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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Triggers, Meltdowns and Outbursts, Oh, My!

Weeks of isolation and quarantine. Frustration with waiting in line to shop with a very limited selection available. The inability to see, spend time with or even hold the people who matter to us. Worry about our health and the health of our kids and parents.

Yup, we’re all pretty frazzled.

And that’s our starting point as we re-engage with society. A few months ago, we were comfortable being out and around people. We expected crowds in certain places at certain times. We anticipated grumpy people or rude people or nice people. And we rolled with it.

But now, as we start re-engaging with society, we’ll be operating in a new normal, a world where we’re realizing just how many people are strikingly self-unmanaged. And everyone seems to have a shorter fuse.

The frustration with someone who cuts in line seems to be turning into brawls. The request to wear masks when shopping seems to be an offensive ask that is a deliberate attempt to take away the freedoms we have as Americans. A rude person is shot at.

We’re seeing this across the news and some states haven’t even fully re-opened yet. Unchecked rage. Uncontrolled behavior. Less patience. Less tolerance. Less understanding.

It’s the complete opposite of the heartfelt posts shared across social media just a month ago as the thought of being out in public again was but a hopeful wish.

And it’s happening because people are self-unmanaged. To be self-managed means to be aware of yourself (your emotions, feelings and abilities) and to manage each of your attributes so you can be successful, respectful and effective when dealing with others. When you are not self-managed, you aren’t able to control yourself when you become irritated, aggravated or frustrated. It’s not pretty to see someone – especially yourself – having a meltdown because you were triggered by something someone else is doing.

Think about a time when someone did something or something didn’t go your way and you reacted. As a mindfulness coach, I always remind my clients that in any moment, it is your choice how to be in your moments – pleasant ones or difficult ones. You choose to think and respond or react. The situation doesn’t make you do it. You do it. The situation may be challenging but that is why it is called self-management: manage yourself no matter what the situation.

Where we are today requires us to be more self-managed than ever before. We exist with others and, therefore, things will happen that are beyond your control. Some of those things may even frustrate you or trigger you. But you must stay in control so the situation doesn’t escalate and you don’t let your day be ruined.

Without being self-managed, every disappointment or challenge will get you. You’ll always be ready to explode.   

So how can you become self-managed? By better understanding your triggers. When you know what sets you off, you can start to notice when a situation is triggering you. And when you’re aware of this, you have the ability to take control of your feelings and ensure a more productive outcome for the situation. Take a breath. Remove yourself from the situation. Focus on something else that is more valuable to you.

Be self-managed.

Take Action
Start by coming up with a list of the two or three things that are your primary triggers. An easy way to identify them is to complete this statement: “I hate when people _________ ” or “I hate when [fill in the blank] happens.”

Know your triggers, then think of a few things you can do to calm yourself when you feel yourself being triggered. This could be breathing, forcing yourself to smile, changing your self-talk to something positive, refocusing on something you like, or changing where you are. Those are just a few ideas.

You will have to pay attention on purpose, catch yourself when you feel yourself being triggered or starting to meltdown, and use whatever approach you’ve identified as a way to stay calm.

Today, everyone needs to be more self-managed than ever before. What will this look like for you?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Check Engine Light

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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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Rebuilding a New Normal from the Ground Up: For Families

I was talking to my Mom on Mother’s Day and, like our usual conversations, we talked about everything. The weather. Our jobs. What we’re making for dinner. What we’re doing to try to stay healthy and in shape during quarantine. What movies we’ve seen or TV shows that are worthy of a binge watch. And, of course, what my kids are up to that day.

After sharing some of the most recent funny and outrageous stories parents of young kids can relate to, she mentioned she’s eagerly awaiting the day when we can all get together again, hopefully before cold and flu season picks up.

Honestly, I don’t remember much of the rest of the conversation. I got stuck on “cold and flu season.” The hair on the back of my neck stood up and my stomach dropped when she said that phrase. I felt myself getting anxious. I started creating scenarios in my head, asking myself a lot of the anxiety-driven unproductive “what if” questions:

  • What if everyone gets sick when the kids go back to school in the fall?
  • What if COVID-19-related hospitalizations spike again when everyone’s back in the same crowded spaces together?
  • What if we have to go back into quarantine?
  • What if my husband’s job isn’t so understanding about a split workday as we divide childcare so we both have time to work?
  • What if there really aren’t enough hours in the day to work, take care of the kids, maintain the house, maintain our health, maintain some semblance of normalcy? What will suffer? What will I have to sacrifice? What will my family have to sacrifice?

I felt myself getting nervous. Anxious. Scared. Things I do when I let my mind take over and don’t manage the flow of negative news always coming our way.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself those were all unproductive emotions. I didn’t judge the emotions or berate myself for feeling them. Quite the opposite: I acknowledged them. This is important because these feelings, when left unchecked, can inspire (unproductive) actions. The best way to diffuse emotions is to acknowledge them. By recognizing what I was feeling – and understanding why – I remembered that nothing comes from being worried or anxious about the what ifs.

Reality check: I know I’m not the only parent right now worrying about the what ifs. In fact, there have been countless articles talking about the psychological impact on people as a result of the COVID-19 quarantine (read: no one is sleeping, or at least not well).

But operating in a constant state of worry and anxiety is unproductive and unhealthy. And as the world slowly starts to reopen and we’re challenged to create a new normal, you will have to be present enough (not in a worry or anxious state) to wisely review and consider options for a new normal for you and your family.

Here are my suggestions to start navigating the new normal as a family:

  1. Start with a family meeting. We talked about the value of having a family meeting (or whatever you want to call it) to get everyone on the same page, regardless of what external factors are in play. Ensure everyone in the family is heard, has input and is included in the plan. Get in the habit of reviewing and planning together every morning or every evening.
  2. Talk about What’s Working and What’s Not. At the family meeting, talk about what is working and not working in the return to a new normal. No complaints, just the facts. Applaud the things that worked and encourage ways to continue them. For the things that didn’t work, identify why they didn’t work then brainstorm together to come up with ideas to try to make things better. This way all issues are dealt with and everyone has a voice, ownership and responsibility for their part.  Keep reviewing this list every few weeks to see how things are improving. Watch how this improves a productive approach to communication among the entire family.
  3. Play the Imagine Game. During the family meeting, ask everyone to imagine what life will be like when we go back to school. Challenge the family to think outside the traditional approach to the back to school season. For example, start by asking, what if you could never go back to the school building? Or, what if you had to learn in local small groups in our neighborhood? Or how could we make our remote learning sessions better/more productive? There are so many unknowns right now and we know that when we finally create the new normal, it will not look like what it used to be.
  4. Commit to your one thing. Life has a funny way of challenging our greatest plans. Though your family’s efforts to define and commit to living their safe, healthy and happy new normal, life may have other plans. So consider committing to just one thing. What is one thing that you would like to have happen – as a family – regardless of what the future brings? Maybe it’s family game night or movie night. Maybe it’s having dinner together as a family every night (or at least on school nights). Maybe it’s committing to learning how to do something new together once a month. Regardless of what life shares that may further challenge our definition of normal, this is the one thing you can commit to doing together.
  5. Ask questions. When we shift to the new normal, remember to check in with each other. It’s easy to fall into old ways if new habits aren’t practiced routinely. To keep relationships growing and productive, ask each other questions that encourage discussion, not just one-word or closed questions. For example, instead of “how was your day?” ask “what is one new thing you learned today?” or “what was your favorite part of the day?” Engaging each other keeps us sharing our thoughts. Feeling heard and involved is an important part of staying mentally healthy in changing times.

Take Action
Creating a new normal as a family doesn’t have to be a daunting task. This is your opportunity to create a new approach to how you want life as a family to be. Stop and notice what worked and didn’t work in the way things used to be. Do more of what worked, and replace what didn’t work with new ideas.

Imagine. Brainstorm. Create. It is yours to invent, so invent something better. Then work together to make it happen.

Define your new normal as a family.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day ???

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Three Steps to a Better Post-COVID-19 Workplace and Life

Every year, my big Italian family would have a family meeting on January 1st to discuss what happened during the previous year and what we wanted to achieve or do in our new year. My dad encouraged each of us to take inventory of what has been, imagine what we each wanted and then build a plan to achieve it.

I built on this approach and created the Review, Rethink and Respond process. What follows is guidance in how to Review what has happened, Rethink what you want to achieve and Respond by developing a plan to move forward in our COVID-19 world.

Review

Step out of the panic, anxiety and concern of the moment and calmly, rationally and intentionally look at your situation. Notice the details. Gather information, don’t judge them. I find the best way to do this is to start with a blank page. Draw a line down the middle to create two columns. Title the left column, What Worked. Title the right column, What Didn’t Work. Create a page for each of the areas below for work and life. This will help you create a process to always get clear about what is so you can then imagine and build a future response.

As a leader or manager, review these workplace areas:

  • Your leadership approach.
  • How you handled moving employees to remote status.
  • How you handled / are handling layoffs and furloughs.
  • How you handled / are handling employee engagement in a crisis.
  • How your employees responded in and to this crisis.
  • How your employees supported / are supporting your customers in this crisis.
  • Other areas you and your team can think of

As a parent or guardian, review these life areas:

  • Your parenting approach.
  • How you handled / are handling working at home.
  • How you handled / are handling home schooling.
  • How you kept the family together, energized and safe in the crisis.
  • How your family responded to the crisis.
  • How your family (including extended and remote) supported each other in the crisis.
  • Other areas you and your family can think of.

When you take the time to create a summary of each of these areas, what does it tell you? What decisions and choices created things that worked? What decisions and choices create things that did not work? You now have clearer information about how you reacted or responded in the crisis. Every action shares information with you if you are open to seeing it and reviewing it, so you can use it to be wiser in imagining and directing how to move forward.

Rethink

This one may be tough because there is so much uncertainty about what “normal” even means. So much has been turned upside down from the way we used to do things that perhaps it is unreasonable to think that the old normal is possible, or even desired. We know that many things about work, home, our planet and other areas were not working well in our old normal. Could this create a moment to reset, to imagine something better?

Ask yourself: what could post-COVID-19 look like? Imagine what it could look like, what it could be like for you, your family, your colleagues. You don’t have to get this right. You just have to imagine in this direction and stay tuned in to how things are developing.

Imagine what these workplace areas COULD look like:

  • Your leadership approach.
  • How employees work and what the workplace is.
  • Which employees belong on your team and your plan to replace or add others.
  • How to keep everyone informed through improved or new forms of communication.
  • How to source, interview, hire and onboard new talent.
  • How to manage (guide, support, develop, meet, activate and coach) employees in whatever way work develops.
  • How to keep a sense of team identity and drive engagement in whatever way work develops.

Imagine what these home/life areas COULD look like:

  • Your parenting approach.
  • How work and school can share the same space.
  • How schooling and learning will be done.
  • How you and your kids will build / maintain social contacts.
  • How to create a nurturing and supportive environment to accommodate a world of change and a new normal (safe space).
  • How to keep family members safe, healthy and mentally well in changing times.

The quality of the answer in a period of extreme uncertainty isn’t as important as the commitment to start thinking and imagining the scenarios of what could be so you can take confident steps forward when the time is right.

The reason to create several possible scenarios is that too much is currently uncertain. Thinking about several approaches to what could be considered successful in a post-COVID-19 response enables you to not only respond quickly but to also, and perhaps most importantly, influence the direction of change.

Respond

You have noticed and assessed your current situation – what worked and what didn’t work.

You have started to imagine a broad direction of a path toward a new normal.

Next is preparing yourself by defining a plan and setting trigger points, the things that will trigger your action plan to get started.

In a mindful, intentional and logical way, define the trigger points so, when they happen, they serve as your indicators to implement or to act. This lets you focus on your current moment with full attention because you have thought about your options and are watching for when something requires action. For example, it could be defining for your family or workplace what moving back into public means (when it is approved by your state) and what precautions your workplace and family will follow to do it safely.

Ensure that everyone on your team or in your family is included in your response. Everyone should have a role and know their role to support the successful achievement of any response. This both engages everyone involved because they know they have a stake in the outcome, and it helps them stay more connected and vigilant in watching for the activation triggers.

Though our world can activate our feelings of anxiety, worry and fear, having the Review, Rethink and Respond process can help us more mindfully and calmly learn to look at our world, wisely assess our situation, creatively invent options and resiliently work on a plan. This can help us remain focused on not just surviving in a crisis but thriving to come out better on the other side.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading The Year to Get Clear

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day ???

I have this little page-a-day memory book my husband gave me when my boys were born that lets me write down one thing they each did every day (if you’re looking for a Mother’s Day gift, I highly recommend this). Every night before bed, I reflect on the day and write down one thing for each of my kids. It could be something funny, a big milestone or something particularly challenging that we’re working through. Just one thing.

And as I’ve been writing down memories, I’ve been keeping track of the number of days in quarantine. When I realized we were at day 45, I made the intentional decision to stop writing it down. As I wrote “Day 45” in my memory book, it suddenly felt like I was making tick marks on the wall, like a prisoner would.

But that feeling of being trapped is far from what I’ve been feeling. I sat there with the pen in my hand, allowing myself the moment to reflect on what the last nearly 2 months have been like. There have been so many lessons learned, so many new memories, so much growth.

Big things, like watching my boys figure out how to solve disagreements on their own, with WORDS. Sure, there’s plenty of yelling and pushing and wrestling, but I’m hearing more discussion before, during and after the brawl. Progress! (Which, by the way, is also a lesson that big progress is the sum of regular and recurring small progress.)

My boys are learning how to recognize the importance of being self-managed. That just because you’re hungry doesn’t mean you can be mean or rude to others (read: hangry is a thing that happens to Mom and none of you like it). That just because you’re tired doesn’t mean it’s ok to hit or scream because anything else is too hard. That just because you want something doesn’t mean you can just take it. Forced to be in the same space, these lessons are rising to the top and we are dealing with them at an accelerated rate compared to what we would have been doing in the old normal.

Even I have learned so much, like the importance of accepting the fact that I can’t do it all at 100% all day, every day. That the kids need me to be as tuned in to them as they are to me, so it’s important to take that block of time for self-care so I can be present for them. That the days may sometimes feel long and challenging, but it’s just a fleeting moment and at the end of the day, it’s a chance to spend time with my family in a way we likely never will be able to again. “This moment matters” is something I now find I regularly tell myself (even if it’s sometimes done through gritted teeth).

But I think the most incredible lesson I’ve learned that I want to share with you as a parenting coach is that talking goes a long way.

I often share with my clients the importance of asking questions to really understand what’s being said to you. And kids are naturally good at this. They’re so curious about what’s happening around them, they ask questions ALL DAY LONG to get more information to make sense of their world.

So I started taking advantage of this.

I ask them questions, too. I ask them to tell me what they see as we’re out for a walk with the dog (basically a game of I Spy). I ask them about things we’re seeing on TV or in books. And I encourage them to ask me lots of questions because not only are they learning about the world for themselves, they’re showing it to me through their own eyes.

Ask yourself: how could you lean in to those questions from your kids instead of ignoring them or telling them to wait until you’re less busy? A question is an opportunity for discussion. And maybe this moment is the only moment you will hear this question and create this conversation possibility. How could you adjust your approach to discussions to stop talking so much and listen instead?

April showers bring May flowers. That better be true because April came in like an overtired and underdressed toddler in New England this year. We’ve had more rainy, cold days than nice ones, forcing everyone to stay inside more than we’d like. And since I really don’t like having my kids in front of the TV all day, I’ve learned how to leverage the movies and shows we do watch as teachable moments. To lean in to the questions to encourage greater conversations about what we can learn from what we’re seeing.

So, I’m going to shift the Quarantine Diaries slightly to focus on lessons in movies. Because let me tell you, when you take the time to stop and notice what messages are being shared in any movie, you get a faster view of the bigger picture – you don’t have to wait for life to send it in its own terms. This creates the space and the opportunity to actively listen and engage instead of passively hear and ignore. You learn how to start a conversation with others – including your kids – to encourage them to see the bigger picture, talk about it and even get a little creative with it.

So stay tuned for the first installment of Lessons in Movies, coming soon.

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

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 28

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Could COVID-19 Help Us Get Back to More Successful Relationships?

When it comes to maintaining relationships, technology has been a mixed blessing. It has allowed many of us to stay in touch with family and friends who are too far away to see on a regular basis. But it has also given us a lazy pass to avoid the face-to-face time with those closest to us.

With the arrival of COVID-19 and our requirement to maintain social distancing, it’s forcing us to review our use of technology in relationships.

Have we been sacrificing our relationships this whole time?

Think about your living situation. Most of us are now required to be with our families or roommates all day, every day. In the past, we could escape if a situation became too much or was uncomfortable (think about how many people NEED to go the movies during a holiday week, just to get out of the house and away from their families).

In our COVID-19 world, we have no quick escape. We have to stay put and work it out.

It might seem tough, but let me suggest a new way to see this: an opportunity to improve your existing relationships. I see this time as learning through immersion.

The best way to see this is with languages. When you really want to develop great language proficiency, you spend time in that country. You are surrounded by it in every aspect of your days. You can feel overwhelmed by it or you can see it for the opportunity to develop skills quickly.  Your attitude about it will determine your success with it.

We are in a similar situation now. We have been immersed in our relationships. By changing your attitude about it, along with these ideas, we can use this unique moment to build better, more sustainable and more effective relationships.

  1. Acknowledge your situation. Have a family or apartment meeting to identify the elephant in the room. Pretending that all communication and interactions will be easy when you are forced to spend time with each other won’t serve you well. Instead, see that this moment will require more from each of you and a goal could be a collective focus on getting along better and building better relationships.
  2. Create new rules. We know that sometimes in relationships, we can trigger each other by what we say, how we say it or, sometimes, what we don’t say. Gather ideas for rules that will encourage open, caring, professional and managed communications throughout the day. Holding each other accountable to create, support and comply with the rules can get everyone on the same page. Use the rules to focus on building and sustaining quality relationships, not to spark competition, fights or holding a grudge.
  3. Share more of yourself and learn more about others. Make time to get to better know the people in your environment. Most of the time, we only know a little about each other, or we share only a little about ourselves. This is true even for families. Use this quarantine time to ask deeper questions, listen more generously, understand each other more significantly and connect more personally. Think of the people who get stranded in a bus station or airport because of a storm. As the time progresses, they realize that the quality of their experience will be in how they connect and support each other. They frequently leave the situation as friends or even just more appreciative of each other.

Take Action
Four weeks in, are you frustrated with the quarantine? Or are you finding your relationships with family members, friends / roommates are getting better?

We can react and be frustrated or disappointed that we are in this situation, but this is an ineffective use of energy and emotion. Instead, create and act on the intention to use this moment to build stronger relationships. Use this moment to be more present, gather and share more information and come away more informed and connected.

The world will send what it will send – COVID-19 or something else. At first glance, we can be discouraged by it. But, if you reframe your thinking to see the opportunity in whatever comes your way, you will always be impressed, instead of disappointed, by life.

Check out our upcoming FREE 30-minute webinar on How to Have Your Relationships Survive Quarantine on April 15, 2020 at 8:30 p.m. ET. Register to reserve your spot.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Be An Ostrich

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