We are living in a weird, crazy time. It may feel scary to go into a restaurant or a store, let alone to work. People are wondering if it’s safe to fly, return to their offices, or visit family and friends. There is so much uncertainty and so many unknowns. People are anxious and stressed.
I can see and feel the stress when I go to the grocery store. My neighborhood store didn’t feel particularly friendly before Covid. Fellow shoppers would run you over with their cart if it appeared you were going to beat them to the last bag of organic, gluten-free, paleo-friendly, vegan, sustainably-sourced chips. But now it’s much worse. People shopping in the store understandably want to get in and out as soon as possible. Other people are obstacles, like moving, orange cones pushing carts. Long lines are stressful. You can’t tell if a masked person smiles or silently growls at you.
During these uncertain, scary, and unpredictable times I think we need to go out of our way to demonstrate kindness.
I’ll admit that I am the person always in a rush, often on the phone at the checkout counter (I hate when people do that, even though I do it too), sometimes not making meaningful eye contact. But lately I’m making more of an effort – saying hello to strangers I pass, when I normally wouldn’t, making it obvious I’m smiling at a person under my mask, even telling people, “I know you can’t tell, but I’m smiling at you.” I’m asking hospitality workers how they’re doing, what it’s like to be working in a coffee shop or a grocery store, and what makes a customer respectful during this scary and uncertain time. And I’m listening more closely to their answers.
It’s harder to see kindness right now because a mask conceals so much. It also allows me not to wear makeup, which I’m grateful for. But people can’t interpret my intentions behind my mask. They can’t see if I’m friendly, happy, or irritated. I have to go out of my way to demonstrate how I feel and what I mean in ways I never have before.
Here are five ways you can demonstrate kindness:
Tell people you appreciate that they’re working (in an environment that may feel risky from a health perspective).
Ensure your tone is friendly and patient.
Tell people overtly how you feel. “I’m not irritated, this mask just makes me look cranky.” “I’m smiling at you. Thank you for the good service.”
Wait patiently, versus sighing and rolling your eyes, if there is a long wait for customer service or an answer to a question.
Follow the posted rules for distancing and masks. Following the posted guidelines makes everyone feel more at ease.
Be overt. Make your positive feelings known. Put someone else at ease. And this ‘thing’ will feel better.
Coming next week: You asked. We answered. Next week’s tip and blog: How to work well with others virtually.
My four-year-old son and I have been at home alone together
for seven weeks. No friends, no family, no childcare, no help in our house – just
us. Some days are amazing, others are exasperating. The good days are when I’m
focused on Grayson and am not swimming in a sea of what-if distractions. The bad days are when I’m filled with fear
Some days I’m consumed with concern about the future. When will we be able to fly? When will I be able to do what I’m most passionate about – working with groups of people at conferences and training sessions? When should I have my staff ramp up? How can we cut costs? Will summer camps be canceled? What will we do this summer when it’s 100 degrees and pools are closed? When will it be safe to have our childcare provider return to our home? Will my son have school in the fall?
Intellectually I know that the only way to be happy,
regardless of the circumstances, is to be present. There is nothing to compare
to the present. When we live in the present there is no past and no future –
there is only now. Nothing can be wrong with now because there is nothing to
compare the current time and experience to.
I’m way out of my lane here. As you likely know, I don’t
typically stray from my expertise – helping people communicate and work better
together at work. Zen philosophy is not my area of expertise. But I have a
feeling you’re like me – losing sleep, (possibly) gaining weight, and suffering
about what the future might look like.
I want to enjoy this precious time with my little boy. We’ll
never have time like this again – just us. Next year he’ll be older and not so
interested in playing trains and trucks with me. He’ll want to go to his
friends’ house versus playing in our backyard together. Precious, fleeting
I can’t do anything about when it will be safe to travel, be
in a hotel ballroom, or send my son to school. I can look into my child’s
precious eyes and remember that my job is to be here for him, today. To be
great for him, regardless of the circumstances. I can keep in touch with you
and find out how you and your coworkers and customers are doing. I can offer
webinars that, while not in-person, are an effective way to connect with people
and help build necessary skills.
I can focus on the actions I can take now.
Here are seven strategies I’m using to stay in the here
Do what you need to function at a decent level each day: I need six hours of sleep and a tidy house.
Structure your workday for success: Work in small
chunks. Tell your boss, coworkers, and customers when you’ll be available. Be
realistic and forthright.
Put your cell phone away and silence alerts when you’re with family or doing things for yourself.
When you find yourself thinking about the future, direct
your thoughts to something you can impact.
Call a friend or coworker you haven’t talked to in a
Smile at whomever you’re with, just because. You’ll
both feel better.
Do one thing every day that makes you happy – a long shower, time outside, activities with your family, read a book. Something that takes you away from the what-if’s playing ping pong in your head.
Silence your concerns about the future, for now. Be present with whomever you’re with. See if things look and feel better.
Many managers are asking the question, “How do I manage
employees remotely?” Managing employees remotely isn’t too different than
managing in person. Whether someone is sitting with you or in their home
office, the steps involved in managing people are the same.
There are a few things effective managers do repeatedly. Do
these handful of things and managing people will go well, provided you have the
right person in the job. Managing someone who is a good fit for their current
job is challenging but doable. Managing a person who is not a good fit for
their job is extraordinarily hard. No management practices or skills supersedes
hiring the right person. Hiring the right people is the single most important
thing managers do. Managing and coaching employees are the next most important
things managers do.
Here are the three things effective managers do:
Set clear expectations:
Conversation with new/inexperienced
employees: “This is what I want you to do and by when.”
Conversation with experienced employees: “What do you think needs to be done and when is a manageable deadline?”
New/inexperienced employees: “Here is my
vision of how this should look.”
Experienced employees: “What’s your vision of how this should look?”
3. Review work, coach, and give feedback:
Review small pieces of work so
employees can course correct as they go, reducing wasted time and frustration.
Agree on a schedule to review work in process, so employees feel supported and
New/inexperienced employees: “Here
is what I would do differently and why.”
Experienced employees: “Here are my
areas of concern. What changes do you think need to be made?”
That’s all you need to do. It’s so simple. And so hard.
Managing employees is very challenging.
Here are five ways to make it easier to manage well:
Spend time at the beginning of working relationships and projects getting to know employees work styles and preferences and sharing your own.
Check in with employees regularly, asking questions that elicit what employees need to be successful.
Have frequent, short conversations. A weekly 15-minute touch base is more effective than a monthly 60-minute meeting.
Do a plus/delta every time you meet, giving positive and upgrade feedback as events happen. Waiting to give feedback negatively impacts results and damages trust.
Have courage and know that employees want to work for a manager who sets clear expectations and gives clear feedback. Working in the dark is frustrating and difficult.
If you’re hesitant to do any of the actions above or are worried about how those actions will be perceived by employees, tell employees that. Be authentic and candid. You could say something like, “I want to review your work more frequently than I have in the past, but I’m concerned how you’ll perceive that.” “I want to give you regular, timely feedback to be helpful to you, and know feedback can be hard to hear.”
Lastly – remote meetings can be held via video conferencing but don’t need to be. Sometimes it’s nice to talk via phone and not have to get dressed up or manage your facial expressions. If you’re not sure if you should meet with employees via video or phone, ask them. Setting clear expectations is the first step in managing all business relationships effectively.
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