Review, Rethink, Respond: How to Reinvent Your Post-COVID-19 Business and Workplace

So many people have been saying they just want things to return to where they were pre-COVID-19.

Here’s a reality check for you: it’s not going to happen. So many things have changed in the last few months that the ability to return to “normal” has expired.

However, this doesn’t mean that we have to settle for how things are right now. Instead, senior leaders and employees can use this global reset as an opportunity to develop a stronger, wiser and better organization. The approach can best be delivered through the three words I learned from my family each New Year’s Day: Review, Rethink, Respond.

In my big Italian family, New Year’s Day was a day of celebration. After an always remarkable dinner, my dad (an engineer) would have us take out pads of paper, pens and start the process of getting our New Year’s resolutions ready so we would make the most of our new year. We would first be instructed to Review – to look at the year that just ended. What did it tell you? What did you learn from it? What worked and what didn’t work about it? With greater clarity about where we were at that moment, we were instructed to look to the future – to Rethink. We were reminded that a new year is a blank canvas, an opportunity to invent or Rethink what we want to have happen. It could be to do more of what worked over the past year, or to address and improve the things that didn’t work. When we were clear of where we were and what we wanted, Respond was the last step – to build a plan to close the gap between where we were and what we wanted so we could have a clear direction to work on achieving our goals.

This was our habit, so I guess it is no surprise that as a certified coach, I use this approach with all of my clients. This 3-word approach can also help any organization wisely and successfully land on its feet, post-COVID-19. Here is what I have been sharing in my Vistage program, Engaging and Retaining Talent in Crises and Beyond.

Review. At the start of the year, everyone was actively advancing progress on the 2020 strategy, marching up what I call “Hill A.” We kept our nose down and worked diligently to get to the top of the hill. Then COVID-19 struck and tumbled most of us off our hill. Now at the bottom of the hill, we have the urge to start racing back to where we were.

But this is truly an interruption. And with interruptions, they force us to stop. Consider using this unsolicited stop to Review where you were and where you were headed. Stop and notice what worked and didn’t work with Hill A. Some things were going well, but there were many things that were not. This moment to stop actually gives you the opportunity to develop an inventory of what belongs and doesn’t belong in the future version of your business and workforce. What was working and not working in your leadership, workforce, employee engagement, customers, suppliers, results? Take a moment to take inventory and know what is true for you.

Rethink. The COVID-19 interruption to work and life has given us the opportunity to realize that though we were racing up Hill A, Hills B, C, D and E are all other options, other opportunities, that we may have otherwise missed. So, even though Hill A is an option, don’t run back to where you were until you Rethink what else is possible that may not have been a few short months ago.

Consider these questions:

  • Based on how COVID-19 has affected you and your business, what new directions, opportunities and options are now available – whether by choice or by mandate?
  • What do you now know and consider about how and where work in your organization could be done?
  • What do you now know and consider to keep your employee and stakeholders engaged, safe, performing and loyal?

Create scenarios of what your business could look like, calling them Hills B, C, D and E. What if you started offering a service or product that was never part of your sales mix before – this is Hill B. For each Hill or business scenario you create, ask, how should work be done that will provide the service response you commit to that also accommodates the safety and needs of your employees? In each Hill or business scenario, you may need your workforce to deliver work in a different way – remote, not remote, remote but not at home. Whatever you consider, you will need to assess how you will be effective at managing and coaching them, what new software may be needed, how to deal with the office space (changes or elimination).

Use what worked and didn’t work about Hill A (because you took the time to Review) to determine what belongs and doesn’t belong in any of your future scenarios. After all, the reason for building scenarios instead of defining one path forward is that we don’t know where things are headed. Having a variety of options – of things that you have been Rethinking – can help you move faster once the post-COVID-19 world becomes clearer.

Respond. Up until a few months ago, I think most people would see the Respond portion of the 3-word approach as creating an action plan to achieve the specific goals for the new year. But as COVID-19 has shown, our world is always changing and life is, as a result, always uncertain. So, instead, Respond means gathering information and details in each of the future scenarios (Hills B, C, D and E) to start to understand each – the cost, the benefit, the changes, the impact – so each scenario can be wisely assessed at some point in the future against the other scenarios.

Put it into Practice
Review the business. Rethink the future business scenarios. Respond by building out the business scenarios, and for each scenario, Rethink what your workforce will need to look like to make that scenario successful (how the work will be done). Then Rethink how you will engage and retain that workforce since talent is still the driver of all performance. Once these details are defined, Respond by gathering information about cost, benefit and impact to be able to have a logical, mindful and process-driven approach to landing on your feet, post COVID. Be aware of your – and your team’s – urge to race back up Hill A. Don’t miss the opportunity the interruption of COVID-19 gave you to Review where you were, Rethink where you could be, and Respond with intention to become a better organization, employer, supplier, industry leader than you were before. Tough times make many of us want to retreat to the normal and the comfortable. But if you can fight that feeling, tough times also give us an opportunity to ask the question, what could make us better?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Your Workforce Approach Should be Based on What You Deliver to Customers, Not Just What Employees Want

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This article originally appeared on Vistage‘s Entrepreneurs and Small Business Network. Membership is required to see the post on the Vistage site.

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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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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