The Quarantine Diaries: Day 17

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

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

Yard work with Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brief meeting

But that’s another topic for another day…

My Top Lessons

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

Some Activities

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

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

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

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

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 12

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Staying Productive When Your World Goes Quiet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Why Things Don’t Always Work Out

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Your Impact is Greater Than You Think

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

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

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

Let’s start there: the impact of others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Power of Journaling

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 12

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

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

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

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

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

My Top Lessons

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

Some Activities

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

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

Hang in there everyone. We’ve got this.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 6

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How to Manage New Remote Employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jay Forte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jay Forte

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

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Learning How to Greet Others in a COVID-19 World

We have been warned that close proximity to others can expose us to COVID-19, so we’re all limiting errands and social experiences. But even in these situations, you may find yourself running into neighbors and friends. How do you greet them if hugs and handshakes are out of the question?

We have all been wondering how to professionally and socially acknowledge others in today’s climate of germ fear. We could get all serious about this because germs make us nervous, or we could really understand that the purpose of greeting others is connection. Think about the wild handshakes and full dance moves that have evolved over time. Though they may not be the answer for us today, it gives us room to review and experiment. After all, new times need new ideas. So here is a review of our current greeting methods with a challenge for us all to decide what we want to do instead – but in a way that builds connection, respect and feeling cared for.

Handshake – totally out of the question. Our hands are the germ catchers that spread to our faces and to the hands of others we touch.

Fist bump – also out of the question. This is still the same hand that caught the germs. Germs don’t just rest on the fingers. The entire hand is the germ deliverer. So, no fist bumping…

Elbow bump – seemed a better option until we remember that we have been coached to sneeze in our elbows. And though we may be a master at sneezing directly into the elbow, we don’t always get it on the inside, which means the outside elbow, or the clothes we are wearing, could be affected. So, no elbow bumping…

Foot bump – seemed a better option until we remember that all of us sneeze downward, whether into our hands or elbows. And most sneezes are delivered with such force that there is always some portion of it delivered to the area down by our feet. Besides, how personal does it feel to connect with someone by clicking ankles or bumping feet? Makes me think of an early 90s dance move… one that didn’t last, so, no foot bump…

Wave – better because we can do it from a distance, but when you are up close or in the same room, the wave is very impersonal. Sure, there is no physical contact, but then it doesn’t create the more intimate rapport that a greeting is designed to create. (Remember, a popular theory of the handshake began as a gesture to create trust because by shaking with your weapon hand, it showed you were not holding a weapon and therefore were not a threat. Also, that by shaking the hand, it showed that you had no other weapons up your sleeve). I was just imaging a group of American CEOs waving to each other in the same room, just feet apart… Hmmn… don’t think that’s the response. So, waving isn’t really the best option…

Bow – in some cultures, this is the proper way to greet. In fact, in heavily populated countries, like China and Japan, this is a respectful and conventional greeting method. I admit, though, that I can’t see a group of American CEOs bowing to each other… Hmmn… don’t think we are there yet.

But, if you add folded hands to a brief bow as in the Hindu greeting, Namaste, maybe we’ve found a greeting we all can use to acknowledge others, to greet with care without physical contact. The Namaste greeting projects a non-threatening position that also includes an acknowledgement of the other’s greatness. As I understand it, Namaste means both, “I bow to you,” but in a more spiritual sense, it also means “may the divine in me acknowledge the divine in you,” or “may our minds meet.” It is a warm, authentic and caring greeting that reflects respect and friendship and allows people to connect deeply, personally and without any physical contact. Meaningful message sent without fear of germ transmission. Perhaps Namaste (greeting with a brief bow) could really be the best option…

The COVID-19 outbreak is challenging us to be more aware in limiting our physical contact while not giving up on ensuring that others feel respected, valued and cared for in our greeting. Now, all we do is start to shake hands but then pull away before touching and shrug that we don’t know what to do. Pretty ineffective.

I personally would love to see the gentle, kind and heartfelt Namaste gesture – folded hands and brief bow – as our new normal. Will try it this week to see the response I get.

Take Action
What do you want to start using to connect with family, friends and business colleagues? What could you do that not only creates a greeting but lightens the mood a bit? Who knows, you may create our next new regular greeting.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Help Your Employees Become More Mindful

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How To Keep Your Team Energized When Some Now Work Remotely

You had a great team. Everyone was focused and engaged because you had your daily huddle, you shared your performance expectations, you spent time each day connecting and developing your team and you made each team member feel included, valued and special. Then COVID-19 struck. Now, this tight-knit team is working from home. Your team now feels disjointed, confused and less connected than before.

How do you get back the great culture you created when some – or all – of your team now works out of the office?

Despite the fact that the remote workforce has become more of the norm over the past few years (since more of our work can successfully be done remotely), it has never been done on such a vast scale before. Sure, working remotely is a great benefit or role attractor for many people, so we have started to see managers learn how to keep the team cohesive, energized and engaged, but that just scratched the surface.

Consider the following ideas to keep your team connected and feeling supported when world events may move them to different locations.

  • Adjust your attitude. Yes, it would be great to have the entire team together in the same room, but some things in life are beyond your control. Spending any energy wishing it were different just uses your energy to be disappointed instead of solving how you want to keep the team excited and engaged. How you choose to look at this situation will allow you a narrow or wide view of the options to create a remarkable and connected team, regardless of the distance. So, as in most things, start with you first. Work to change your perspective. When you see that this is just a change that needs a new approach, you will find the energy and excitement to do it well.
  • Begin with the end in mind. Define what a great and high-energy team looks like and what makes it. This could include defining the quality of the relationships that exist between team members, the way the team supports and communicates with each other, or even the way they support each other on tasks because they share deadlines and expectations. Knowing what a high-energy team acts like creates a clear goal. From here, the team can brainstorm and consider meaningful options to achieve it.
  • Engage the team for ideas. It is in the team’s best interest (as it is in yours) to have a team that is wildly successful together. Have the team suggest ways to keep their energy high when some – or all – of the members are working remotely. As in effective brainstorming, accept all ideas. From these ideas, you can collectively choose the best ones and give them a try. A few ideas to consider as ways to engage remote employees include a daily Zoom or Skype huddle; a daily individual call to the remote employee to check in on progress and to talk about the work experience; an activity each week that requires team members to reach out to each other, such as a fun scavenger hunt or a project that puts employees with different abilities together. It is the intention of constantly connecting the worlds of local and remote employees that creates the ability for all employees to feel connected.
  • Try the ideas and assess their impact. Give any idea chosen a timetable to be fully implemented. Then assess what worked and what didn’t work about it. Have the team discuss how to do more of the successes and propose ideas to improve what didn’t work. This will keep the ideas coming and keep the focus on having an amazing team.

Local or remote, you need your team to connect and work seamlessly together. Sometimes this is easier when everyone is local, but in today’s COVID-19 world, that may not be possible. So, spend your energy helping the team define their new normal, how they want it to be and what they would be willing to do to have a high-impact and connected team.

Take Action
Engage your team to define how they want their interactions to be. With this clarity, host conversations to generate ideas, try the ideas and assess what works and doesn’t work. Keep developing and trying ideas until you consistently deliver the team experience you want.

Having a team that includes remote employees doesn’t mean the team has to be disconnected and disengaged. We all work better when we are valued, cared for and are included – regardless of where we work. Knowing some of the team will now be working remotely challenges us to come up with greater ideas on how to make this happen. We can respond. We are smart, resilient and capable. Guide them to build what they want.

By Jay Forte

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

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The Power of Journaling

One of the best self-awareness and self-management tools we encourage our coaching clients to use is journaling. Journaling provides the ability to sit down and write what you’re thinking and feeling with no judgement; the impact is clarifying, enlightening and freeing. Sometimes, the ability to tune out the rest of the world and just be honest with yourself can open your eyes to greater awareness, information and realizations you may have missed or ignored. It can help you get clear to be able to make wise decisions, small or large. It can help you transition through challenging times. It can take a weight off your shoulders.

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve, changing the way we see and live our lives, I’ve noticed many parents are encouraging their kids to keep a journal. And this isn’t an age specific activity, either. I’ve seen parents sharing this idea with their teens right down to their toddlers. In fact, I recently saw a post from a parent who shared that her young daughter had trouble explaining the big emotions she was feeling. After she encouraged her to write things down, both of them had an easier time communicating with each other.

I’ve also heard of parents who are encouraging their toddlers – the kids who can’t write for themselves – to tell them what they’re thinking and feeling, and parents are writing it down for them.

And I’ve heard of parents who are encouraging their older children – especially those in college who were sent home to finish their year through online courses from the comfort of their childhood bedrooms – to journal to help them understand and channel their big emotions in a productive way.

We’re loving this use of journaling. There’s a power in writing things down, to create a visual representation of what you’re thinking and feeling. It makes it real. It also clears it out of your mind so it stops the continual pinging and distracting thoughts. Left unattended, our thoughts will run around our head, disrupting our concentration, affecting our mood and influencing our behaviors (sometimes not in the most productive ways). Addressing them by giving yourself time and space to release them and see them creates the ability to be a wiser, calmer person.

So if you’re struggling to find the right words to discuss this big event with your kids, considering journaling for yourself. To start, get in a quiet place. Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself a question like, “What I am feeling right now?” or “What is the thing that seems to be getting my attention?” Write what comes to mind. Don’t judge it. Just write. When you feel you are done (you will know), review what you wrote and reflect on it. Allow yourself to experience whatever is going on with you. Journaling gives it words. With these, you can then better use the information to quiet your mind and make more intentional decisions.  

This is a big, scary event for everyone. The best way to prevent panic is to ensure you take time to get centered and present. Your family needs you to be informed, calm and responsive, not anxious and reactive. Journaling can help you find your moment of Zen in a noisy and changing world.

Take Action
Take 5 minutes today to write down how you’re feeling in whatever format works best for you, whether it’s a list of words, a formal journal entry or even a drawing. Write down the emotions you’re feeling right now. How does this help you see things more clearly? How can you use journaling to help you step outside the internal spiral you might be feeling or experiencing so you are able to relax, keep perspective and continue to make wise decisions?

If journaling can help you, consider how it can help your kids who are still learning – and possibly just starting to see – how this pandemic will change their world.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Current Events?

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Hear What They’re Actually Saying

You might be starting to tune out the impact of COVID-19 on everyone’s lives. You might be tired of hearing about ways to keep your kids entertained so you can get your work done. You might be overwhelmed by how much information is available yet how few real answers are provided.

But here’s a group I think a lot of us have overlooked: the high school and college seniors.

Senior year is a huge milestone. It’s a year that challenges each student in new ways, encouraging them to stretch to become better versions of themselves. They’re presented with new and exciting opportunities, like applying and getting accepted into college programs, exploring job opportunities and spring break trips, to name a few. Senior year is about hard work, having fun and making lasting memories.

Think back to your senior year in high school and (if appropriate) college. I bet at least one memory that comes to mind brings a big smile to your face.

Now consider the impact COVID-19 has had on the existing senior-year students. The trademark right-of-passage year so many have looked forward to has been taken from them. No school trips. No school plays or musicals. No sporting events (think about all those basketball players in the NCAA Division I basketball tournaments that won’t have the opportunity to play for scouts or to hear the cheers as they play their final game).

I recently heard from a senior in college who explained that this entire situation feels like a rug was ripped out from under them.

And it’s the perfect description. Schools have completely transitioned to e-learning environments and the quarantine has prevented friends from getting together to have those memorable experiences together.

So when you hear about someone else’s challenges, particularly those of senior students, how can you be more aware and responsive to their frustration and sadness? How can you be more responsive to this life changing event they aren’t quite sure how to manage? This is a big deal for them. After all, senior year is meant to be the year of perks, the year they’ve worked so hard to reach and enjoy.

What this tells me as a coach is you have an opportunity for active and mindful listening. This means listening to what they actually mean, not just to what is said. Listen through and past frustrations and outbursts for the emotions, challenges and concerns behind the delivery. Listen for content. Listen for what really matters.

It is in this type of listening that you will be able to better connect with them to determine what they really need and how you can help. You can’t make this specific event go away, but you can be present to ride along with them as they go through it. Sometimes, that is the best it can be.

Take Action
Reach out to any high school or college seniors who may be challenged with a new reality as they wrap up their final year in their specific school. Be interested in how they are really doing. Allow them to open up about their feelings and emotions. Acknowledge and validate their feelings. They need and want to be heard. Help them manage what they are feeling and direct them to express it in a positive and safe way. Some may need to find a new outlet (like this Tony award winner who encouraged all spring musical participants to upload their videos to share on Twitter with the tag #SunshineSongs).

Walking with these amazing people as they start to stretch their wings can reconnect you to your big moments, and to the memories of the people in your life who helped you understand, handle and succeed in them.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading 60-Day Review: How’s 2020 Working Out For You?

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