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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To React or Respond, That is the Question

Much of what we teach at The Forte Factor is to learn how to respond, not react, to whatever life sends your way. One of the things our founder says frequently is “life is as it is. It’s what you do with the information you’re given that determines the quality of your life.”

So, now that we’re officially facing a pandemic with COVID-19, I think it’s fair to say people are reacting, not responding. Buying out stock of Purell and cleaning supplies. A reaction. Stocking up on water and toilet paper. Reaction. Rushing to the doctor for a runny nose that otherwise would never have been given a second thought. Reaction.

Let’s take a look at what the difference between response and reaction really is.

To react means to say or behave without necessarily thinking things through. Often referred to as off-the-cuff, you decide quickly what you’re going to do next. Though spontaneous behavior can be a great thing in some situations, like improv, it can prevent you from making wise choices.

A response is when you take a moment to gather meaningful information – both internally (what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling) and externally (what’s happening in the world around you). What is true? What is hype? What is sensationalism?

The power of reaction is based in a person’s inability to calmly process new information. When new information is available, the brain considers this to be “change.” Change activates the fight-flight-freeze reactions, hence the widespread panic that we’re seeing now. People slip into their natural survival tendencies.

But what if instead you took a moment to understand the situation? Taking that moment ensures you don’t get owned by the fight-flight-freeze reaction and you allow your greatest thoughts, energy and emotions to focus on what you have to deal with so you give yourself greater options and opportunities. You don’t spend your energy being worried. You use your energy to wisely solve. Imagine what life could be like and what you could accomplish if you were able to manage your emotions and your response to external factors in a meaningful way.

It’s possible.

Have a strategy to know how to gather the right information, share accurate information and focus on keeping people safe. With this focus, you can more mindfully look at this situation and, using your calmer, wiser brain, develop a strategy to make the most or the best of whatever happens. You can’t control it, but you can wisely prepare for anything out of the ordinary. Start by stopping to gather information, work to understand the information, then create and implement a plan. We share this same guidance for both individuals/families as well as organizations.

So, as a mother to 3 little boys ages 3 and under, I’m intentionally deciding to be a “prepared aware.” I see the need to be prepared for what could happen (awareness), so I will be prepared as best as I can (my response). Using the guidance I shared with you above, my family will create and implement our plan to ensure we are aware and safe.

Take Action
Today, try to be aware of when you start to feel panic. It can show up as anxiety, fear or anger, so watch for your triggers – the things that make you feel that way. Then, challenge yourself to close your eyes and count to three. This is to interrupt that noisy worried brain to get it to calm down to see what is true so you can make a better decision about what to do next.

Panic is a reaction. Prepared is a response.

Be prepared.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Check Engine Light

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Are you Ready to Act Like a Manager?

Being human means that sometimes our emotions get the best of us. Consider whether you would react or respond to the following situations.

  • Your best employee just gave her notice.
  • An employee has been late to work twice this week.
  • Your department is over budget in its spending for the month.
  • An important email was sent to a customer with typos and inaccurate information.
  • Two employees argue in front of the customer.
  • The office gossips about an employee who is having a personal problem.

You can vent. You can rant. You can react. But if you do, what is likely to happen is that you may not solve the situation but rather aggravate your team or customers in the process.

Instead, you could respond with intention. When responding, you allow yourself to see the situation from external and internal perspectives.

External. Stop and notice what is creating the situation. What information do you need to fully understand the situation to be able to handle it effectively? What are the circumstances, personalities and details affecting the situation? What is working and not working in this moment that is creating this?

Internal. Stop and notice you. What is your emotional state? What of your strengths will help you here? What triggers have been activated that you will need to manage? What situations or events of the past are you bringing forward?

The guidance I share with the executives I coach – and that has direct application for all managers – is to pause for a moment in any of these situations to get informed about the internal and the external. Once you fully understand the situation, the reason for it and what is going on with you, ask yourself this question: “Who do I need to be in this moment to create the outcome I want?”

It is in this moment that you can see your habit to vent, rant and overreact, or to wisely and calmly review and manage yourself, will affect the outcome and results you want. To be an effective manager requires that you act with intention, to respond instead of react.

Effective managers and leaders are present to both their situations and themselves. By stopping and noticing both the external and internal, they can more wisely and more intentionally respond instead of react. Relationships improve. Productivity and performance improve. Results improve.

Take Action
Stop and notice a challenging situation happening in your workplace. Take the time to gather the information you need – the external and the internal –  to be ready and able to solve it. With the information about the situation and your own review of yourself, ask yourself Who do I need to be in this moment to create the outcome I want? With the information you have, choose with intention what you do next.

This doesn’t mean you won’t raise your voice or get angry in a challenging situation. It just means that you choose that response after consideration of the situation, rather than default to an old habit. And when you take the time to consider what to do, you will likely find that the raised voice or anger, though a possible solution, may likely be an infrequent option in favor of a calm, sane and methodical response.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading A Tantrum is a Tantrum

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Setting the Course for a Successful 2018

By Jay Forte, MBA, CPC, ELI-MP

When I was a kid, my family had a tradition to create New Year’s resolutions. After a great family dinner on New Year’s day, the table was cleared and out came the note pads and pencils to assist in our conversations about the new year. I admit that this wasn’t always so well received among my five siblings and me, but it was my dad’s process to guide the six of us to focus, develop our talents, discover our passions and live in the greatest way possible.

I know we were different than a lot of families, but my dad was determined that we each live intentionally – tuned in and choosing our life direction and work on purpose (a process I continued with my three daughters and recommend to every dad). In his mind, this needed a process – a way to be ready for life. This process had three steps: Review, Rethink and Respond. 

Review

We began by reviewing the successes, challenges and failures that happened over the past year. We listed them to learn from them, and to understand what worked well and what needed improvement or attention.

Not enough people today review their personal actions to assess what did and didn’t work. As a result, people often find themselves repeating the same actions they should have already learned from. We move slowly forward only to go back and do the same thing over again.

Rethink

With information from the past year fresh in our minds, we then had to rethink: what did we want to achieve in the New Year? This step was intentionally created to encourage us to dream, invent and create what we wanted for ourselves, our family, our world. We took the time to imagine what would help us show up big to life and work, own our lives and make our impact.

When was the last time you allowed yourself to daydream? Dreaming requires you to tune out the loud and pushy technology voice of the world and tune in to your inner voice. Your voice matters most when it comes to imagining what you want to be happy and successful. Rethinking and inventing is key to living a happy, successful and responsible life.

Respond

From the list of things you considered when you took the time to rethink, now it’s time to respond. Choose what you want to happen – most people call it their goal or resolution – and build a plan to make it happen.

Though this is a great process I still follow to this day, I admit it can be challenging to turn dreams into reality. This is why an actionable plan is so important to create – it helps us close the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

Poet Mary Oliver wrote in her poem The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

What progress do you want to make on this question in 2018? Use review, rethink and respond to guide you.

 

Original article “Setting A Course for A Successful 2017” first appeared on LinkedIn, December 15, 2016.

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