- October 20, 2020
- Posted by: aopp-admin
- Categories: Conscious Culture, HR Strategy, People Development
On a recent weekday I was on yet another video business call in my home office when I heard a rustle of papers and two colorful paintings, still a little wet, came flying into the room through the crack under the door. It was a sweet, heart tugging, and not-so-subtle message from my 12-year-old daughter, which can best be translated as ‘Remember me? I’m here. Give me some attention please.’
Pandemic parenting is not easy. Our attention is pulled in so many directions as we’re needed in so many places at the same time. I have meetings all day long and a very full plate as Director of Business Operations and Leadership Coach at Allen Offterdinger Group and Executive Director of Conscious Capitalism Washington, D.C. But my children need me too.
I have two teens and a pre-teen—and overall, they are pretty self-sufficient—but, on occasion they still want my help. My 12-year-old sometimes needs help with reconfiguring her home classroom technology or verifying that she’s completed homework correctly. My teen boys want morning ‘thumbs up?’ quick check-ins and afternoon debriefs on what they have on their plate. There’s a whole new flow to our days. To begin with, the kitchen is like a revolving door – they’re often looking for food or milling around waiting until I’m off a call and the coast is clear to step into ‘Mom’s Office.’ Sometimes they just need to ask a quick question, other times, they just need to talk—because they’re not decompressing with friends in the hallway between classes, they need me to listen about a tough class they just had. My daughter is developing migraines from being on the computer for 6 hours a day and my son, a senior, is just plain sad from all the senior activities that he’s watched suddenly slip away. My sophomore misses lunchtime shenanigans with his friends—a time where typical 15-year-old boys goof around and blow off steam.
I know every parent out there is performing a juggling act—doing their best to keep all the balls in the air while navigating a variety of logistical and emotional challenges. In some cases, we can come up with creative solutions. For example, I’m bartering with a friend to help me through lunchtime. I usually have meetings in the middle of the day and my kids don’t have a lot of time to grab lunch. So she’s dropping off sandwiches for them (at the doorstep, of course), and in return I’m extending my coaching services to her for ‘free.’
While there are likely solutions that you can figure out for your own family, I don’t believe these pandemic challenges are ours to figure out alone. As Executive Director of Conscious Capitalism Washington, D.C., I’m part of a global community of business leaders dedicated to elevating humanity through business, and I believe that organizations have a duty to prioritize and focus on employee well-being if they want their organizations to be successful. Right now, that requires pivoting and adapting to supporting their people through these challenging times.
Here are 4 ways that organizations and leaders can do that:
HELP YOUR PEOPLE GROUND THEMSELVES IN PURPOSE
There are so many strains on everyone’s day right now. What really grounds me through it all is my own sense of personal purpose—which is to be a catalyst so that others will, with clarity and focus, honor their Authentic Self and experience a balanced, purposeful, and fulfilling life. There’s a tendency to get separated from our personal and organizational purpose during hard times because so much is going on, so I practice simple steps to remind myself of it.
This can be done by adding mindful moments into your day or adding discussions about purpose into team meetings. It can also be done visually or experientially by sharing the intentionality of purpose with your team. However you choose to do it is fine. The point is simply to remind people to tap into their own purpose and an organization’s collective purpose because it’s not likely their first thought these days.
FOSTER A SENSE OF COMMUNITY AND CULTURE
When I speak with Conscious Capitalism partners, now—more than ever before—they are digging into this concept of cultivating connection within their organizations. While you might think this would be hard to do in a virtual environment, leaders are telling us that in many cases it’s easier to strengthen culture right now because people really want and need to be a part of a shared community.
I’m hearing of leaders making this happen by taking the time to call every employee just to check on them, see how they’re doing, and to find out if anything would make their job easier. In one case, I’ve heard of a leader who’s made 100s of these calls since the pandemic began. It’s a time investment for sure, but it’s one that pays off in a myriad of ways. People feel cared about and listened to. This creates loyalty, inspires meaningful engagement, and increases employee contribution and productivity.
Every single conversation you start these days—whether by email, video call, phone or socially distanced with a mask on—needs to start with a human connection. The days of jumping right into the working agenda are long gone. It’s imperative that you lead with human connectivity right now if you want your people to feel supported and appreciated.
I’ve modified all of my agendas to build in that connection point. Rather than jumping into work, I am setting aside time at the beginning of each meeting for authentic conversation—asking people what’s happening in their world. Leading with a listening mindset and an empathetic ear makes for a stronger, more effective leader. I’m hearing of other leaders practicing the same through organic conversations, planned discussion topics, video breakout rooms, and more.
There is so much noise right now in our heads, our homes, our communities, and on the news, that when you start interactions by focusing on human connectivity, it makes a big difference—people want to feel heard and seen. People need conscious, empathetic leaders.
RECOGNIZE THAT THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS “BUSINESS AS USUAL” ANYMORE
If COB used to be 5PM for you, it’s likely not anymore. Working from home and juggling the many responsibilities that come with that has people working at all hours. Many parents, for example, are finding their workdays interrupted numerous times because of childcare and school issues such that a lot of us are working early in the morning, later at night, and even on weekends.
As people shift the way they work, organizations and leaders need to shift their expectations about how work gets done.
· Don’t assume anything. If you’re on a team, have a discussion with members to make sure that the times and ways you used to meet still make sense for everyone.
· Be flexible. When you set deadlines, be mindful that 5PM might not make sense anymore. People might prefer 6AM, 8PM, or midnight so they have the time to get their best work done.
· Build in extra time whenever possible. We all need more time these days.
As leaders, you may need to meet more often than you used to because conditions are changing so quickly, and needs are so varied. I just recently heard about an organization that used to hold ‘What you are hearing on the street?’ meetings for the C-suite every quarter. Now they’re holding those meetings weekly—in part because creating that sense of camaraderie and connection is especially important among leadership teams right now. But also, because there are so many more decisions to make and leaders want to be as proactive as possible to stay on top of it all.
The bottom line is this: there’s a lot of pressure on leaders these days to keep business on track AND to support their people through this pandemic. It’s not easy by any stretch, but I do know that when you’re not sure what to do next, success is always more likely when you make decisions in a conscious, deliberate, purpose-driven, and people-centric way.
Amanda Karst is the Director of Business Operations and a Leadership Coach at Allen Offterdinger Group, a leadership development and people strategy firm based in Washington, D.C., as well as the Executive Director of Conscious Capitalism Washington, D.C., a global community of business leaders dedicated to elevating humanity through business. Connect with her on LinkedIn.