday events that generally punctuate this time of year. The caroling, the office parties, the family reunions, the open houses – all will be reduced or postponed.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great holiday. It just means you will have to see and do things differently.

This may be the biggest challenge for so many because it’s hard to see things differently. We get connected to our habits and traditions, even the outdated and unhappy ones. Sometimes doing what we know (even when it is not our favorite) seems to be preferable over doing something different.

But I’m going to challenge that perspective. COVID-19 showed us we can shift and accommodate to new things, different things and change (in general). Sometimes, we need a hard lesson to show us we are more capable than we think.

Ok, so the face-to-face events can’t happen. What could we consider doing instead that will still provide the connection, celebration and fun that we associate with the holidays?

For purposes of this post, let’s say your method to connect is through Zoom or other similar technology. Here are some out-of-the-box ideas you can consider to help you still celebrate from a distance.

  1. Holiday ZoomMaskathon. Since masks are one of the best ways to keep ourselves safe, why not have a holiday mask competition? Create some guidelines and share them with your family and friends. It could be a neighborhood block party or a holiday open house that has everyone showing up with their best holiday mask (with proper social distancing if on-site) or modeled effectively if hosting via Zoom. Have all participants share their top 3 choices for best mask. The host tabulates the scores and awards the prizes.
  2. ZoomTrim – Decorating or trimming a Christmas tree is frequently a time when neighbors and family assemble to celebrate and decorate together. Get a tripod and focus your phone or camera on the tree as you and the family do the decoration. Spend 10 or 15 minutes visiting and getting decorating advice from those you are sharing time with. Have them guide where to hang ornaments or to place decorations to help them feel part of the celebration and to have their contribution in your decorating.
  3. ZoomSong – The holidays are famous for the music. Have your family Zoom your friends and share a carol / holiday sing-along. Invite your friends – both local and distant – to share their favorite seasonal song(s) and carol back.
  4. ZoomView – Create a neighborhood or family holiday Zoom background competition (the background that shows when you are on Zoom). Give a prize for the most creative, most festive, most family involved or other category that encourages great creativity.
  5. ZoomTour – We spend time and care decorating our houses for the holidays, both inside and out. Conduct a virtual tour to walk family and friends through the inside and outside of the house to share your decorations, stories and how you are celebrating. Take a video of the tour and post it to your preferred social media channel to share your decorations with all of your family and friends.
  6. Zoomoration – Holiday pastries, particularly holiday cookies, are a tradition for many. Zoomoration is a Zoom cookie decorating call where all participants decorate cookies, tell stories, sing carols and chat, just like the way you would if you were face-to-face.
  7. ZoomRekindle – Zoom gives you the ability to engage with those you are rarely able to see right now because they live across town, across the country or across the world. Set up a Rekindle date each week to reconnect with those from different points in your life – to share how you and your family have done in 2020 and how you are celebrating the holidays.
  8. ZoomWalk – Walk through your neighborhood while connected to Zoom to share your neighborhood’s lights and decorations. Imagine that you are walking in person with those on the Zoom call, chatting about what you see, what they make you think of and how they make you feel.
  9. ZoomkeSwap – Many organizations and families host a Yankee Swap each year. Assign a number to every person participating and one by one, in order, each person can take an existing opened gift or open a new one. Done remotely, a host can assemble all of the gifts and do as each person requests – to keep an existing gift or have the host open something new. At the end, the host sends gifts to each participant. These could be done as gift cards or other electronic gifts to make it easy to share.
  10. StoryZoom – Like a story room, set up a time to share story of a tradition or holiday experience you remember, including how you celebrate, why and who is generally at your celebrations. Appreciate the wide variety of traditions and ways to celebrate. This could also be a great event for families with small children who would love to hear their grandparents read Christmas stories, like The Night Before Christmas or The Polar Express.

Which of these ideas inspired you or your family? See the opportunity to create new traditions because of the significant advancements in technology that allow us to still connect with those we love, even when we can’t be together.

Don’t let the COVID interruption dampen your celebration or holiday spirit. Focus on the feelings behind the events you used to do and replace them with new ways to evoke the same or similar feelings. The sky is the limit. Invent something new, fun and different. In the process, you may find better and more amazing traditions that will stay with you going forward.

Take Action
Involve your friends and family in ways to connect remotely that allow you to still experience the feelings of the holiday season. You will be surprised how capable you are at building something new when you focus on the feelings behind the actions. Brainstorm ideas and try them out. The only rules? Stay safe and have fun. 

By Jay Forte

This article also appeared on Thrive Global on November 17, 2020.

Consider reading Make The Moments Count

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

There was a time when work would slow down so the holiday season could gear up. The regular workday gave way to office parties, vacation time and a more relaxed and congenial pace, with more impromptu employee gatherings. Spending more personal and relaxed time in the workplace around the holidays does wonders for employees’ sense of team and organization inclusion.

For many organizations, that is now a thing of the past. But the benefits of shifting from work to celebration are significant and are part of how an organization unites itself to stay energized and get ready for the start of a new year.

Since celebrating is important and its approach will be different this year, many employees will need help recreating the office celebration feelings in their WFH situations. This will require managers to help create the shift to holiday thinking, especially because employees are remote.

Here are 4 ideas to consider and try.

  1. Help employees create a gradual work slowdown as the holidays approach. Encourage employees to sign off earlier each day as the holiday approaches. Some organizations gave their employees a free vacation day to take care of the holiday preparation or to just step into the holidays in a less rushed and stressed way. Help them decide how to use that time to celebrate with other company employees or with their families. Many employees have actually worked more and longer in the pandemic. Getting them to shift out of work mode in favor or holiday and celebration mode may take some consistent guidance.  
  2. Create activities to replace the impromptu interactions that used to take place in the workplace around the holidays. Plan team activities, such as holiday Zoom background competitions, creating holiday team videos, sharing holiday tradition stories and other things that employees would do had they been still on-site. Give them a list of options to help them use their earlier shutdown time to shift to holiday preparation and celebrations.
  3. Have a recurring discussion about how the employee and his/her family are preparing for the holidays. Be interested in the details of their holiday prep and encourage them to sign off early and use the time to do things to build their holiday energy and spirit. By your interest and support, you encourage them develop a new sense of work and holiday balance.
  4. Share how you are creating time and space for celebration and holidays in your WFH approach. Seeing you doing and living the things you are guiding others to do, helps employees see that you are serious, and it gives them ideas in how to make this happen. Remember, this is new for most everyone. New things take time to try, adopt and embrace. Be a role model and employees will migrate faster to new behaviors.

Take Action
Your employees will likely need a little direction in how to shift from WFH to CFH (celebrate from home). So many of the WFH employees have gotten into a productive routine and shifting it once again, even for something like the holidays, can be a challenge. Be there to guide, support and encourage your teams to get into the holiday mood, even if they don’t have the normal workplace holiday events. (See our other ideas in how to celebrate the holidays when you employees are remote.) Not only will your employees have a better holiday, but they will come back to work recharged, energized and ready to respond to the next round of changes that now define how our workplace and world seem to move.  

By Jay Forte

This article appeared on Vistage in the Entrepreneurs and Small Business Network on November 11, 2020.

Consider reading Tips to Celebrate the Holidays When Your Staff is Remote

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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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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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Tips to Celebrate the Holidays When Your Staff is Remote

Remember setting up the office holiday decorations? Remember the potluck or catered holiday lunches and the gift exchanges? That was so 2019.

Celebrating the holidays when your staff is remote will require a new mindset this year.

Try not to get stressed or upset about something else that has to change (and might feel like more of a task than something that brings joy). All that has happened is that you need to rethink how to deliver the same feelings that last year’s traditions and events delivered. For that, you need to think clearly and creatively. You don’t have creative and celebratory energy available if you use your energy to be stressed, irritated, disappointed or anxious.

So, take a breath. You get to start a new tradition! Consider these ideas:

  • Redefine what celebration means. Reflect on the feelings and the emotions the holiday and its traditions create. They could be joy, togetherness, peace, generosity, gratitude, awe or even respect. Define what this is for you and your organization. That becomes your goal. As Stephen Covey shared in Habit #2 of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.” In other words, get clear about what you are trying to create with the holiday celebration. The parties, gifts and lunches have been the means to get to a particular set of emotions and memories. Start there. Visualize what you want to achieve.
  • Deliver the old traditions in a new way. Now clear of what you want to achieve, and aware of the limitations in today’s COVID world, start to consider what you could do to achieve the emotions and feelings that are so important. Assemble a team from your organization to brainstorm new ways to celebrate. To get you started, here are some ideas I have shared with my clients.
    • Rethink Secret Santa to include gifts that can be sent electronically (gift cards, cards, videos, etc.).
    • Have a holiday home office decoration competition.
    • Have a Zoom holiday background competition to use for all company meetings throughout the holiday season.
    • Create a Holiday Activity calendar that includes a couple of events each week during the holidays to be done virtually, whether it’s via Zoom or some other option. These activities are meant to be diverse to include everyone in at least a couple of things. These could include baking and decorating cookies, singing carols, reading or sharing holiday stories, sharing holiday recipes/working on recipes together, having teams decorate their houses together, or recording a video of a neighborhood walk to capture and share the lights of the neighborhood. Add more of your own.
  • Invent new traditions that are based on what is available in this exact moment. Traditions constantly change. Instead of regretting that some of the previous ways to celebrate are no longer available, invent something new. Technology is our friend. It has the ability to help us share our experiences in the moment. Consider how you may be able to use technology in new and dynamic ways. Here are some ideas to share with your ideas committee to get them started:
    • Have team members share their pictures to create a holiday office story, a holiday group shot or even as decorations on the company tree.
    • Work together (remotely) to create a holiday video that expresses what the holiday means to your team. Share the videos with everyone at a company “opening night” where all employees join.
    • Do the 12 days of Christmas with teams doing something (skit, song, story, gift, etc.) each day. If gifts are given, get clear about what gifts would be meaningful at this exact moment. Have employees choose a gift that matters from the company’s Giving Tree. Or you can give employees the option to donate their gift (or dollar equivalent) to someone in or out of the organization who may need it.
    • Add your ideas.

Take Action
Yes, this season will be different. Not better, not worse – just different. Focus on the message of the season, then, using what is available, create ways to help this message come through loud and clear. Involve everyone in the ideas. Not only will you find more great ideas, but you will help amplify the feeling of inclusion and appreciation that is at the core of holiday celebrations.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Remote or Not Remote? That is the Question

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The Coaching Manager is the Key to a Successful Workplace Recovery

Some of your employees may still be working from home. Some may be back on-site, full or part-time. This unusual workforce mix creates a challenge for most workplaces and managers: how do you manage a hybrid team that still provides a dynamic employee experience and activates employee engagement?

At the center of this unusual moment is the Coaching Manager. Managers and coaching managers both focus on getting things done, but how they get it done makes all the difference.

Conventional managers focus on results and tasks instead of on the person completing them. This disengages your people and misses out on their expanded ideas, contribution and loyalty.

Coaching Managers (also known as Workplace Coaches) focus on relationships as the means to amplify self-belief, abilities and confidence as the means to performance. This builds a sustainable rapport and connection with their people to be able to gather information about what they may be dealing with as it relates to COVID-19. This information is critical to improve the quality of management’s response.

Relationships done well inspire your people to respond, perform and stay. Relationships done poorly encourage your people to use their time to search out new employment opportunities with organizations that celebrate, care about and support their people.

Here are three things coaching managers do well that activate performance and retention:

1. They build trust. As a certified coach, I know I can’t make any progress with a client if I have not first created an environment of trust. I do this by taking the time to get to know the other person, listen generously, support caringly and keep information confidential. Coaches understand people as people – what matters to them, what they struggle with, what success is for them. They listen to what is meant, not just what is said. They remember important details. They ask powerful questions. They care openly. This level of understanding and interest encourages a trusting relationship. Trust facilitates communication.

2. They personalize the contact. Coaches use a variety of skills and tools to understand each person as a thinking, caring and feeling person, who, when helped to feel valuable and important for who they are, respond by bringing their best to what they do. Expressing interest in the lives of your people is critical, particularly at this moment when so much of their days may be spent in anxiety or worry. Knowing what each person is dealing with creates the ability to better decide how to help them deal with it. They want you to know their name, their current situation, their worries and challenges, their strengths and abilities. They want to know you care and are available. Seeing your people as the means to results instead of people dealing with a pandemic will alienate them and send them looking for an organization with managers who think and act like coaches.

3. They guide and support instead of direct and control. One of the ways to encourage self-esteem, confidence and a greater sense of contribution is to help employees own their solutions and performance. Guiding and supporting encourages employees to tap into and use their abilities which activates their self-belief. Directing and controlling limits the employee’s thinking as they only see their ability to perform a task, not to own it or improve it. At this moment, we all need help feeling important, having purpose and making a difference. These feelings counterbalance the challenging negative feelings brought on by the pandemic.

Coach your people to encourage their connection to value, purpose and contribution. Coach them to help them feel heard and respected. Address these and you help employees feel safe and important in their workplace.

Your best talent wants to feel heard, valued, important, supported and cared for. Who wouldn’t when so much of the world seems out of balance? By doing this in the workplace, you not only help your employees stay connected, but you help them see that they are resilient and strong enough to be successful at home and at work – even during a pandemic. Coach them to keep them.

By Jay Forte

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

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Reassess What’s Really Important

For all the pain and difficulty of COVID-19, it has at least one benefit: it interrupted us mindlessly moving through our days and gave us the time and space to reassess what’s really important. There is nothing like a pandemic or catastrophe to remind us that life is finite, each moment matters, and we should fill our moments with things that are important to us.

Here are four things I’ve come to realize while coaching clients during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • People matter more than things. Sure, we need the essentials, but most things don’t bring us joy the way spending time with the people we care about does. The thought of losing those who matter most to us has put into perspective the caliber of the relationships we have with those people. During the last few months, we’ve had the opportunity to refocus, rethink and redefine our relationships. How are you refocusing on your relationships? How are you reconnecting in a safe way with people who matter to you? Do the people in your life know how much they mean to you?
  • We create – and own – our happiness. COVID-19 has reminded us that we can’t look to the outside world to be happy because in a moment, much of it can and was taken away from us. We still need to be happy in our lives, so that makes it abundantly clear that we must build the happiness from within. Sure, things will happen, but if this moment is truly the only moment that matters, then what are you doing to make it the happiest it can be – with whatever is available to you?
  • Health is something we should never take for granted. So many of us have habits that don’t encourage a wise and healthy lifestyle. And, the moment things got tough because of COVID-19, many reverted to unhealthy habits to deal with the frustration, challenge and disappointment of the moment. Since COVID-19 is a heath-focused emergency, let it raise your focus on health to a higher priority. Assess your choices and if they are improving your current and longer-term health – physical, emotional and spiritual. Make time to sort through your challenging emotions to develop a practice of mindfulness or gratitude. Make time to be intentional about what and how often you eat to stay healthy enough to handle the mental challenges. Develop a stronger connection to your purpose to help you get up excited each morning, regardless of the challenges.
  • Life doesn’t always go as planned, but it is still the best show in town. Most of us come to life with specific expectations and when they don’t happen, we are disappointed or aggravated. As we have come to realize with COVID-19, our days require us to focus on balance; some things work, some things don’t work. When we focus only on the things that don’t work, we miss the things that are currently working. We get out of balance. The more this happens, the more difficult is to actually see the good things. So, start each day with a blank page and line drawn down the middle. The left column is titled, What’s Working; the right column is titled, What’s Not Working. However many entries you have on the What’s Not Working side of the page, create as many for the What’s Working side. This will require you to focus more on the positive. As you start, you will see the plusses work to counterbalance the minuses.

Some people continually stop and observe what is going on to intentionally stay focused on what’s important. For others, it takes a COVID-19 moment. This is just your world giving you information – from which you have the opportunity to make wiser choices in the next moment.

Take Action
In this moment of pause and reset, reflect on what is truly important to you. Define it. Be very familiar with is so you can now better assess how you use your time and resources to ensure they help you achieve or live what is important to you. Get in the habit of checking in daily and making small continual modifications. Staying tuned in will help you use the lesson of the pandemic to ensure your days are filled with moments of things that matters most to you. 

By Jay Forte

Continue reading Your Personal Board of Directors

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Purpose, Priority and Productivity

COVID-19 has changed our schedules. Now working at home without a commute, many of us may find ourselves with some extra time that we use to either do additional work or aimlessly sift through the endless Netflix or Prime menus.

Where is someplace between the two that is more productive and better for you?

There are so many ideas worth sharing, learning and using that just 10 minutes a day with a book can change your life – and improve the lives of others. In fact, books have introduced me to how to be present to my world, own who I am, think big, encourage others and manage my emotions, just to name a few.

One of the books I read that I have been recommending to my clients is Gary Keller’s, The One Thing (The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results). The focus of this book is to get clear about your purpose because it helps you identify your priorities. Your priorities, once they are intentionally created, drive your productivity.

It made me realize that one of the unintended consequences of COVID-19 is that it gave us a rare opportunity to reset our lives. It gave us the chance to stop and notice what was working and what wasn’t working in both personal and professional lives. It gave us the chance to ask ourselves What could I do to make this better?

And in his book, Keller shares his guidance on how you can make [anything] better: with purpose, priority and productivity.

Purpose. When you stop all the noise of the world spinning around you, what is it you are trying to do? What matters to you? What is the one thing you want to do or achieve today, this week, or even this year? Getting clear about this will help you rule in – or out – other things as they start to show up. I like to think of it in two buckets: the things that support my direction and goal, and the things that don’t. This way, I have the ability to wisely and intentionally respond to my world instead of reacting to it. I know my road and my path. Though you need to be adaptable and flexible to respond to a changing world, ask yourself what is important enough for you to focus on. What is the one thing you want to achieve, do or be? Take a moment and define it.

Priorities. With clarity of purpose, you can more successfully create your priorities. I like to think of these as daily, weekly and monthly. What do I want to achieve this month that will help me achieve my purpose or my one thing? When you intentionally identify your priorities for the month, you can break them down by week and by day. Following this approach allows me to direct my best attention to the things that will help me achieve what I want for me, my family, my work and my life. So, with the additional time that many of us have because of quarantine, no commuting and limited leisure activities, clearly define what your A, B and C priorities are. A priorities get the most attention and, ideally, they are connected to your purpose. The Bs and Cs come along with life in general.  My daily to-do list helps me stay focused on doing the things that matter to achieve the things that matter. What are your priorities for today? This week? This month?

Productivity. Focusing on priorities increases your ability to be productive. You don’t waste time on things that don’t support your goals. You do things that fit your talents, strengths and passions. The result is that you feel more energized and more engaged, able and interested to do more, be more, achieve more. Confidence increases because you are clearer about what you want and that what you want really matters.

Take Action
As we march toward yet another change as we adjust to the back-to-school season and many organizations with remote or hybrid remote workplaces, stay focused on purpose, priorities and productivity. Don’t let the minutes, hours, days and weeks get away from you, locked on to season after season of Netflix or Prime shows. Sure, build in some leisure time, but stay productive by getting clear of your purpose and defining your priorities. Then revel in the difference you make for yourself and others.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading To React or Respond, That is the Question

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

At this moment, so many people say they just want what they had – to get back to their “normal.”

I get it. We are creatures of habit. We like the normal, the routine, the comfortable.

But when we truly stop and notice, I think many people will realize they were not living healthy, being kind, respecting the planet or bringing their A-game to work. We were caught up in doing the same old, same old. We were getting by. We were in habit mode, just moving through life on autopilot.

But COVID-19 changed it all. The pandemic became our stop and notice moment; it forced us to reflect on how things were and challenged us to do things we never thought we could (or would have to). For example, you never thought you’d teach your kids at home and now you do. You never thought you could work remotely and now you do. You never thought you wouldn’t be able to go anywhere, anytime and now you can’t. You never thought you would be able to be at home for a week without going out, and you did.

So much has changed.

So why rush back to your old ways when you see you are capable of new – and better?

I’ve shared the rule my father had for my 5 siblings and me when we were younger, and it applies here: constantly ask yourself as you are faced with the things going on in your moment, “What could I do to make this better?”

COVID-19 gave us an amazing opportunity to reset, to step to the side, view our work and lives and give us time to decide what to do next.

You can be upset at this interruption and the changes in your life, or you can refocus your energy and use this unique moment to take inventory of what worked and didn’t work in your old version of normal. Then, with greater clarity, commit to creating a new “normal” that builds on what worked before and eliminates or moves past the things that did not work.

Focus on making things better. Better relationships. Better work. Better at home. Better health. Better finances. Better hobbies. Better planet. Better neighbor. Better habits.

The thing I have learned most about COVID-19 is that we are stronger and more capable of handling change than we think. When push comes to shove, we can do it. When no pushing and no shoving occurs, we don’t do it. Spend a moment with that. Why is it we respond only when we are backed into a corner?

We have had a tough moment. And it won’t be our last one. But no moment in time is ever wasted. Each moment has a lesson for us if we choose to see it and use it.

Don’t waste this one.

Take Action
Don’t be in a rush to return to normal. “Normal” may have had a lot of things you didn’t like about your work and life.

Don’t be in a rush to get back to comfortable. Comfortable didn’t help you build and achieve goals.

Don’t go back. Go forward. Commit to reinventing a better normal, one that uses your abilities more, treats others more kindly, respects the planet like the sacred place it is, shares more generously, responds more quickly and acts more intentionally.

Don’t let people push you back into normal. Hold out for better. Push for better. Insist on better.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Move Forward When You Don’t Know Where you are Going

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