Zoom Zoops!

28 May

Zoom Zoops

Zoop.  The “oops” moment on Zoom.  When something you wish hadn’t happened, happened.  We’ve all become used to the everyone-on-video meetings during the pandemic, and now we’re adapting to the “hybrid zoom” meeting.  Here’s a quick checklist of almost 20 things for you to (re)consider about how you show up on Zoom.

  • You’ve got eyes.  Actually look at the camera.  It’s interpreted as paying attention.  Beware of the camera height:  too high, and we’ll think you’re looking to the skies; too low, and we get to see exactly what shade of eye make-up you wear.  And we can usually tell when you’re actually reading email.
  • Show your hands.  Especially if you’re a gesturer.  The “you” in real life encompasses more than just your chin to your hairline.  Sometimes hands are our primary point of expression.
  • Don’t be a speck in the dark.  Yes, I just said to zoom out a bit in the point above; but don’t do it so much so that we’re actually looking at your entire home office, which you just happen to be in.
  • Invest in a good one.  Camera that is.  A $200 investment is not a lot for your image … plus you’ve saved more than that on suits and shoes last year.
  • Get lit.  Consider a (built in) light.  You don’t want to be the villain in the shadow in the dark.
  • Jumbotron it.  Consider a big display monitor so you can actually see life-sized faces, even in gallery mode.
  • Lift your buns.  Consider a standing desk option – which can even just sit on top of your worktop.  Our backs don’t appreciate marathon Zoom days and standing is supposedly better for your health anyway.  Plus, you’ll get a more grounded and assertive presence.  And maybe buns of steel.
  • Think like Alex.  We’ve likely grown up with “in person meeting” styles and white boards but we likely haven’t had training in on-screen presentation.  Think about how Alex Tribek, the Jeopardy game show host presented for 37 seasons.  He doesn’t look like a stiff news cast reader.  Plus, he was Canadian-American like me.
  • Beware the background.  Depending on how much you move, background filters can make you look like a magician cutting their hands or head off and magically putting them back on.
  • Trespassers will be shot.  Chair climbing cats, face licking dogs, and the occasional undressed housemate may be cute, but they can be distracting (either good or bad).  Or, just plain embarrassing.
  • Catch the clutter.  While many of us use home offices for other things like gyms, bedrooms and even laundry rooms, some people really don’t want to know so much about your personal life (or maybe you don’t want them to).  I seriously had a client who forgot their ironing board & lingerie were drying in the background.
  • Know on from off.  Check the mute and video buttons.  Sometimes gremlins (well, fingers) accidentally change them.  We all have a funny story about that.  Hopefully not our own story.
  • Consider reacting.  Those little hearts and waves, if culturally appropriate, stand out more than raised hands, nods and smiles. 
  • Beware the share.  Unanticipated “can you share your screen?” moments reveal what else is also on your computer desktop.  And that includes incoming messages if you aren’t careful.  Lots of potential for embarrassment with that one.
  • You’ve got the look.  Sometimes the look of spinach stuck in your teeth after lunch.  It may not be noticeable live, but it sure is on up close and personal “speaker view.”
  • Screen-shot-not.  Remember that anything … yes, anything, can be screen shot with a com-shift-4 (at least on a Mac).  It’s silent, and you never know where preliminary finances and juicy performance reviews might end up.
  • Are you out there?  Know the protocols for turning videos off (temporarily) in meetings.  It might mean you just didn’t need to be seen and are saving bandwidth, or it might mean you’ve left for lunch.
  • What’s the attire?  In general, we’ve become more casual over zoom in the last several months.  But as many return to the office and “office casual,” your jammies and unwashed face may not send the message that you’re “just working from home.”

Just some things to think about.  Any good ones I’ve missed (like #19 and #20)?

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

Indulge your self-Ish self

23 May

For your sake AND for the sake of those around you.

Selfish: “(adjective) Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure or well-being without regard for others.”  Selfish = undesirable, implying “at the expense of others.”  Like a finite number of coconuts on a dessert island … if I take one extra, someone else gets one less.   We live in a world of finite.  Finite energy, water, food, and covid vaccines.  Being selfish lives in the finite world. 

Sometimes we can convince ourselves that taking time for our own selfcare is being a bit selfish.  That making time to boost ourselves “up” robs time from others and makes them go “down.”  But selfcare lives in the infinite world … along with things like love, creativity and passion.  Selfcare is not selfish.  It’s self-ish.

Separate the word selfish into its two parts – Self-Ish:

  • Self: “(as noun) A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.”
  • Ish: (yes, it’s in the dictionary): “(adverb):  To some extent.”

Being self-ish is a good thing.  A really good thing.  It’s about caring about “me.”  Which is also good for “them.”  It lifts us up and helps us be better leaders in our personal and professional lives … and that makes the world a better place for those around us.

Have you considered scheduling an exquisite weekly self-care “hour of indulgence” with your self-ish self?  To do the things that bring you joy.  Take that luxurious bubble bath.  Sing in the shower.  Dance in the rain.  Dig your hands in the garden.  Just sit and be.  Do whatever it is that does it for you — the things you love that bring you joy. 

I welcome your thoughts … and what did you schedule?

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

The Great Office Debate (Part 2 of 2)

15 May

The Great Office Debate (Part 2 of 2)

So, what do we do now?

Following up on last week’s post highlighting the arguments for “work from home” and “work from office,” it’s clear that neither model will suit most organizations in their entirety all the time (though there are arguments that can support either model for functions or departments within the organization).  

The question not “should we continue “at home” work?”, but rather “what does the new remote work model look like?”  Getting to a new hybrid model is no small task, and here’s an approach to help you get there:

(1) CALL IT LIKE IT IS.       

If some overarching reason (perhaps Vision/Mission or Culture?), truly dictates that the entire organization can only operate in one model or the other, then call it like it is and don’t waste your time thinking about this.  Be very thoughtful and honest though that this is really so … and beware of the ripple effects of your decision on attraction, retention, culture, efficiency, customer service, etc.  Communicate the decision, and why it is so … and move on to something else.  If that’s not the case, read on.

(2) DEFINE AND UNDERSTAND the distinct pieces of “work” from the top-down.  

Identify, prioritize and break down key work processes.  Be clear on what purpose they serve, what they deliver, what parts actually need to be done (or eliminated) to get there, and who they interact with.   Get specific about each role within it.  Understand what’s a collaborative project and what’s an individualized project.  Identify which value-adding activities are done more efficiently and effectively, where and why.  Articulate, and get in words, the rationale for being in the office (or not) for specific work activities.  This is a herculean task that results in a true diagnosis by looking in the mirror. Carefully facilitated and coordinated sub-group think-tanks are an efficient way of getting there.

(3) IN PARALLEL, LISTEN… really listen and learn. 

Ask your people what they want and why.  Only your employees can tell you how they have changed as a result of the pandemic, and what they want moving forward. Deaverage input not only by function or department but also for example by young, mostly city-dwelling people who may have differing views from older, suburban-living people.  Learn with an open mind:

  • Foster honesty – make it safe to know the WHOLE truth.
  • Be collective – hear from the cross-section of employees across the organization.
  • Be internally public – so people know you care enough to ask and want the unvarnished truth.

Tell the truth about what the company needs to have done and engage people in the hard work of creating solutions together.  Dream big.  And, btw, all this means that just a “survey” is far too superficial alone.  Excellence requires structured think-tank input and 1-on-1 conversations as well.

(4) DRAFT the policies – for the overall organization and for specific groups.  

There are many (many) options to consider.  It’s a complex task, with interrelated parts and it’s unique to your organization.  Get your senior team together for a work-a-thon to tackle it.  It may take a day or two.

  • Clearly articulate and prioritize the “next new” question(s) you are going to answer, for which types of “work” and why.
  • Note that “Away” works best for relatively independent tasks, codified and shared at a distance.
  • Note that “In Person” matters for relatively dependent tasks, coordinating tacit knowledge in fluid ways, and coordinating in unpredictable ways.
  • Get in the details.  Conceptual simplicity still gives rise to operational complexity.
  • Incorporate flexibility as much as you can.
  • Consider hybrid policies that can increase both retention and recruiting pools.  
  • Remember that structure is important.  An unstructured hybrid approach does not work if left to individual choice to come in when people feel like it.
  • Make sure that performance systems are based on output and value delivered.
  • Beware that there are motivation and compensation impact to everything.
  • Look at both effectiveness and “fairness” across groups.
  • Be creative and learn from others.
  • Group like-policies by department together for simplicity where possible.
  • Ensure there is a cohesive plan.

Once done, share it with the Leadership team.  Adjust.  Align.  Proceed.

(5) CRAFT the message.  

There has been a subtle but significant shift in the employer-employee relationship.  In the “pre (covid)” world, employers set standard rules of employment and the worker acquiesced.  Now, employees expect their employers to consider their individual circumstances when designing their specific roles and evaluating their performance.  Come from a “what’s in it for me?” perspective.  Get specific and be prepared to answer questions (e.g., who works remotely?  On what days? Etc.).  Also, be aware that employees’ relationship with employers has shifted, putting more focus on individual employees’ health, well-being and personal needs.

(6) REMODEL your walls.  

Real estate holdings often need to be reevaluated for what kind of physical space best enables a fluid workforce in the next new.  The shape and feel of the office experience must suit the purpose.  Structure the place to ensure that time in the office is optimized for face-to-face time. Many yearn for meaningful connection, social community, flexibility, and safety.  Consider the:

  • Reality of casual conversations that come before or after a meeting.
  • Importance of “water cooler” talk, walking in the halls and bumping into people.
  • Need for larger interactive, properly equipped “collaborative innovation spaces” for group brainstorming, hackathons, demo hours, etc.
  • Insight that trust and working relationships are often nurtured over coffees and lunches.   
  • Expectations that people who are on-site are not just there for in-person meetings or closed doors.
  • Need for time and place for people to just sit together and work.

(7) OVERCOMMUNICATE the next new … loudly and often

In the absence of communication, we all connect the dots in very imaginative and often delusionary ways.  Get specific.  Enlist those with “megaphones,” and address those who are “wrench-throwers”.

(8) CORRECT.  

None of us are geniuses, and we don’t have crystal balls.  Take solid action, then figure out what’s working and what’s not.  Gather data and feedback; gauge the productivity of people and of teams and their connection to your organization.  Make yourself and your senior team accountable to the organization and its people.  Then repeat the process periodically.  It’s unlikely that we’ll nail any model perfectly on the first try.  And if you don’t get it right, someone else will.

Bottom line:  we’re not returning to the “old” and we need to define the “new” in a thoughtful and methodical way. 

I welcome your thoughts and am happy to discuss your particular journey to the “next hybrid new.”

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

The Great Office Debate (Part 1 of 2). Home vs. Office Arguments

8 May

The Great Office Debate (Part 1 of 2)

Home vs. Office Arguments

It seems the world is divided.  Well, around most things.  But here, I am talking about whether “to be, or not to be” (at the office).  This first part explores what’s driving the debate.

One can argue the robustness and subtleties of the many (many) “back to the office” studies out there … but one thing is clear:  we’re headed on a collision course between many employees’ desire to continue working from home (at least partially) and many employers’ desire to get back to the office (at least partially).  The tension is broad and heated.  A Stanford University study shows 42% of the US workforce has been working from home full-time during the pandemic, and several studies suggest around two-thirds wanting some kind of hybrid model as we emerge from the pandemic.   

Remote work is now a table-stake.  Virtualization of work and careers (working anywhere, anytime) is now possible and more familiar, and it’s here to stay.  We used to talk about “going to the office” and leave “away from the office” messages on email.  Now, “being in the office” just means being in a state of working (wherever or whenever that might be).  The idea that you must be physically present to be productive is just not valid anymore. And there is no going back.  There is only going forward to the “next normal” with thoughtful design and action.

Let’s take a look at the end of the spectrum from each point of view. 

The WFH (Working From Home) Arguments:

It’s not actually about working from home, but about “working from anywhere.”  The theme here is “flexibility” and “convenience” from the employee’s perspective.   There are two fundamental drivers:

  • We don’t NEED to be in the office anyway 
  • We have adapted to building an office environment at home.  Creating a quiet space in the first place, and outfitting it with stronger home wi-fi, getting ergonomic chairs, standing desks, multiple large monitors and great zoom cameras.  
  • We’ve become expert Zoom and Teams users.  
  • … and to top it off, we’re saving the company money.  (Companies paid over $900B in rent last year).
  • We don’t WANT to be in the office
  • We like the flexibility that comes with virtual work and the at-home work lifestyle.
  • We’ve learned to inter-task (like multitasking, but in small sequential dispersed activities). We pop in laundry and other home chores, juggle passing children, squeeze in a walk and on-line fitness class.
  • We’re saving our money (on commuting, clothing and away-from-home food).
  • We’ve eliminated hours of commuting and the expectation to get dressed up (who hasn’t taken a video looking presentable from the top up and sporting athletic shorts below the desk?!).
  • We’ve often moved to more remote locations, further from offices and airports which are now inconvenient to get to.
  • We’re out of the “face-time” and “ office hours” businesses and are adult enough to be trusted to manage our own time.
  • There is talk of the imminent arrival of “Zoom doors” and other casual pop-in technologies that will make up for the missing social interaction pieces anyway.
  • We’re definitely safe in relative isolation at home, but who knows about the office.
  • … and, for many, we’ve even welcomed in a puppy who wants our attention.  

Bottom line, we’ve made ourselves as efficient (or close to as efficient) as before, and we’ve made ourselves a very comfy nest.  About 30% of we working professionals say we would quit if we had to return to the office, according to LiveCareer.  And over 40% of us would not even consider a new job if it did not include some flexibility to work remotely.  This is our new reality and expectation.

The RTW (Return To Office) Arguments:

The number one driver for employers seems to be “effectiveness.”  Not just “efficient” (flying the plane fast), but “effective” (flying the plane fast in the right direction).  

  • Community.  We humans are social beings wanting social connections and we are arguably better off interacting face to face.  Particularly when relationships are new (e.g., onboarding, mergers, reorgs), and where cultures are rich and distinct (e.g., rituals, social interactions).   
  • Collaborating on new ideas.  It’s hard to beat a group of people with a white board and sticky notes.
  • Connecting and engaging with managers.  Particularly the informal “drop by” access and communicating sensitive messages (e.g., performance reviews, feedback).  
  • Leading a disparate team is a new art-form for many; we’re used to working with people who are centrally located and we’re not quite sure how best to do it now.
  • Monitoring productivity.  It allows us to “see” if people are really working, and to grab colleagues quickly when we need them.  
  • Reading subtle cues, which can be more difficult to discern over zoom.
  • Use of legacy infrastructure investments (secure networks, phones, computers, meeting rooms).
  • Reducing burnout from “living at work”
  • Loneliness.  The covid pandemic has led to a loneliness pandemic with potentially huge costs from disengagement and burnout … and better technology does not build a sense of connectedness.  Without broad return to work, there will be a workforce health crisis, and a resulting HR nightmare. 

Bottom line:  The “return to the office” may not be as simple as we imagined at the beginning of Covid.

I welcome your thoughts on what drives the tensions between “work from home” and “work from the office”… and next week I will share my thoughts about where we go from here. 

Who cares what your performance review says?

3 May

Ah, the much anticipated, often feared annual review.  A summary of “performance” … and sometimes even “potential.”  Derived from facts (e.g. sales, profits), semi-facts (e.g. 360 feedback, sometimes confidential, and other times just anonymous perceptions), and perceptions (from others with their own performance profiles and development needs).  If you are deemed an “A+ Performer” … of “High Potential” … a “Rising Star” –  Woo Hoo & big round of clap!  It’s great to hear, and we may celebrate our progress, cash the check and confirm our “development plan” (or start dreaming about our next move or exit strategy).  We now have a measure for our individual progress.  Or do we?

Performance reviews (and many other ways in which we “grade” ourselves) are an interesting external perspective into our progress as an individual.   The problem is though that performance reviews and other ways in which we typically grade ourselves are almost always exclusively EXTERNALLY focused.

Have you ever looked at the INTERNAL factors in your review of your “progress” as an individual?  They might be even more critical in assessing your development as a human being.  

Two questions I invite you to consider:

(1) What might your list of critical character traits Include? 

  • Generosity (being kind and generous)?
  • Humility (having a modest view of one’s own importance)?
  • Compassion (concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others)?  
  • Empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another)? 
  • Courage (mental or moral strength to persevere danger, fear or difficulty)?
  • Loyalty (a strong feeling of support or allegiance)?
  • Honesty  (sincere adherence to the truth)?
  • What else?  What do you want to be known for being?

(2) How might these leadership characteristics be demonstrated in your style?

So … how do you REALLY want to define, think about and measure your performance and development as a human being?  

If you choose to include your internal personal character traits and self-assessed demonstrated performance, write them down.  Then tuck them away.  And review them at least as often as you get your external workplace performance reviews.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, 

people will forget what you did, 

but people will never forget

how you made them feel”

–   Maya Angelou

If this were the second time I was living this day, how would I behave differently?

24 Apr
Ever feel like this?

A deep question.

We all have “one of those days.”  When things just don’t seem to go right, or they start off on an angry, scary, or annoying note.  Some of us will dwell on it all day and ruminate.  Others will push it behind us and move on with the day.  And a few of us will reflect and learn something from it.  

When coming from a stagnant mindset we tend to document our intelligence and abilities.  We want to prove ourselves right, and often don’t believe (at least at the time) that we can improve on much.  So, we think about what points could have been made to bolster our argument.  We may even get angrier and fuel our resentments.  Might even show up in a tightness in our stomachs, or clenched fists.  Symbolically closing down.  We can end up in that “fight or flight” mentality.

On the other hand, when coming from a growth mindset we believe that we are adaptable and can get smarter or do better.  We stop and pause.  We might even take a deep breath and relax our posture… loosen our shoulders.   In this frame of mind, we consider the context:  what underlying feelings might be driving MY internal escalation, and what perspectives might the OTHER person be coming from?  A growth mindset thinks.  And takes action.  And learns something (about themselves, about the situation).

So, what would you have done differently today, and what can you learn from it?

Going Forward, it’s not about who wins, but how we react to it

3 Nov
What is known, what can we do for ourselves and for our communities?

What is known:

  • This is probably one of the most significant US elections of our lives.
  • It’s not just about the US.  It impacts global politics, the environment, and power dynamics.  
  • We are going through this as a human race, and the rest of the world is interested and impacted.  
  • We won’t know the final result for days, if not weeks.
  • It will likely be a tumultuous and speculative time in the interim.
  • Results (beyond casting our votes, if we have the privilege of doing so), are beyond our personal control.

What we can do for ourselves:

  • Vote if you have the right (and responsibility).  Make your voice heard.
  • Have a positive view around what you hope will happen – it’s better than living in fear.
  • Decide whether and how you will engage in monitoring news of the outcome in the coming days or weeks.
  • Let go of the illusion of your personal control over the outcome and future speculation.  Stay in the present moment.
  • Get on with your life before knowing which way the election goes.  Keep focus on important things that excite you. 
  • Acknowledge your feelings (if you are disappointed, fearful, angry, stressed, anxious, uncertain, sad, or in disbelief), but don’t indulge in them.
  • Then get on with the things that matter most in your life.

What we can do for our communities:

  • Recognize that we are in this together … either way.
  • Encourage open, conscious, respectful dialogue.
  • Avoid retrenching to discussion with only others with shared beliefs.
  • Don’t accept or sanction violent protest as a course for change.
  • Find your passion to be heard and make a difference going forward.