Creating Habits in Times of Craziness

Being a working parent was already a juggling game before the pandemic hit. Most successful working parents rely on some sort of routine to help them navigate their dual roles at work and at home. And when those routines get jostled, or, in this case, completely wiped out, they are thrown for a loop.

Insert one or more children running around your home (now office), who would typically be in school, and BAM, it can become straight-up chaos. Even as things begin to open back up, it’s still very likely that young children do not have summer camps to go to, leaving them at home or having to find them childcare.

As an employer, your mind is continuously running over all of the things that need to get done. So how do you keep yourself and your employees on track, even in times of unprecedented disruption? Here’s the simple answer: stop trying to control everything, and start focusing on top priorities and quality results.

You may try to create some sort of routine for your day and yet, end up in an entirely different place than you planned. While controlling everything isn’t going to help you, there are things that will.

As an employer

  • Set one routine you can stick to each day. Whether that’s getting up early to get a workout in, meditating, planning your day, or taking some time at the end of the day to re-organize your thoughts for the next day, pick one thing you can stick to each day.
  • There is no better time than now to prioritize what needs to get done for your business vs. all the little things that seem necessary but might not be. How can you prioritize? Write down all of your activities and categorize them top, middle, and bottom.
  • If you create no other habits, consistently looking at your priorities will change your way of thinking and keep you on track. Do that every day, and you’ll be amazed at the changes in the way you look at things. Ask yourself daily, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me to where I want to be?”
  • Give yourself grace. This doesn’t mean getting rid of discipline or letting yourself get comfortable. It does mean recognizing that everyone right now is dealing with a new routine and processing it differently. Allowing yourself the grace to move through this will make a huge difference.

For your employees

  • Have them answer some simple questions each week to gauge where they are with their priorities. This way, you both feel good about what they are doing. It’s also a huge opportunity to evaluate their challenges and see if there is anything you could help with.
    • What is the ONE thing they want to accomplish in the coming week?
    • Did they accomplish their ONE thing from last week?
    • What was their greatest success over the past week?
    • What was their most significant challenge over the past week?
    • What priority were they able to accomplish?

Having your employees focus on one thing they want to accomplish allows them to feel successful when they’ve achieved it. Encourage them to make it something that adds a little challenge to their week and makes them feel good about their achievement.

Give them grace. As an employer, it’s easy to want every one of your employees to have the same feeling toward your company as you do and work the same number of hours you regularly put in. Although some do, everyone is in a different season of life and might not have the same time or capacity. Giving yourself and your employees grace has never been more important.

Check-in with your employees more than you typically would. Not to see what they are doing, but to see how they are doing. Support is something so many of us need right now; knowing that you’re there for them makes all the difference.

Creating habits in our previous normal was a challenge, so creating them now makes it all the more difficult – but it can be done. For some, there might not be a better time than now to create those habits for success.

 

Photo by Gajus

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Why Your Company Needs a Professional Development Plan

Several key factors always hover on the list of employer concerns in nearly every industry. Employee engagement and productivity are almost always on the list as turnover rates, profits, efficiency, and customer experience are directly related to both. Which makes them critical factors contributing to a business’s lifespan, stability, growth, and health. 

Despite engagement and productivity’s nearly permanent spots on that list, it’s common for businesses to address the two with a one-and-done approach. This is especially true for small businesses that lack a significant budget for employee experience. But providing employees with a benefits package and break room won’t go very far in encouraging real engagement in their work.  

Employees need more than having their basic needs met to feel engaged. They need to see a direct investment in their success as your employee and as an individual. A vast majority of millennials say they want career development opportunities from their jobs.   

recent report by Axonify exposes the gap between what employees want and what businesses are providing them. Their principal findings include: 

  • Nearly a third of employees fail to receive formal workplace training 
  • A quarter of employees don’t receive training after onboarding
  • Almost 60% of employees fail to receive additional training and skill development from their employers  
  • 81% of employees say training makes them feel more engaged and happy at work 

It’s cost-effective 

While many employers are ignoring training as a benefit for their employees, providing training and professional development is an incredibly smart tactic for boosting profits.   

Giving employees opportunities for skill development and training can have a massive impact on the value they contribute. Businesses that provide formalized training can more than double their income per employee than companies that don’t.  

Investing in employee skills is investing in the agility and strength of your company. It creates a stronger relationship between company and employee, encouraging loyalty and engagement, which can lower turnover rates. The cost of turnover alone should be a driving factor in implementing strategies to keep your employees learning and engaged.  

Losing an employee can cost 1.5-2x their annual salary. Yet, it can cost between $135 – $750 for an individual community college course, depending on the length of the class. That’s a reasonably small investment compared to the cost of losing an employee or maintaining unproductive employees.  

Now is the time 

The beautiful thing about living in our age of technology is our access to resources. There are seemingly endless ways companies can provide learning opportunities to their employees. Online learning databases like SkillshareAlison, and Udemy are all options employees can access for learning and development in their own homes.   

Now that a vast amount of the world is learning to work from home, there is no better time to take advantage of these training opportunities. Not only will it give your employees a chance to grow and develop their skills and what they can offer your company, but it may also help address the feelings of isolation and culture loss that many are struggling with during the pandemic.  

An investment into a shared future  

Providing learning development opportunities isn’t just a way to engage your employees—it’s a value statement that can have ramifications across your company culture and employee experience.  

You’re not only investing in the potential of your employees to grow their roles within your company, but you’re telling them you think they are capable of that growth. Show them you value their contribution and also their potential as a professional.  

Having confidence in the power and potential of your employees will lead them to see the value within themselves and feel that their value is recognized. It will create a relationship of trust and confidence that is irreplaceable. It will save money. It will save time. And it will inspire growth in the deepest level of your business. There is nothing to lose but disengagement and apathy.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Aleksandr Davydov

The Power of Starting Small

Chances are if you’ve been working at your company long enough, you’ve developed some fantastic ideas for growth and improvement. No matter what department you’re in, there is always room for growth, and inevitably there are those big beautiful dreams that get talked about wistfully but with no real commitment.  

You know what I’m talking about: those pipe-dream projects, ideas that would be amazing if only there were *fill in the blank* to make it happen.  

Every company has at least one of these projects. Take a moment to think about your company. What projects has everyone agreed would be fantastic if only there were… 

  • enough time  
  • enough human resources 
  • someone with the experience 
  • add excuse here 

…to make it happen.   

You might be feeling a little defensive thinking, “Those aren’t excuses if they are real issues getting in our way.”   

Let me tell you something. There will always be real issues that stand in the way of getting a project successfully implemented. What makes them excuses is the switch from seeing them as challenges to reasons not to proceed 

Reframe the problem 

While there may be plenty of challenges created by a big project that has halted it in its tracks, those problems often stem from one source. Not enough time, not enough people, not enough experience, are all results of looking at a project from a macro point of view.   

What. What? How is a lack of time connected to my point of view? And why would my point of view affect my resources? 

When you dream up a big project—improving your customer experience, for instance—you see every aspect that needs work. You see the processes to be developed, templates, emails, updated web pages, and follow-up campaigns. You see new training for the sales team and the audit of what you already have.  

What you see is a birds-eye-view of the entire project—all the work, all at once. Who has time and energy to do all that? No one.  

Now let’s experiment. Pick one aspect of that project—we’ll use customer follow-up for this example. To get the ball rolling, write one follow-up email for customers who’ve tried a specific product, taken a quiz, or attended a webinar. Easy enough, right? You have time in your day to write one email.   

Now save that email to use repeatedly.  

And just like that, you see the problem. It isn’t that you don’t have the time or the workforce; it’s that you’ve been looking at the project from a wide-angle point of view.  

Small steps 

Whether you’re a one-person company or have 100 people on your team, this process can be applied almost every time. Start by creating your big picture. Write down all the beautiful things you want to complete—don’t be stingy. Include your goals for each part of the project. What are you trying to accomplish? 

Now step back. Take a nice long look at the whole thing and pick one aspect to start. The trick is to break it up into bite-sized pieces and spread it out over a reasonable amount of time.   

You don’t have to do everything all at once. In fact, you really can’t. So don’t try. Set small, achievable goals.  

Use each small step as a brick in the tower of your dreams. Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down by the greatness of what you imagine. Every great accomplishment is built out of a thousand small achievements.  

So go ahead, dream big. Just do yourself a favor and start small.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Yuliya Rosher

 

Four Things to Do Before You Write That Retort

We’ve all been there. A coworker, a client, a manager, an employee, a parent, a friend, a colleague has done something that really ticked you off. They forgot an important deadline, messed with your project, or ignored your request.  

And now you’ve got a huge email written out that might contain some words in all caps, a few exclamation points, and maybe a couple ultimatums. Or maybe, if you’re a little quieter, you left out your usual happy exclamation points, word softeners, and cheery salutations. Your finger is hovering over send, but before you jump down the rabbit hole, there are a few things you should do first.

1. Take a breath 

It may be obvious, but that doesn’t make it easy. When we’re angry, it’s easy to react in one of two ways: passive aggression and open aggression. Passive aggression usually comes from those who don’t like or fear confrontation. We’re all familiar with the one-word response to a long email: the dreaded “Ok” devoid of punctuation and supporting language. 

Open aggression is a result of anger unleashed without restraint in an attempt to hurt or halt someone else. Open aggression often comes in the form of sarcasm, blaming, shouting, or name-calling.  

While they may be satisfying in the moment, neither of those responses will help you in the long run. What you want to be aiming for is assertion, not aggression. A message that is clear, thought out, direct, measured, and open-minded.   

2. Decide on a goal 

If you want your response to make a difference, then you need to clarify what you’re hoping to get out of it. Do you want the person to change their behavior, or just understand and appreciate why you’re frustrated? Do you want to change how things are going forward? Do you want an apology or an explanation?  

Define your goal and then integrate that intention into your response. This will help you identify what you want and guide you in finding a solution. It will also create an opportunity for closure. Once your defined need/goal is met or addressed, you’ll have an easier time moving on. No one likes to hold grudges. Or at least they shouldn’t.  

 3. Look at the bigger picture 

Sometimes widening your perspective can be the best thing for a relationship. Take the time to ask yourself these questions: 

  • Is there something going on with them in their personal life that might be affecting their behavior at work?  
  • How might they see this conflict? What has your role been in their eyes? 
  • How do they seem to prefer to communicate? 

Maybe they have a personal issue stopping them from following through or communicating effectively. Maybe they are dealing with other problems at work that are drawing their attention and energy. Maybe they don’t feel understood by you or feel you’re not holding up your end of the bargain.  

Remember, everyone brings their whole lives to each conversation, fight, and relationship. More often than not, people react to you based on their perceptions and internal stories rather than your actions. So trying to understand the other person’s actions from their point of view can be invaluable in helping you see the situation more clearly and find a solution. It may also highlight areas where you had misconceptions about them and their situation.   

Finally, if you’re able to meet the other person where they are most comfortable communicating, you’ll be more likely to make headway. Maybe this isn’t a conversation for email. It might be more effective to have it in person, or over the phone, or with a moderator.  

4. Come up with actionable follow-ups 

To prevent this sort of thing from happening again, it can be useful to come up with a few clear steps you can take to avoid future conflicts.  

  • Once you’ve settled your disagreement, set up a follow-up meeting in a couple of days to talk about how things are going. Meeting after you’ve both had a chance to process feelings may allow you to come together with less volatility to talk about what worked/didn’t work and what changes you can make for future interactions. 
  • Define how you could have improved your end of the conflict. What can you do better next time? What did you learn from this? 

Go forward, but with caution 

You may be angry and rightly so. But if you let your anger speak for you, you’ll end up regretting it. Stop. Breathe. Reflect. Do yourself a favor and step back before responding.   

You’ll thank yourself in the long run. Especially as we are all navigating the difficulties of self-isolation, working from home, and communicating remotely, it’s more important than ever to deal with conflict productively and thoughtfully. Just make sure that you do respond eventually. Hanging on to anger builds grudges, communication gaps, and lowers morale for everyone. Be proactive. Be patient. Be kind. You’ve got this. 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by SHOTPRIME STUDIO

When in Doubt, Organize

When things are chaotic, whether at home, or work, or throughout the world, it’s easy to feel like letting things slide. And honestly, sometimes that’s totally fine. When we’re in a position where we have to handle a lot at once (even if it’s just a busy morning of meetings), we have to decide what’s critical and what can be put aside for another time. Sometimes there’s no way around it.  

You simply can’t do everything all of the time. Though unfortunately, it’s human nature for us to try anyway. And what happens when we try to accomplish everything at once while we’re also navigating a challenging time? 

  • Regular, simple tasks start to feel un-doable 
  • We become more and more frazzled and stressed 
  • We start to beat ourselves up for not functioning like normal 
  • Our quality of work drops 
  • Our exhaustion rises 
  • We can’t keep track of things 
  • Our team at work (or home) begin to feel the effects of our state 
  • No one is happy 

While it’s true there will always be times when you have to put aside certain things to continue to function well, there is one thing that isn’t dispensable: organization.  

It’s a lifesaver 

Cities that are built by flood zones have canals constructed into them to drain the excess water away from the population. When life is chaotic, doing what you can to get yourself organized will work like those canalshelping remove the chaos from your life. While a flood can still damage a city even with canals, the damage would be exponentially worse if the water had nowhere to go. It’s the same with chaos.  

If you are in a position where you have to prioritize your duties and put certain things aside, you’ve got to get yourself organized enough to see everything clearly. This is true on the individual level up through an entire organization.  

Think about how your company, or your boss, or just you, handled the chaos of adjusting to stay at home orders and changing customer priorities. Was it handled smoothly? Are you still struggling to communicate with your team or your clients? Are there entire parts of your company you’ve put on hold (your marketing, for instance?). Do you have a constant feeling that you’re forgetting something?  

Don’t cut corners 

In a turbulent time, often our first instinct is to attack whatever is right in front of us. But without first sitting down and evaluating all the components, our efforts are more likely to be ineffective, inefficient, and draining.  

If you want clean results, then start with a clean slate.  

  • Evaluate all of your duties  
  • Take stock of the immediate damage, challenge, or roadblocks 
  • Look ahead to what might be affected later down the road 
  • Break it down into tiers of importance 
  • Clarify goals and their corresponding tasks  

It’s up to you 

No one can organize your life for you. It takes consistent effort for organizations and individuals alike. It’s incredible how much a little organization can change your ability to navigate chaos and challenges. The simple act of writing out a to-do list and getting your tasks organized each morning can make or break the productivity (and experience) of your day. The same goes for getting your team and your organization on the same page with clarified goals, responsibilities, and tasks.  

If you’re struggling to get things done, feeling the pressure of a hectic and demanding schedule, and frustrated by a lack of productivity, ask yourself if you’ve spent the time to get organized. If you haven’t, then it’s your responsibility to do so. Whether or not you’re struggling to deal with the chaos of the pandemic, or just the usual chaos of your life, getting organized may be the greatest gift you can give yourself. Either way, it’s up to you.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by New Africa