If 2020 was the year of “shock and awe” as we dealt with the immediate and pressing challenges of Covid and had a roller coaster ride of all the feelings, 2021 was a slow and steady burn that depleted many. The sometime banal reality of continued work from home, missed connections, continued uncertainty, and changing targets created new challenges. Our most recent alumni peer exchange explored the challenges related to sustaining motivation, managing careers in virtual reality, finding focus, and retaining and taking teams to new heights.
Here’s the snapshot of what we learned….
1. Sustaining Motivation
Celebrate the small wins
- Regular reflection on progress is essential. Reflecting on the wins and progress, small and large can help put a bit of wind in our sails. As well, recognition is critical. Whether it’s a visual representing team accomplishment or a brief text or private message noticing a success in the moment. It doesn’t need to be over the top and can go a long way to maintaining motivation.
- We also recommend the year compass as a great tool for self or teams to reflect on the year that has passed, notice the good and look forward to the year ahead.
Notice your energy
- Ever heard the saying “attention goes to where energy flows”? Knowing what energizes or depletes the energy of yourself or those on your team is critical. Regularly check-in on the work that you’re engaged in (for self and team) and identify what can be deferred, delegated or dropped to manage the ebbs and flows of energy.
- Finding time for “play” or creative pursuits outside of work can give a tremendous motivational boost and refill your cup.
Connect to purpose
- When priorities move, it’s critical to step back and reconnect the new “to-do” to the bigger picture “why” for yourself and team. Motivation for self and team is often so connected to the greater purpose and getting clear on the impact or importance.
2. Managing Careers in a Virtual Reality
Know your style and lean into it
- For the introverts, perhaps now is the time to lean into 1:1 connections and meaningful exchanges. Build your network through consistent and sustained relationship.
- For the extroverts look to expand connections and continue to add value back into your network. Take it beyond the surface contact to meaningful impact by being a net-giver and creating connections for others.
Be deliberate about your approach to on-boarding
- The virtual world calls for a greater degree of planning and structure when it comes to supporting new hires. Leaders have a massive role to play in the on-boarding of new hires. The practice of regular development touchpoints rather than tactical status or performance can go a long way.
Build opportunities for exchange
- Peer exchanges that were prevalent in the early days of the pandemic continue to be required create opportunities for connection and camaraderie.
- Organizations can create forums for senior leaders to share best practices and forums for employees to more casually network and get to know each other.
Finding Focus and Prioritization
“Marie Kondo” your calendar
- Born of the killer combo of lots of volume of work, competing priorities and increased meetings versus actual time to do the work leaders have learned how to become adept at assessing what meetings are truly critical and what they can take a flyer on.
- Missing agendas, unclear outcomes? Pass. Looking out a few weeks ahead and blocking in time between meetings to think, eat or generally be human. Yes please.
Protect your thinking space
- For many of us, the value we provide comes from the creative and strategic capacity we bring to bear. However, many of us are treading water running from crisis to crisis. It’s difficult to be strategic when the house is on fire.
- Leaders discussed how they protect thinking space in their calendar to get out of their reactive mode and ensure they carve out uninterrupted work time. Meeting free Fridays, fiercely defended lunch times and creative blocks in the calendar (“Thinking Thursday” anyone?) all work.
Reset your performance bar
- High achieving and driven individuals like many of our Roundtable leaders often have a list of priorities a mile long. This never-ending and ever-growing list can drive motivation and a sense of accomplishment into the pit of despair.
- Key takeaway here is to take a page from Stephen Covey and clear on your top three priorities for the week. Focus on those first, complete them with excellence and be satisfied with work well done but maybe not ticking every box off the to-do list.
4. Take Teams to New Heights & Managing Retention
Ramp up the social moments
- Online meetings are transactional by nature. Leaders need to identify ways to build social connectivity whether it’s through a 1:1 lunch with new hires or carving out intentional time to simply connect and socialize.
- Human connection is being lost and building community, when it’s not happening organically through hallway conversations, will need to be intentionally curated.
Cultivate career conversations
- Whether through formal programs or informal one to one discussion, virtual and hybrid work environments can leave people feeling that they’re slipping through the cracks.
- Creating space to talk about career aspirations and providing supports such as 1:1 mentoring, career pathing or simply amplifying the stories of those who’ve moved into lateral or expanded roles can motivate and engage team members and help them feel like they’re voices are being heard.
Create the right environment
- Hybrid workplaces may work but hybrid meetings can be more of a challenge. Consider ‘all in’ or ‘all online’ meetings to create a common experience for the group.
- Rework meeting rooms to accommodate appropriate group size capacities during restrictions and consider whether the subject of the meeting requires a full facial display (eg: we’re talking about trust); or, face coverings are ok (we’re running through logistics).
- Adapt how you’re going to meet – in person or virtually – accordingly.
We wanted to thank our alumni for coming out and participating in our peer exchange. By sharing insights, we all emerge stronger and savvier. If you’re looking to be the best version of yourself in 2022, consider downloading our tips for a more resilient 2022.