5 lessons from our journey
There’s nothing quite so inspiring as a real, live motivational speaker.
You pump up your audience — quickly breaking them out of their old ways of thinking by introducing new, stimulating ideas.
Speaking and workshop moments are like that morning jolt of caffeine. But, like that morning jolt, the effect doesn’t last. Eventually, your audience either needs another jolt or a more sustainable way to keep them going. The question isn’t about how motivated someone is the day of a leadership workshop — you’re already an expert at that — the question is “what happens the day after?”
Sustaining the motivation, inspiration, and positive new behaviors that your speaking or workshops instill has been among the guiding objectives at ProHabits from the beginning.
After working with over 200 organizations and seeing over 200 thousand commitments on our platform, we’ve learned a lot of lessons about how to sustain inspiration and behavior change.
Here are the top 5 lessons we’ve learned.
Lesson 1: The Moment is Crucial
How long do you think the motivation a speaker provides lasts? A day? A week? A month? The actual time varies, but one thing remains constant: the motivation quickly fades.
Every day people are faced with a barrage of emails, calls, meetings, and distractions. Before there’s time to breathe they’re falling into their old behaviors and mindsets. If only you could be the one sending those emails and leading meetings!
With ProHabits, we allow you to do just that.
Of course, this raises the question “how do you do it?” You can’t be around all the time and regular leadership workshops get expensive quickly for your clients. The answer we found is ‘MicroActions:’ daily 2-minute activities sent via text or email.
Each 2-minute action takes a larger goal, let’s say working on expressing gratitude to team members, and breaks it down into smaller bite-sized chunks. So, instead of forgetting the leadership workshop, the user receives daily reminders and calls to action to sustain the new behaviors with direct, actionable ways to do so.
MicroActions can be introduced to an organization at any time. But, if you want to sustain the motivation and behavioral change that your leadership workshop inspires — then it’s most effective to introduce MicroActions in conjunction with your workshop.
To keep the motivation going you have to act quickly to reinforce the key behaviors and mindsets. As the saying goes, “strike while the iron is hot.” The moment is crucial!
Lesson 2: Managers mean the world
As a speaker, organizations call on you to amp up their team and help them transform their organization. It’s a tall order. That’s why knowing where to focus your attention makes all the difference.
At ProHabits, helping organizations meet their change goals we’ve found time and again that it’s best to focus on managers. Top-level leaders are already well supported and ground-level team members are only in control of themselves. It’s by focusing on the often ignored mid-level managers that the greatest impact can occur.
Now, let’s be clear about what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying that motivational speaking and workshops should only ever be directed at middle management. Rather, I’m saying that we discovered it’s the mid-level manager who is most important for sustaining your speaking moments.
We’ve all heard the statistic: 70% of the variance in workplace turnover can be attributed to the manager. Management science has made it clear that people don’t work for organizations — they work for their manager. It’s the manager that shapes the everyday experiences of their teams and reinforces the specific micro-culture that drives the organization.
Lesson 3: Motivate and re-motivate
Organizational change is not a straightforward path. When people set off to pursue personal growth after an inspiring speech, they’re motivated to change. But, too often, the first bump in the road is enough to derail their efforts. And you won’t be there to remind them that these bumps are a natural part of the growth process.
This is what makes daily calls to actions and re-motivational periods essential. When motivation slumps and people need to be reminded of their commitments to change and the goals they’re working towards.
We’ve found that by breaking down the leadership lessons delivered by speakers, such as Marshall Goldsmith, Jennifer Brown, and Dr. Eddie Moore, that participants are better prepared for periodic bumps in the road.
With ProHabits, speakers can break down their lessons into 2-minute chunks that allow people to pursue personal growth no matter how busy or discouraged they may be on a given day. Instead of simply going about their day they’re called to focus on a particular aspect of the speaker’s lesson and something tangible to do about it.
Lesson 4: It’s a long road
Organizational change and habit formation are deeply intertwined. Without a significant change in daily habits across the organization, there’s unlikely to be an enduring change. This is why having a habit reinforcement period is essential.
Let’s be clear, every organization is different and will change at their own pace. Change varies based on the size of the organization and the difficulty of the habits they’re trying to form. But, one thing remains constant: it takes time. As we’ve worked with organizations, of all kinds, we’ve come to notice that impact doesn’t start to take shape until about 20 or 30 days in.
This doesn’t mean that positive results don’t occur before — we’ve often heard of successes that can occur right away — but rather that there needs to be time for adjustment. For both organizational and personal growth, it’s a journey — not a sprint.
For many of us, it’s hard enough to remember what happened last week, let alone a speech given a month ago — no matter how inspiring. Like any journey, people need to be well provisioned for the road to personal growth. This means refueling each day and making at least some progress. It’s the small steps that take us the farthest.
Lesson 5: Rewards make a big difference
There’s a lot of different leadership philosophies about rewards. Some leaders feel rewards should be doled out at every opportunity. Others think that people shouldn’t be rewarded for doing what they’re supposed to do and that only in the most extraordinary cases should there be rewards.
Today, the latter opinion has gone out of favor — and it doesn’t fit with what we’ve learned either. Rewards, whether big, small, substantial, or symbolic are all helpful in promoting long-term change. This is especially true when change isn’t mandatory.
This is why the ProHabits platform has gamified the process. Daily reminders to pursue personal growth are combined with elements such as completion streaks, a leaderboard, and badges that participants can earn. This gives the participants the ability to visualize their progress and be recognized for their efforts.
When you deliver an inspiring speech or hold a motivational workshop, you can’t stick around forever. Teams must get back to their daily realities and face them the best they can.
So when it comes to making a leadership workshop or a speaking moment last there are five things to remember. These are acting quickly to reinforce, focusing on managers, planning for obstacles, preparing for a journey, and offering rewards.
Live speaking sessions are highly valuable to participants and organizations alike. The value deserves to be sustained.
Want to sustain your speaking moments?
In recent months, there’s been a flood of statements from businesses expressing support for BLM and racial justice. This has helped bring to light the injustices many face in their daily lives.
These statements were nice, but, rightfully, the conversation quickly turned to “now what are you going to actually do about it?” In light of this, we figured that our small, bite-sized actions, combined with the wisdom of experienced racial justice advocates, could lead to big changes we need.
So, we teamed up with the renowned racial justice advocates at The Privilege Institute to create a 21-day action plan. Their team including Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., Debby Irving, Dr. Marguerite Penick-Parks, and Jenni Oliver worked with us to carefully craft the plan. Each day offering the participant a simple action they can do to pursue racial justice in their workplace.
Watch this video to hear from members of the team directly about the challenge and its creation.
Scan below to take a deeper look and begin the 21-day challenge. Or, just follow the link here.
In light of an uncertain work environment, and rising concerns about COVID-19 and racial justice in the workplace, I sat down with Russell Grimaldi to pick his brain and gather his insights on the challenges that our present moment poses.
Russell is the founder of Grimaldi Human Development. Prior to this, he spent 25 years in executive leadership roles at both large, publicly held marketing and communications firms, as well as in entrepreneurial ventures. Russell has a deep-seated conviction that the challenges businesses are facing in productivity and growth are invariably problems of people. He believes there is no known limit to the human capacity to create, solve problems and grow; and that it is always a matter of tapping into the unrealized potential that resides in us all.
What are your perspectives about the current state of “distress” in organizations today?
This is a good place to start the conversation, and there is no more compelling evidence of the problem than what the data from Gallup says about the degree to which employees are engaged with their work. Every year for several years more than half of respondents surveyed acknowledge that they are “not engaged” …and 18% are actively disengaged! Gallup Analytics also reports that only 27% of employees strongly believe in their company’s values – and less than half know what their company actually even stands for.
Organizational health and well being reflect the health and well being of the culture at large, and we are seeing steady increases in levels of anxiety, depression, stress-related illness, and even suicide among certain populations. And all this was happening before the human and economic impact of the pandemic and the heightened awareness of racial injustice! So, it is safe to say that organizations have been suffering the distress of a disengaged, alienated, and depressed workforce for some time … and that this distress is only worsening.
What signs of hope are you seeing?
I see many hopeful signals and am always eagerly searching for more. First, there is the fact of widespread and growing awareness of the problems of our time, which is always the first step towards finding solutions. COVID-19 has exposed fundamental weaknesses in both our central and our local services. We’ve been made all too painfully aware of how disproportionately people of color are impacted, and the crisis is further compounded by the spate of Black killings which has exposed profound inequities in our institutions and the services. But at least there are serious conversations taking place. It remains to be seen whether companies are truly serious about allocating resources and turning commitment into action.
Resources outside the corporation are also being sought… firms are seeking counsel of experts and sincerely asking themselves, “who are we”, “what do we believe”, and are our actions consistent with our stated values?” The paradox of change is that it often takes a real crisis to stimulate the positive corollary to the negative circumstance. This is the basis of my hope for real transformation. As the problems are perhaps greater than at any other point in my lifetime, so is the motivation, determination, and will to solve them.
With respect to our evolution as the human race, another indication of hope is a whole emerging generation is looking for meaning and purpose beyond their paycheck. Corporate leaders are also listening more actively to Millennials and Gen Z aspirations for the practical purpose of attracting and retaining the best talent. In order to effectively compete, companies must diversify, include, and integrate this diversity, and find new ways to meet the needs of the whole person.
And, finally — though it is an overt commercial plug, it is nonetheless a sincere one — platforms like Pro-Habits are proven effective tools for turning positive intent and good ideas into powerful and dynamic action.
What worries you most?
It may surprise you that I am most worried about the booming stock market and other indicators returning to previous highs; the result of which is then that people are lulled back into their previous complacency and the will to change dies along with the mistaken notion that everything is okay again. Although we want all the metrics to move in the right direction, they are almost always trailing indicators. For a movement to gain momentum and for change to take hold, there must be sustained commitment.
Finally, and not surprisingly, I can’t let an opportunity pass to stress the importance of voting — and it is particularly important to turn out racial and ethnic minorities — acknowledging my concern that the pandemic, and the accidental or intentional suppression of the vote, could take us somewhere other than where the real will and heart of the citizenry lies.
What unconscious biases do you witness most in the workplace?
As they are by definition unconscious, these biases are not always easy to spot, but they do make themselves known and they are certainly felt. One need only look at the data on Black leadership in corporations to see the impact of systemic racism. Less than one percent of the Fortune 500 top leadership are Black. And despite all the talk, there has been little or no progress over the last several decades… as incredible as that is!
Nearly every company issued statements in support of Black Lives Matter, but the actual data say that corporate America is failing to hire, promote and comparably pay Black men and women who work at their firms. The inequities are self-perpetuating and compounded by other negative effects —stagnating income levels and worsening of the race, class, and wealth gaps that are growing wider during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To the question of how implicit biases are revealed, the work that the non-profit Project Implicit is doing, studying implicit social cognition (thoughts and feelings outside of our conscious awareness and control) and turning the research into practical applications for addressing diversity and improving decision making, is important. Again, I see the Pro Habits platform as a great tool and framework for implementing solutions to the effects of unconscious bias.
What can leaders do to prepare for challenging conversations about inclusion with teams, especially given the fact that most workforces are remote?
I can think of three fundamental things leaders can do to prepare for these conversations, what I modestly refer to as “The Grimaldi Way “in my coaching practice:
- LISTEN! Actively listening to what is being said and not being said, and giving people a forum to share, is the rudimentary starting point. Listening demonstrates respect, which is an ingredient that is essential to any productive dialogue. The more a person can take in without evaluating and judging — and this is particularly true for leaders — the more there is to work with in terms of creative problem-solving.
- EMPATHIZE! Understanding the values and goals of the individual or group is absolutely critical and precedes alignment with the goals of the organization. Conversations and indeed all forms of communication are precursors to shared goals, shared purpose, and shared commitment. We communicate effectively only to the degree to which there is mutual respect; and the quality of communication determines how productively and co-creatively we internalize and actualize our shared purpose.
- PRACTICE! The law of learning requires frequency, intensity, and recency. Just like the old joke about the person who asks for directions to Carnegie Hall. How does one get there? The answer is always, “practice”. Only through repetition of desired behavior do those behaviors become new habits. Practice listening, practice empathy, practice sharing goals. If you will allow me to quote you, “micro-interactions between managers and their individual contributors have lasting, powerful consequences.” I couldn’t agree more.
Corporate statements on equity are a first step in the right direction, but what comes next?
Everything I have expressed in response to the earlier questions endeavors to address this most important question. There are slips between the cup and the lip that are too numerous to list, but I have noticed one almost universal failure among the parade of corporate statements we have seen with respect to diversity and inclusion—and that is the relationship of diversity and inclusion to the intrinsic purpose and strategy of the business.
To cite an immediate practical example, if J&J is in the Band-Aid business, then it should be axiomatic that reintroducing multi-skin-tone products would be one of the actions that seem obvious… yet could easily be ignored in the proforma, knee-jerk, politically correct statement of support. Diversity and inclusion are innately valuable, not something that companies should pursue as an externally driven requirement. Diversity has universal importance and delivers proven benefits to a vibrant company culture, problem-solving capacity, and co-creativity. But diversity and inclusion also have particular implications that are unique to different businesses – healthcare, food, entertainment, advertising, and media all have their equivalents of the tinted Band-Aids – and the mandate for leadership is to think through and apply the relevant strategies and programs that unlock this particular potential.
Of course, there must be broad support for awareness and sensitivity training and development; corporations must also examine their board composition, gather and monitor data on diversity in all the ranks, and particularly at the senior levels. How often do we hear managers say they simply couldn’t find qualified Black candidates? Let’s see where they are looking for candidates and how much effort they put into it. However, essential as those actions are, when Verizon’s CEO states that they can’t commit to their brand purpose of “moving the world forward” if they don’t move it forward for everyone, then we have connected the value of diversity to the promise of the brand or the company.
Please share best practices and suggestions for today’s digital leader to embrace, change, and inspire their teams to move forward.
Once again I hope there are some ideas coming out of the earlier parts of the discussion that are helpful for all leaders, including the digital ones, but there are a few final thoughts I might add. To embrace change and to inspire our teams to move forward, let’s not forget the critical role of vision, an informing image of the desired future. I have found the “as if” approach is key. In vivid and explicit words and images, what does our organization aspire to? If it is a change in attitude, a wider perspective, more openness, then start practicing those things now.
Theoretically, digital leaders have a more tolerant and contemporary view of culture, but there is also a growing addiction to data, analytics, and logical consistency; while it is important to remember that embedded in the human nervous system is a mystery that doesn’t always conform to our addiction to linear thinking.
We have to make the leap to intuitive thinking, and one of the responsibilities of leadership is to accept responsibility without complete information. The paradigm shift, if you will pardon the expression, is from finite possibilities to infinite possibilities; from a contracted state to an expansive one. Leaders have to change climate and culture by virtue of what they exemplify and then by their stubborn integrity. As in most things, it is a matter of faith and intense, all-out effort. That is my idea of a “best practice” for creating the kind of organization where everyone can grow and prosper.
Adam Fridman is a serial entrepreneur, author, and CEO of ProHabits. Constantly pursuing insight into the world of work, he’s interviewed thousands of top executives and thought leaders. His life’s mission is to bring more humanity to the workplace and to help others lead meaningful, purpose-driven, professional lives.
“Unprecedented times require unprecedented practices. At an alarming rate, blatant racial inequalities are being illuminated across our country and residual effects can be felt in our personal and professional lives. Whether you are a leader of one or a leader of many, you can help bridge the racial divide and create a path toward social justice. Your positive practices can shift the atmosphere.” — Letitia L. Robinson
Keynote speaker Letitia L. Robinson invites you to a virtual experience followed by daily MicroActions to develop The Inclusion Habit.
To schedule Letitia Robinson and ProHabits to ‘shift and sustain’ the mindsets and behaviors of your organization, please contact Keith Kusterer (SVP Strategy, ProHabits) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letitia has 25+ years of successful corporate experience with consistent results in consulting, leadership development, and change management interventions. She serves on the Board of Directors for three NFP Organizations and is an active member of her church, community, and two international public service organizations.
Continuously seeking to understand and support the value drivers in organizations, Letitia engages in building competencies and confidence in others to improve performance and positively impact the bottom line. She is committed to enhancing leadership skills at all levels, across generations and cultures around the world.
– Strategic planning
– Executive coaching
-Curriculum development and execution
-Sales and negotiations training
-Organization effectiveness through small and large group interventions
-Certified Performance Technologist (CPT) International Society for Performance Improvement
-Certified to facilitate:
DDI programs, Mind Gym, MBTI, Leading Bold Change, Transformational Leadership, Situational Leadership II, SPIN Selling, Coaching and other Leadership initiatives. Certified in the delivery and instruction of the Cultural Orientations Model and the Cultural Orientations Indicator (TMC/A Berlitz Company).
“Change…Sometimes you see it coming. Other times you get a feeling inside. The vague sense that something big, something different is coming down. But now and then it takes you totally by surprise. Regardless of how it approaches, though, change usually comes with a traveling companion: UNCERTAINTY. This virtual experience will show you how to handle the “Shift.“
Watch Dr. Jackson here
To schedule Dr. Terry Jackson and ProHabits to ‘shift and sustain’ the mindsets and behaviors of your organization, please contact Keith Kusterer (SVP Strategy, ProHabits) at email@example.com.
About Dr. Jackson
Dr. Terry Jackson is a dynamic Executive Advisor, Thought Leader, TEDx Speaker, and Organizational Consultant. He is a member of the prestigious Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches and was recently chosen by Thinkers50 as one of the top 50 Leaders in Executive Coaching. Terry was named by Thinkers 360 as a Top 20 Global Leader in the Future of work and CIO Review Magazine named his consulting company, JCG Consulting Group LLC, one of the “Top 10 Most Promising Leadership Development Solution Providers 2019.”
He earned his Ph.D. in Management, with a concentration in Leadership and Organizational Change, and is the author of “Transformational Thinking: The First Step Toward Individual and Organizational Greatness.
As an Executive Coach, Terry has helped executives and organizations produce the sustainable behavioral change needed to achieve their desired results. Terry has served as a Business Coach for startups and coached executives at Pinterest, Google, Intel, ExxonMobil, Norfolk Southern Corp, Valassis, DellEMC, New York Life, Pakistan Government, Amazon, McDonald’s, New Hanover Regional Medical Center, InOutsource Consulting Group, Connected Investors, and IBM.
“Diversity is about creating space. It’s a fundamental and indisputable reality in every organization. Inclusion is about connectivity. It’s a set of relational skills and practices that makes an organization’s distinctions and differences act as a multiplier for ideation, innovation, and insights. In my keynote, I will explore how to make inclusion accessible, actionable, and sustainable. Further, I will show how choosing inclusion means choosing humanity. With the above bolstered by The Inclusion Habit, you are intentionally creating a culture where everyone wins.” — Amri B. Johnson
To schedule Amri Johnson and ProHabits to ‘shift and sustain’ the mindsets and behaviors of your organization, please contact Keith Kusterer (SVP Strategy, ProHabits) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For over 19 years, I have been instrumental in helping organizations and their people create the extraordinary in their business and communities.
Think of me as a social capitalist and inclusion strategist enabling individuals to thrive with purpose. I help people think through complexity and create sustainable approaches to business objectives.
As a trained epidemiologist, I think in terms of systems. When I was introduced to organizational effectiveness work as a budding entrepreneur, it merged seamlessly with my orientation towards solving multi-factorial challenges with systems thinking.
My first management role in public health at age 26 showed me how learning and leading go hand-in-hand. I discovered that no people manager truly leads if they aren’t laser-focused on listening to, learning with, and caring for their people.
Since 2000, examples of projects in my portfolio have included:
- Co-creating and evolving an inclusion initiative to sustain a Sociology (culture) of innovation in a top 5 pharmaceutical company to advance science for patients with unmet medical needs.
- Developing a strategy for a healthcare foundation to reduce health disparities.
- Providing diversity and inclusion consulting/training services for clients across multiple industries.
“Change can be hard to sustain unless we are inspired by something bigger than ourselves to make change happen and we have a plan to measure it. In my virtual keynote, I will lay out the importance of empathy and compassion in truly becoming a more inclusive individual. If you follow the path I lay out you will come to understand the power you possess to make those around you feel like they belong and are important. When coupled with The Inclusion Habit micro-actions, you will be setting you and your team up for success!” — Heather Younger, J.D.
To schedule Heather Younger and ProHabits to ‘shift and sustain’ the mindsets and behaviors of your organization, please contact Keith Kusterer (SVP Strategy, ProHabits) at email@example.com.
A best-selling author, international TEDx speaker, podcast host, facilitator, and coach, Heather has earned her reputation as “The Employee Whisperer.” The experiences she’s gained as a CEO, entrepreneur, manager, attorney, writer, coach, listener, speaker, collaborator, and mother have given her insights into what drives employees at organizations of all sizes.
Although this is certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some essential highlights about Heather:
- She has facilitated more than 150 communication styles (DISC), leadership, and emotional intelligence workshops — reaching 1000’s of employees.
- Her motivation and philosophy have reached more than 20,000 attendees at her speaking engagements on stages large and small.
- Companies have charted their future course based on her focus group leadership.
- By implementing her laws and philosophies, she has helped increase companies’ employee engagement scores by double digits.
- She has driven results in a multitude of industries, including banking, oil & gas, construction, energy, and federal and local government.
- Her first book, “The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty,” hit the Forbes Must-Read list and is a go-to source for HR professionals seeking insight into their organization’s dynamics.
- Heather’s upcoming book, “The Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading with Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations” is on pre-order on Amazon and many other platforms.
- Heather serves on the Board of Directors for Mile High SHRM and the American Cancer Society and is a professional member of the National Speaker’s Association.
Little things that can help connect remote teams
So far in 2020, it’s been one unprecedented challenge after another. And, as the challenges mount, the role of leadership at all organizational levels has continued to grow.
The world of work has changed drastically since our last little things article. All teams that can work remotely, are doing so. For everyone else, there are now strange new work conditions — complete with masks, distancing measures, and temperature checks. Meanwhile, the market, reacting to this new world, has applied new pressures from all sides.
Leaders are having to meet this barrage of challenges and inspire confidence for their teams’ future — all while leading remotely. This isn’t to mention the personal strain any individual leader may be feeling at a given time.
Through all of this, what are leaders to do?
Despite the unprecedented nature of the situation leaders are facing, human-focused strategies remain as effective as they have always been.
New challenges, time tested solutions
When things break down, many organizations opt for opportunism. They might break from their previously held strategy for a few moments of free advertising — or to secure short term gain. Such myopic thinking is never a solid strategy, but in a crisis, it backfires more quickly than ever. This is especially true at the team level.
As teams are compelled to work remotely, or under strange new conditions, people are seeking a sense of normalcy and human connection more than ever.
No, new challenges don’t mean you need to scramble for a new strategy. An untested new scheme is not what will inspire confidence in your team. Rather, leaders should hone in on the aspects of their time tested strategy that has always held true.
For many organizations, these consistent truths are represented by their core values. These values offer a clear path when every direction seems to have its own pitfalls.
It’s all about the little things
Amidst all the chaos and turbulence this year has brought us, the idea of living values may seem more confusing than ever. When you don’t know which way is up, how do you know which way to go?
To live your values, simply put, is to focus on the little things.
Today’s forward-thinking leaders recognize that focusing on the little things — identifiable positive actions — is essential for leaders no matter what challenges they are currently facing. To identify what the best little things are in these trying times, we’ve asked top leaders at progressive organizations what their little things are.
In our last article covering leaders’ #1 little thing, we found that elevating human relationships was the defining factor. Despite the new challenges that have emerged, this essential strategy is more relevant than ever.
In their own words
“While we’ve turned to remote work, for the time being, our company’s values have stayed the same. We lean on our values to guide us through any situation within our company. That must continue to be the case today. For example, Transparency has helped us be clear and direct with one another and we’ve also encouraged generosity since people inside and outside our company need help. Last and certainly not least, we’re trying to have some fun. I’m a believer in the power of laughter, so we’re also finding ways to bring joy to our teams and those around us.“
Behavioral Economist, Lake Forest College
“In this remote landscape, where people are even more affected by their personal situations, empathy is key. Everyone’s situation is so different, which makes taking the time to listen and really hear matters more than ever. As leaders it is important we are not only empathetic of those we lead but that we convey how important this empathy is so our team members prioritize empathy when interacting with others. In my role, not only did I need to be empathetic of the single mother putting her courses online, but it was important to remind professors to be empathetic of their students who were asymmetrically affected by the switch to remote learning.“
“I have countless quotes that I admire…. But this is a quote about, well, Fighting Back, Not Allowing outside circumstances to end our dreams:
‘There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.’ Ella Wheeler Wilcox …”
President, Contract Trainers
“My suggestion is frequent, on-going communication that is open and honest. Perhaps a personal Zoom or Team meeting every other week to all employees sharing both the good and the bad news. And finally, specific feedback as a show of appreciation and support for the trials and tribulations of working during the COVID age. For example, thank each department or division with a specific achievement during these challenging times.”
“Have a personal interaction with everyone you work with, every day. The connection drives everything.”
Founder & CEO, The Muse
“We are seeing the integration of work and life as we’ve never seen it before – family members in the background, children, and pets popping into zoom calls – and the best leaders recognize that this shared humanity can bring us all together. Take time to ask how your colleagues are doing (truly), say hello to their kids or family members who pop into video – even set up a “Bring your family to Zoom” call to get to know each other. The more our people understand and celebrate each other’s full humanity, the stronger we’ll be as teams.
VP, EPAM Continuum
“Camera On. Always. Even when you are tired and don’t look your best. We need to see each other. And, in many ways, seeing each other in our homes, with kids running wild in the background, or a cat jumping up onto your lap, looking for attention, these things help to make us all more human. It helps to keep us connected.”
“Leaders are the lens through which their team members see everything else in the organization. Now more than ever, leaders need to be communicating frequently with their team members, especially those who are now working in modified work settings. Scheduling weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member provides a consistent communication channel team members can rely upon to provide and receive updates on how they are feeling and what they need to be effective.”
“Leaders should take off their executive hat, and put on their human being hat. Stop thinking about what you need from your team and give them what they need from you.“
Chief Executive Officer at PCA SKIN
“As my leadership team and myself navigate COVID-19, I have relied on learnings from past times of crisis to determine what our organization needs – they need to know we care, that their safety is our top priority. They need to feel connected despite being miles vs. feet away. They need to know the state of the business and how we are pivoting to win in these tough times. They need to know how they can contribute in new ways. They need to feel supported, regardless of the context. Leading with empathy, kindness, transparency, and agility is what I strive for.”
With the sudden rise and spread of COVID-19, along with the necessary efforts to contain it, the working world has changed drastically in a matter of weeks. While people are coping with uncertainty about their health, safety, and employment, they are also suddenly adjusting to the stress and challenges of working from home.
As a leader, you need to feel connected and supported too. The very best leaders never go it alone. Every president has a cabinet, every emperor had advisors, and you can use some additional resources as well.
Before we get into how the leader inside us can thrive in this remote landscape, let’s talk about why we truly need to.
The two main reasons why we must learn to overcome the current challenges and thrive are:
- Humans are wired for connection
- Uncertainty breeds anxiety
Humans Are Built for Connection
Our desire to connect and work together is deeply ingrained in our neurobiology. Those who connected were the ones who survived. As circumstances that are out of our control force us apart, we experience heightened feelings of isolation and anxiety that can take a toll on our work and wellbeing.
Before we dig too deep, let’s focus on the multiple challenges of remote work that are related to our need for connection. MIT Sloan Management Review identified four:
1. Workplace Isolation
Working from home can trigger the feeling of working in a vacuum. Without the connections we’re accustomed to, we can start to feel isolated — which can lead to anxiety and depression.
2. Lack of Face-to-Face Communication
When all communication is digitally mediated, we lose the “good mornings,” casual check-ins, and break room chats. It becomes more difficult to get simple questions answered or to brainstorm. This requires everyone to become intentional about communicating and routinely checking in with their team members.
3. Lack of Visibility
There’s a tendency to decrease our workflow without direct encouragement from leaders. No judgement, it’s just easier to forget our priorities. As a result, the trust at the core of a working relationship can suffer.
4. Work-Life Balance
Healthy connections are all about knowing when to connect and disconnect. Maintaining proper boundaries and regular schedules can be a big challenge for those new to working at home.
Uncertainty Creates Anxiety
Responding negatively to uncertain things is part of what makes you human. It’s part of what keeps people safe and alive. If no one ever feared the unknown and always went blazing ahead into danger, humans wouldn’t have lasted very long on this planet.
Worrying about the uncertain, even today, helps survival. Yet despite the evolutionary benefits of avoiding the uncertain, prolonged bouts of uncertainty can be debilitating.
“fear of the unknown is a—and possibly the—fundamental fear of human beings” –
Nicholas Carleton, Ph.D
Think back to when COVID-19 hit the news. Every aspect of our lives became uncertain. Will my family members and I get sick? Will this affect my travel? Will I lose clients or colleagues? When we don’t know how important events will turn out, we find ourselves feeling uncomfortable.
Psychologists call this ‘Intolerance of Uncertainty.’ Uncertainty leads to much more than just discomfort, and sometimes directly results in anxiety or fear. In fact, researchers even think that a fear of the unknown is a—and possibly the—fundamental fear of human beings. When everyone, everywhere is facing uncertainty, our collective ‘Intolerance of Uncertainty’ can grow more exponentially than the number of COVID-19 cases.
This means that you’re not alone in your anxiety. Most people are experiencing this to at least some degree. Research shows when unexpected events, such as pandemics, happen it can affect people’s mood, potentially creating day to day fluctuations in how we feel. Additionally, research indicates mood can affect decision-making, which is itself inherently linked to how we respond to daily life.
Worse yet, for those already prone to mental health issues, times of uncertainty can make symptoms worse.
The New Mindset Crisis
Moreover, the ‘Corona crisis’ is creating a mindset crisis with no apparent solution in sight. Mindsets are mental states that encapsulate our beliefs about success, failure, and the expected outcomes of our effort. Many people are now clearly experiencing a pessimistic outlook for the future.
Fortunately, mindsets aren’t fixed. Rather, they are malleable mental states we can control. We have the power to intentionally re-shape our current mindset in helpful ways that will serve us well as we deal with the uncertainty that lies ahead.
Many are feeling anxious and somewhat disconnected from work. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to work remotely. So, while fears may remain, we can regain our sense of certainty, and fight isolation by learning to thrive remotely.
So, what can leaders do to help their teams fight uncertainty and isolation? Our answer is simple; focus on the little things. Rather than focusing on what’s insurmountable and uncontrollable, we can focus on small wins, intentional micro-moments, and genuine conversations.
Now more than ever, the micro-actions of leaders will create a macro-impact on the wellbeing and the mindset of teams across the globe.
Leading Others to Thrive Remotely
So, what are the little things leaders should focus on?
As leaders, there needs to be a focus on cultivating positive mindsets, reframing challenges as opportunities, and unifying the team in their virtual environment.
If all this sounds daunting, the good news is, as a leader, you can improve your own skills in as little as two minutes each day. By adopting evidence-based remote leadership approaches, you can also eliminate some of the uncertainty, isolation, and anxiety that your employees might be facing.
These research-backed strategies can help you and your team thrive in a remote environment. Here are a few examples of our daily actions and explanations for why/how they can help you tackle the challenges your team may face while working remotely:
Fight your team’s Isolation by asking how they’re feeling
Research shows that being attuned to others’ feelings is a key component of emotional intelligence. Engaging these skills enables leaders to provide useful social support while maintaining positive relationships with and among their employees. The process will generally be beneficial for both a leader and an employee, while continuing to build their relationship.
Bring your team together with interpersonal connection
To prevent feelings of isolation, and workflow blockages caused by distance, it is key to support interaction and communication in virtual work. Research on remote work suggests that to be effective, social interactions must be more intentional, direct, and explicit than they would be in comparable face-to-face interactions. This can benefit the work product and employee wellness.
Reframe challenges as opportunities to grow
When it comes to dealing with crisis situations, such as COVID-19, teams often need inspiration to carry them through. Transformational leaders are those who act as role-models and give attention to individual needs. Research has shown these types of leaders have teams who view change more positively. This is likely because the team views themselves as capable of not just getting through the experience but perhaps as even growing from it. Feeling secure with one’s leadership during the process of navigating a crisis has also been shown to further increase resiliency.
Although people might complain about their jobs, in truth, working does more for us than just providing a paycheck. It gives a sense of purpose and meaning. It also provides structure for the week and encourages a regular schedule. A few weeks ago, we might have been working for the weekend, and now it is difficult to tell one day from the next. To keep mental health intact we need to avoid too much isolation at home. An expert on isolation, astronaut Scott Kelly, offered advice about managing during COVID-19—“Take it from someone who couldn’t: Go outside.”
What Do You Do Now?
There’s a digital tool for everything. We use technology to count our steps, help us meditate, and even remind us to drink water. It makes sense — we’re in turbulent times and we need the right tools to keep us on track. Now, more than ever, we need help snapping out the constant cycle of uncertain news. We need to get off the rollercoaster of anxiety and dodge the perils of isolation.
It is important to remember this won’t happen on its own and that we all need the right tools to help us and our teams prevent feelings of isolation, uncertainty, and anxiety.
This is where ProHabits comes in.
ProHabits can be that tool, giving you the expertise you seek to thrive at your work and lead others to thrive as well.
Delivered by email or text, ProHabits provides opportunities for leadership growth through daily bite-sized actions. These actions offer guidance, inspiration, and a dose of delight to help leaders tackle evolving challenges. Each action is backed by research and designed to be completed in 2 minutes or less.
ProHabits usually provides customized experiences that help companies create and track movement towards their highly complex people goals. From self-awareness to leading by action, ProHabits curates daily growth aligned to organizational goals.
To help beat the mindset crisis, ProHabits is offering a free month of actions to help the world Thrive Remotely. It’s our way of giving back to support local, national, and global programs to help rebuild the economy.
Over 20 work days, ProHabits will train the most critical leadership habits that will help you overcome uncertainty and isolation to bring your remote teams together.
All it takes is 2 minutes a day.
We send you daily actions through email or text.
If you commit to an action in the morning, another message arrives later to ask if you did it.
You can sign up and start ProHabits today at no cost. Just follow this link and enter your name and email at the bottom of the following page: https://prohabits.com/thrive/
Do this for yourself, do this for each other.