Dec 15 2020
Even before the pandemic, life felt hectic for many of us, the unspoken rule being: the more we can do, the more we should do. Then the pandemic exploded into our daily lives, interrupting business as usual. For some, the pandemic has been personally and/or professionally devastating, and to them, I offer my deepest condolences. For the rest of us, it has been a disruption, and disruptions can help us recognize patterns and behaviors that aren’t serving us anymore.
As I support leaders who manage large organizations, I’ve been asking them what they can let go of. And we’ve been talking a lot about how they want to feel in addition to what they want to do. It’s interesting how this shifts the conversation.
As we approach 2021, this is a great time to think about what you want to leave behind. Break free from conventions that don’t serve you. Reevaluate how you spend your time and don’t be afraid to make some changes. Here are a couple of ideas.
Nothing affects your work life as much as company culture. Have you ever heard the old adage about boiling a frog? It goes like this: if you put a frog in boiling water, it jumps out immediately. But, if you put a frog in tepid water and slowly bring the water to a boil, the frog won’t jump out.
An organization’s culture can change over time and bad habits can become entrenched. Building a positive culture requires conscientious leadership. If you’re in a position to lead, consider using a short article, blog, or quarterly internal white paper as a basis for discussion. This has the two-fold benefit of culture-building and knowledge-building, thereby reinforcing cultural norms for existing employees and informing new employees of company values.
Other practices that reinforce culture include aligning job descriptions with company values and strategic goals and having multiple team members participate in employee onboarding. Transparency about what each role is expected to accomplish helps everyone get clarity, and involving line staff in the on-boarding process is a great way to reinforce the mission, vision, and value of the organization for new and old employees alike.
Another way to improve work life is to spend time in a way that feels productive and meaningful. Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings. If we this must continue, let’s make them worthwhile. Here are some best practices.
- Determine goals/outcomes for the meeting, which can include building culture and community. Just be sure everyone knows why you’re meeting. Determining outcomes lets you know whether you even need to hold a meeting. If you can communicate the information and get feedback via email and still reach your objectives, don’t waste people’s time with a meeting.
- Publish and distribute an agenda (with short updates from the last meeting, if appropriate) at least 24 hours before the meeting so people can come prepared. Do NOT include verbal reports on this same material during the meeting. To be sure all actions tie back to the organization’s ultimate goal, include a vision/goal statement at the top of the agenda.
- Make the meeting norms explicit (e.g., the meeting will start and end on time, topics that aren’t on the agenda don’t get airtime, etc.)
- Start with three deep breaths to get present, then a one-minute check-in. Allow each individual to share personal/professional information–how they’re doing, whether they need support, etc.
- Assign every actionable item to an individual responsible for moving it forward
- Evaluate standing reports at least annually. Do they include the most relevant data for their stated purpose? Are they in the most accessible format for the audience they’re trying to serve? If you don’t need them, ditch them. If you need the information but it’s not coming across well, change the format.
If you hold regular time on next year’s calendar to address the leadership issues that can transform your business, 2021 will likely be a much better year.