15 Way To Help Employees Connect When They Work From Home

Working from home because of COVID-19? Here are 10 ways to spend ...

  1. Make sure there are opportunities, whether onsite or virtually, to have small groups of remote employees have coffee meeting from time to time (say, on a quarterly basis) to hear directly from the organization’s leaders, including opportunities for Q&A. Keep the groups to less than 8 people for maximum engagement and involvement
  2. Assign a mentor to connect with employees monthly. Not just for mentoring specifically, but also company communication and especially for the office grapevine.
  3. During zoom meetings, assign one person who asks for remote staff input.
  4. When office social events resume – especially office lunches, make sure to send delivery services to remote employees.
  5. Remember birthdays and work anniversary dates remote employees.
  6. Set up daily Zoom Office Lunches. Whoever wants to join, can. No pressure. Very informal, and make sure to keep most of the bosses away.
  7. Encourage remote employees to have virtual coffee breaks, cocktails, or even walks with their peers.
  8. Direct supervisors should have a regular ‘check-in’ session with remote employees and even discuss issues that aren’t business related.
  9. Send some company branded items/swag remote employees can put in their office, and any time similar items are distributed, make sure they’re sent to the remotes.
  10. Create an electronic newsletter/Slack channel to keep remote employees in the loop and to recognize them.
  11. Make sure you have the right people managing remote employees. Managers who are competent, but not great communicators and connectors are not appropriate to manage remote employees
  12. Set expectations and manage to them weekly. Not ‘how’ or ‘when’ to do things, but results. These days, goals are far more important than activity.
  13. Ask remote employees individually for their suggestions on improving engagement, whether they be new tools, or communication ideas, or how frequently to communicate. They’re in a better position to know what works than you do.
  14. Friendly competitions are always fun. Create a company-wide trivia game on a Slack channel. One question daily.
  15. Ask each remote employee for their best practices when it comes to health and wellness when working from home.

“It’s Never Going To Be The Same” – No Kidding.

I’m getting tired of hearing “it’s never going to be the same” as if the status quo and the way we’ve always done things has never changed in our lifetimes. It’s changed constantly. It would’ve changed significantly even if there had not been a pandemic.

People fear change because it moves us from the known to the unknown. But change has happened consistently since time began, and guess what: it’s gonna change again.

Remember flying before 9/11? The check-in and security process changed after that, didn’t it. We got used to it, and now it’s normalized.

Remember television prior to streaming? Prior to cable? When there were only 13 channels? Or maybe you remember (like I do) when there was black-and-white only and no remote control?

Are you doing the same work you did 5 years ago? Using the same tools, communication devices? What about the people who work with you? Any of them leave in the past 5 or 10 years?

Point is, nothing is ever going to be the same again because nothing is now the same as it was before. What makes the human species (and much of nature) unique is that we adopt to change. Doesn’t mean we have to particularly like it, but we adopt.

So if you’re scared of the fact that it’s never going to be the same, get over yourself. Your success in life or school or your chosen profession is not based on whether or not there is change, but how you adopt to it. How well you adopt, how easy it is for you adopt, and what your attitude about the new world is.

The great Dan Sullivan, “You have no responsibility for what’s happening in the outside world, but you have 100% responsibility for how you respond to it.”

It’s OK to look to the past and remember what was, but don’t live there. There is only now, and what will be.

17 Years Later…A New Book

 

In 2003, I quit my job (without having another job), decided to start my own business and write a book.

 

The book identified the leadership styles of the best people I had worked for in 17 years of corporate life. It was called “Managing People in the 21st Century”.

Late last year, I realized that I had all new stories and anecdotes from the next 17 years, conducting leadership programs around the country and working closely with hundred of business owners and executives.

The result is a complete revamp of the original book.

But what surprised me the most is that the essential characteristics of leaders have stayed the same. Leadership styles have changed, but leadership fundamentals have not.

Adjustments have been made to today’s contemporary workforce, but again they’re stylistic, not fundamental changes.

And clearly the pandemic crisis has necessitated change, but only to accelerate and make intentional those darn fundamentals, which again stay the same.

The book’s available at all the usual suspects, starting here.

Thanks!

On Gratitude in Times of Crisis

I can’t remember who got me focusing on gratitude, but it’s only been a few years since it happened.
Since then, time after time I find myself returning to the things and people that and whom I’m grateful for. It becomes a really long list and – especially in times like this, reviewing that list is more rewarding than almost anything else I’m doing right now.
We’ve all spent the majority of our time in the past few weeks focusing on preserving our families and businesses; learning about Covid-19 and trying to understand what is being done so we can adapt our lives and businesses as fast as possible.
We are in an incredible time of the unknown, and moving from the known to the unknown is the biggest stressor we can have.
Gratitude helps take us back to the known. It reminds us of things we’re proud of (in a time where we tend to focus much of our energy on what’s scary). And it’s alot easier to focus on the negative than remember the positive.
So I want to think about gratitude; things that are actually going well during this time; and what leaders can do during this time.
So, let’s practice a little gratitude, shall we?

Leadership in the Coronavirus Era

The Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) truly defines uncertainty for every business and every person. No one can predict what’s going to happen, how long it’s going to last, or what the real impact will be.

What I know is right now the impact is significant and in many different ways. I’ve had hospitality clients lay off significant numbers of their employees. Many non-profits are closing down, and the ones that are open (because they’re an ‘essential business’ are navigating waters they’ve never navigated before.

Most families today are two-income families. With kids home, that means one parent has to take off work. And despite the increase in work from home, there’s not a lot a person can work on when they’re taking care of the kids.

The impact, of course, is not limited to business. We are all worried about our jobs, family, friends and associations.

This extraordinary time sees three related crises all at once. This isn’t just an economic crisis; it’s a health crisis, an economic crisis, and ultimately a crisis of the unknown: what will it look like when it’s over. And all three are of a scale never seen before.

As a leadership and workforce strategist, part of the strength I bring to the table is I’ve “been there/done that”.  I’ve either done it, witnessed it, or led it in my 30-year career. But nothing in our lifetimes compares to this.

There are extraordinary demands on leaders in every avenue.

So what is a leader to do? My guidance is – do what all leaders are supposed to do in normal times – and, do it on steroids.

My guidance is – do what all leaders are supposed to do in normal times – and, do it on steroids.

It’s all about communication

Even in the best of times, I’ve never seen an employee survey where the results said, “there’s too much communication.” Now is the time to over-communicate. Even if you don’t know the answer, communicate that. (Any response is better than no response at all.)

That means frequent one-to-group communication (e-mails, video conferencing, virtual coffees and happy hours).  It means saying “here’s what I know, and here’s when I’m going to get back to you”.

People are nervous. They need to hear from you.

And when there’s bad news, be upfront and immediate with it. Don’t hide bad news. I have a client with a very successful business in the hospitality industry. He realized early on that he was going to have to lay off employees (about half of his team). He realized that on the evening of Thursday, March 5 (well before the restaurants shutdowns and quarantines). He texted me early the next morning, I gave him my thoughts and potential strategies. By noon, he addressed all his employees, preparing them for bad news. On Monday, March 9, he gave the bad news to everyone. Nothing was sugarcoated or delayed. As soon as he knew, he made sure his employees knew.

You are always on stage.

Your people take their cues from you. If you are calm and thoughtful, you’ll put people more at ease. If you’re not, well, that’s an issue to.

Take a look at our leaders on a national stage. Who are we paying attention to? Which of them are making decisions, showing empathy, and are doing the right thing?

I’m not going to single any one politician out; I can do without the politically related comments at a time like this. But I would like to mention one person I’m listening to without fail: Dr. Anthony Fauci. We he speaks, I listen. He’s calm, cool, fact-based. He thinks before he acts and speaks. He’s tremendously knowledgeable and even though this pandemic is unprecedented, he acts like he’s been there. (And in a way he has: he’s advised every President since Ronald Reagan). In a nutshell: he’s acting the way a leader should act.

What You Do (and How You Do It) Is Critical

All you can do is your best. But make sure that – to the best of your ability, you create a sense of trust. Trust is a combination of communication and honesty. (That’s not so hard, but it’s hard to practice it every day). Trust also derives from your established values and ethics.

Always follow your values; your decisions will be much easier.

It’s all about Emotional Intelligence

What are your people thinking and feeling? What are their issues? Are you asking, do you understand (because you need to). This is even more important when employees are working remotely. People need to feel tethered to the organization they work for.

When you’re conducting video-based meetings, pay extra attention to non-verbal clues from your team. As much as possible, connect on an individual basis with those you work for and with you. Ask how they are (and mean it). Show compassion – but you can’t fake compassion if you don’t have it.

You Don’t Have the Luxury of Time

In these unchartered times, there’s nothing to fall back on. The adage that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert is still probably true, but we no longer have that much time.

So make sure to make decisions quickly – and be prepared to change your mind frequently. (This what we call leadership agility). You can second guess yourself all you want to in six months from now. But at this time – make change, enact change, but don’t get tied down to any decision you make.

And try and embrace everything and anything new! There has never been a better time to experiment – because we have to. I’d never participated in a Google hangout until 3 days ago. It can be done.

You Don’t Have All the Answers.

So make sure to ask your team what ideas they have to help during these turbulent times. It gives them a sense of ownership and helps them help you. And make sure to empower your leaders to lead – not everything need come to and through you. There will never be a better time to see who can step up than now. Adversity breeds success.

Be True to Yourself.

Remember who you are and don’t forget where you came from. You have established values, principles and ethics. If you haven’t done so already – write them down and review them every day. Intellectual curiosity – learn more, ask more questions, research and thus improve and become more valuable to those around you.

To My Employees re: Coronavirus

coronavirus_illustration

I sent this e-mail to my team on Monday, March 9. My team consists of seven Human Resource Consultants who work with our clients as on- and off-site HR Managers, and five administrative/operations staff. The HR Consultants mostly work remotely; my admin team works in our office.

The Coronavirus issue has started to take over all of our lives, both personally and professionally. It’s consuming the way we make decisions as well as how we do what we do.

I’m obviously not an expert on this; I’ve probably read and seen as much information on the subject as you have; there’s little if any information regarding the virus itself that I can share with you that you haven’t already seen.

So in thinking about this and the way it impacts RSJ/Swenson and our clients, I’ve come up with some guidelines to follow.

  1. Use your best judgement at all times. In deciding whether or not to make a visit to a client, use your best judgement. If you’re not comfortable, don’t go. We’ll back you up on our end.
  2. Logistically, we’ll set each of you up with Zoom accounts. You can conduct meetings, calls, conferences either by zoom, by phone, or e-mail like always.
  3. If you primarily work in the office, my RSJ Partners and I are committed to making sure our environment is as safe as possible.
  4. If you’re sick, don’t come in to work. You can work from home. If you’re out of sick days, call Jamie. You won’t lose money because of it. I’d rather have you not come in than come in. Work from home is fine.

But…

I’m personally a lot more concerned about the business impact on our clients (and  than the virus itself.

This was brought home to me on Friday when a long-time client (that is really successful) called me asking for assistance on how to eliminate half of his employees. Seems that the banks have withdrawn credit because of fears that contracts will be cancelled.

There are many other clients that will be directly impacted as well. Our museum and private school clients are going to close for who knows how long. I’m hearing that restaurants will be impacted and many other industries as well. We have clients in import/export, financial services, and non-profits that could take a hit.

At a minimum, all businesses are now scared, and when they’re scared, they don’t make decisions. The first instinct is to downsize or buried heads in the sand. This happened in 2008-09.

Thus, the most important business decision we can make is to proactively reach out to each of our clients.

You are looked to as the Subject Matter Expert on how to deal with the workforce. Right now, we need to add as much value as we can. What we do is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. But we can only be perceived as necessary if we are constantly adding as much value as we can.

We’ll have a conference/video call next week to discuss particulars and share stories and anecdotes of how we’re helping our clients. Until then, please make sure you’re in touch with each and every client in a proactive (not reactive) way.

Thank you for all you do.

Eric

I’m A Boomer & I Like Avocado Toast

What is it about Millennials that drive every other generation crazy?

Image result for avocado toast

Can it really be their love for avocado toast?  I mean, I know it’s a piece of bread with some avocado smeared on it that costs too much money.  On the other hand, it’s delicious, so what’s the big deal?

Whatever the reason, that generation has spawned a significant number of ‘consultants’ who are making ungodly amounts of money for telling us how to manage Millennials, how to kowtow to Millennials, and how they are so much different than the rest of us.

Eric’s Leadership Hint: don’t manage them differently, don’t kowtow to them, and don’t assume they’re so different from the rest of us.

And it’s likely those consultants are the same people a few years ago who warned us not to stereotype a whole lot of people; that we needed to focus on “one size fits one”.  So much for that philosophy…

First, let’s start debunking some rumors.  After a lot of studying millennials through the dozens of clients we have, I’ve come to the same conclusion that Mel Kleiman has:

Millennials want:

  1. Technology that helps them be more productive
  2. Professional development opportunities
  3. Collaboration (a.k.a. teamwork)
  4. Work/life balance
  5. Purpose
  6. To be happy

So how is what “they” want so different than what the rest of us want?  It’s not.  (They may want all of this with more urgency than the rest of us, but that’s not a major issue).

Last year, I gave a keynote speech in Hawaii to a bunch of banking executives.  I had been asked to touch on the millennial issue, but the main focus of my talk was how to integrate younger leaders into the leadership team.

Right before I went on, my wife came up to me and said the previous speakers talked non-stop about millennials and how to manage them and what to do – basically duplicating what I was going to say.  She told me that they even took selfies of themselves speaking to illustrate how important that was to millennials.

So when I got to the ‘millennial’ part of my talk, I stopped and looked at the audience.  And said, “Is anyone here as tired as I am of talking about millennials?”

Well, I should have stopped right there, because the bankers were coming out of their seats to applaud that statement.  I was thus inspired to take a selfie as well, indicating “Boomers Can Take Selfies Too”.

My attempt at taking a selfie while speaking to 200 executives.       March, 2019

(The result of the photo showed that I can take a selfie, just not very well).

My point is this.  We’re all tired of “How To Manage Generations” articles and consultants.  We’re tired because it’s not fair to stereotype an entire generation.  People are different within generations. There are millennials who don’t like avocado toast, and there are some millennials who (gasp) don’t like taking selfies.  Just as there are boomers who are entitled snobs who think everything should be handed to them on a platter.

You don’t manage generations.  You manage individuals.

The world is one size fits one, and those who manage people based on a stereotype of an entire generation are doomed to failure.