I Wish I Had A Crystal Ball
Thursday, April 9, 2020
By Shelli Herman, Shelli Herman and Associates
I started writing this at least two dozen times, each time beginning again as I struggled to define what matters most. I aspire to offer hope, insight, and solutions. Many of us are asking where does it all end and when? My crystal ball is blank. It seems like we can only learn from the lessons of others. I believe that our collective work will be even more important once the coronavirus subsides. I also know that this will not come to pass without leaving some long-term organizational and economic consequences in its wake. While it might be tempting to focus on just staying afloat in the moment, putting out the fires as and when they threaten to appear, it is crucial to plan for the future of your business and be fully prepared for what will come next. The future will bring a new normal that no one can predict today. All we can do is prepare ourselves to walk straight into the chaos, bringing our personal best to rally the troops through these challenges and into the new day. My best thoughts follow!
Adapt your services to the current situation
In many parts of the world, the general public are being advised to stay at home, which poses serious difficulties to all operational endeavors. If your organization relies exclusively on face-to-face interaction, this presents a serious threat, particularly in the long run. This means that it is time to get creative and brainstorm different ways you can still deliver your service or products. There has never been a more important time to use technology to connect with people (more on that later in the blog). Start with a blank slate and brainstorm all of the possibilities you have never had time to contemplate.
Do virtual team-building
As companies are encouraging more and more employees to work from home, virtual team-building becomes an imperative. With the loss of informal, personal contact, you will need to find new ways to stay connected. Understanding the working styles, motivators, and stress behavior of the other people on your team will yield the greatest productivity and help everyone to stay aligned when working remotely. Build in time during one-on-ones for personal check-ins. Think creatively about how to keep people motivated and small ways to get groups to continue building relationships over video conference and instant messaging channels.
Utilizing technology to build relationships is not just reserved for strengthening business; many people are mitigating isolation by participating in virtual happy hours, game nights, hang outs, and heart to heart conversations. Personally, I am having FOMO hearing about all of the virtual happy hours people are enjoying.
Ensure your services will still be relevant at later phases
For my friends in the nonprofit sector in particular, it is important to consider not only how to survive during the outbreak, but also to ensure you have a strategy in place for what’s going to happen afterward. Don’t assume that once the threat to public health has passed, things will just go back to the way they’d been before.
I have had at least a dozen conversations with people who are thinking about how they will alter their business and services once this has passed us. People are seeing that video communication and virtual outreach is an amazing way to connect with people some of the time. You cannot assume things will go back to the way they were before the virus, shelter in place decrees, and social distancing. This is why it’s important to be flexible and adapt your services so that they are not only useful during the outbreak, but remain the best choice once everything has calmed down.
Implement tech upgrades to keep communication flowing
With the potential threat of most, if not all, of your staff working from home at some point, it’s important to plan ahead now to ensure communication will remain as efficient as possible. Phone calls and chats are not going to be fast enough, especially with all the home-life distractions. Introduce technological innovations now so that your team is able to utilize them when needed. This is the best list I have seen so far.
Start introducing these now so that, if worse comes to worst and everyone’s working from home, they’ll be comfortable and proficient with the new methods of communication. There’s no telling how this situation will unfold. Things might return to normal within a few weeks, or we might be facing a worldwide recession a year down the road. For businesses of all kinds, it’s important to not give up, to have a firm strategy in place, and to continue to be adaptable and flexible in order to remain relevant.
Stay ready for continued chaos
With so much out of our control, leaders will need to adopt a crisis management approach. Expect anxiety to rise and motivation to suffer. To combat this, pick a few priorities to focus on while regaining balance. Set smaller goals with frequent checkpoints so that people can feel some sense of positive movement. Redesign operating rules, even temporarily, to address the needs of this time. Pay close attention to managing stress—including your own. Friends, if you feel hopeless or frantic, reach out to someone; their strength will lift you up and your outreach will lift them. Though we may be physically distancing, we are still able to be supported and supportive. Each of us can both find and give strength and comfort in our communities.