We’ve heard countless times now that things aren’t business as usual, but we haven’t really had the time to dig into what this truly means. Sure, many of us no longer have morning commutes which allow us more time to consume coffee by the pot and doom scroll through the news and social media channels each morning, jacking up our nervous systems.
Beyond wearing your professional Zoom attire, (professional on top, shorts on the bottom), non-stop video conferencing, and feeling the thin faint line between work and personal life evaporate, have we really changed how we are operating inside our business?
Have we really changed how we are operating inside our business?
Let’s take a peek, eh?
Is your organization still operating from an old mindset that people are supposed to compartmentalize work and personal life? Or that you aren’t supposed to get personal with people you work with? Or that you need to keep a thick wall and barrier up in order to maintain professionalism for fear of judgment or retaliation of your humanness?
These mindsets have no place in this new pandemic world we are living in. They are relics from days long past.
We have entered into a timeline where people are standing up for justice, equity, and human decency. Where accountability is demanded as a way of life, rather than something to be avoided. With the turmoil our society is experiencing, many people are feeling fragile and on the edge of bursting wide open at any moment.
What’s needed today, and for the many days to come is more of a compassionate human touch. We need more precision and finesse in our communication rather than only having one tool, the verbal hammer, in your communication toolbox. This means, we fundamentally need to change how we lead, follow, and communicate with each other.
We need more precision and finesse in our communication rather than only having one tool, the verbal hammer, in your communication toolbox.
The lightning speed of which the changes occurred was so fast that it created a traumatic shock to our nervous systems. Worries of our own health and the health of our loved ones, fear of losing our lives or our jobs, grief for all that’s been lost (and there’s been a lot), and frustration at our inability to control anything, mixed with glimpses of joy woven in.
It’s a mental and emotional overload, and it’s taking a big toll.
The mental and emotional overload
How many of us are having honest conversations with our clients, co-workers, bosses, or teams about our challenge of getting our anti-anxiety medication dosages dialed in? Probably not many. Or the sudden and surprising bouts of depression that pop up out of the blue leaving you paralyzed and completely disconnected and disengaged? Yeah, I didn’t think so. That’s definitely not part of the status quo in the virtual or in-person workplace.
Status quo usually consists of avoiding the real issue at hand when expectations aren't met or when performance isn’t up to par.
Status quo usually consists of avoiding the real issue at hand when expectations aren't met or when performance isn’t up to par. Mental health struggles, emotional overwhelm, a troublesome personal life are normal issues for many people and they just so happen to be the root cause for poor performance or unmet expectations.
How can one focus on workplace deliverables when the other parts of their lives are falling apart? Meanwhile, behind the scenes, frustration and irritation are building up. When conversations do finally happen, they are usually unproductive with both parties walking away feeling frustrated, unseen, unheard, and want to avoid future interaction.
Soul-sucking "Business as usual"
For a lot of businesses, “business as usual” included using up every ounce of high performing employees. Sucking them dry of their ability to do their best work until there is nothing left but a husk of a person. This sounds harsh, and to be fair, employees share the responsibility if they didn’t set and uphold strong boundaries. But when you take a deeper look at the power structures at play, it’s clear that businesses have the upper hand and everyone feels powerless to change it.
This dynamic is still at play. Employees are still feeling the old pressures, even if they aren’t coming from their boss but rather are self-imposed.
If your humans aren’t healthy or functional, then neither is your business.
We can’t operate that way anymore! One thing businesses and leaders have learned during this pandemic is that the business is only as well or healthy as the humans who work inside the organization. If your humans aren’t healthy or functional, then neither is your business. This includes the mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, physical health, and well-being of your people. We can’t continue the old business model of burning out our people.
A small segment of businesses realized this and have increased their benefits when it comes to their employees’ mental health while continuing to look for alternate ways to serve their people.
How to do it differently
At the time of this writing, we are entering our 7th month of living through this once in a century pandemic. We are hitting the point where we can no longer push or muscle our way through the inner emotional landscape. People are hitting their wall and there’s nothing left to give. Something in the way we do business needs to give because our people have nothing left.
The unquestionable first priority must be the health and well-being of our employees which must be woven into the fabric of our company culture.
How do we do this?
Here is an example: An employee needs daylight hours to exercise for their well-being and mental health. They’re a better human if they take a mid-day run.
This employee must feel empowered to ask for this and made to not feel that it’s a luxury
This should then be offered to the rest of the staff as a common workplace practice. It sends the message “You’re a person first and being tied to your desk is not optimal for any of us.”.
This requires leaders to communicate in specific and intentional ways that have never been part of the business as usual culture.
Innovation, creativity, and a focus on holistic health from the personal and the business perspective are going to be standard operating procedures for progressive businesses who are looking to come out the other side of this pandemic thriving. I train companies on how to do this because it is my mission that this becomes the norm for all businesses going forward as part of the evolution we are currently experiencing.
Clear, direct communication delivered with kindness contributes to a healthier mental state for everyone involved.
Clear, direct communication delivered with kindness contributes to a healthier mental state for everyone involved. When there is a lack of information, our minds will create stories to fill in the void. These stories have a tendency to be a worst-case scenario that drives up more worry, fear, and resistance. This is bad for the people and it’s bad for business. When in doubt, over-communicate.
As leaders are reassessing what’s next, looking to minimize inefficiencies and maximize productivity, look at how communication impacts effectiveness and quality of results. Your communication, as a leader, is mission-critical. What message are your employees receiving from you?
Think about how you communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, with your people. Whether it’s in meetings, one-on-one, or email communications, what message are your employees receiving from you? Are you communicating that you care and support their overall success and are willing to back it up?
You have most likely asked your people to step up during this time, now it’s your turn. A great example is the “hands-off but appears to be an engaged leader”.
Your communication, as a leader, is mission-critical. What message are your employees receiving from you?
As a leader, simply telling your people “let me know if you need anything” isn’t sufficient. It puts the ownership 100% on the employee, who may not be in a position to stretch themselves right now or even be able to consider what help to ask for. Additionally, it sends the message that you aren’t really engaged or concerned about them, but rather ticking off a box that “shows you care.”
Many leaders may mean well but simply lack the communication skills necessary to make a meaningful impact. If that’s you, don’t worry, here are a few tips for you:
Break down your offer for support and get specific. Give several options or examples of what your support could look like for them. This helps to give t a sense of direction when they don’t know what to ask for.
Ask what resources your team thinks they need or are interested in exploring.
Be sure to give boundaries such as budget, timing, etc. Clearly communicating boundaries and expectations early and often prevent a lot of emotional burdens down the road.
Hold your team accountable to getting the resources they need by following up to see what action, if any, they have taken.
Be gentle, compassionate, and practice non-judgment. Realize it’s wildly vulnerable to share inner parts of ourselves with others, particularly with people who hold power and authority over us.
Many leaders may mean well but simply lack the communication skills necessary to make a meaningful impact.
We are living in new times, walking a particular path that has never been walked before. As such, we need to learn new skills. In order to do this, we must be learners, humbly willing to grow and stretch ourselves to new heights.
If you’ve read this far, I know you’re ready for more. Book your free coaching session with me right now! Let me offer you coaching, mentoring, or training on your communication skills to become the leader who empowers, empathizes, and inspires.
As always, I’m here to support you in your leadership journey and to provide the guidance and wisdom I’ve learned along the way. Share this with a friend who needs to hear it and find me on social media for daily leadership nuggets!
In Service To Your Greatness,
Aubrey Armes, PHR
Aubrey Armes is a woman on a mission: To change how business is done.
Passionate about doing business differently, Aubrey brings her 20 years of Leadership, Human Resources, and Professional Coaching experience to the modern business leader.
She's giving leadership teams the right tools and teaching them "how to" elicit high performance, from their teams and themselves. Aubrey takes the disengaged and mediocre and transforms them in to energized, high-performing, collaborative teams. Her approach helps leaders and teams achieve radical results through compassionate accountability and create company cultures where everyone can thrive.