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Friday, April 30, 2021

May 2021: It's a Small World

Once in awhile I take a moment and reflect on how differently work life can unfold these days. For example, yesterday I had to get up a little earlier for a 7am call... I brewed a stiff 3-shot latte, turned on my screen and signed in for a call with people in Boise, Sarajevo and Bangkok! Our worlds spanned 7am for me, 4pm for Sarajevo, and 9pm for Bangkok. 

I finished with them, made some oatmeal, journaled a bit to prepare for the rest of my day, and signed on for a 9am call with someone in Germany. It was a great conversation. Though these international calls have become more typical for me, I still find the novelty of it enjoyable. I also feel challenged to keep learning about effective communication, connection, and collaboration under these conditions, whether someone is in Kuala Lumpur or Chicago.

This enlarged global perspective, fostered by these international clients and relationships, has also been deepened for me in the past year as we have collectively experienced COVID-19. I make it a point to regularly listen to the BBC Global News Podcast to make sure I don't get all my news through the tunnel vision of US politics. So today I am grieved by the worsening numbers of COVID cases in India and Brazil, even as my world here opens up incrementally more, especially after receiving my 2nd vaccine dose.

Bottom line: in a year where divisions have deepened and increased, I pray many of us have somehow grown in compassion in light of the shared trauma the world has gone through. One can hope.

* * * * * * *

Onward and upward to my recommendations for this month!

🌎 Armchair Expert Interview with Erin Meyer on the Culture Map. I have used this interview with all of my international clients. Honestly, I can't recommend it enough. As the world continues to connect globally through technology, we need to advance in our cultural and relational understanding as well. This interview is a hoot but also gives GREAT nuts and bolts about we often misunderstand each other. Don't skip this one.

❤️ Who We Are Now. This is an interactive piece with evocative photos, quotes and brief reflections from a wide swath of Americans. Outstanding, poignant, thought-provoking words on how people are processing what they've learned during the pandemic. I recommend it highly. 

🎧 Bessel van der Kolk: Our Bodies Keep Score (podcast interview). I mentioned here in February 2020 that I was reading Bessel Van der Kolk's powerful book, The Body Keeps the Score. It's a remarkable book, but also a bit of a heavy lift if you have plenty of other things on your plate (um, don't we all?!) So a second-best option would be to listen to this excellent interview of the author, where he applies his insights to what we are experiencing now.

🖥 What Is Your Organization’s Long-Term Remote Work Strategy? I've done a fair amount of reading on this and I've also taken a certificate course on remote work. I believe this article is a good summary of some of the dynamics at play. Before diving into the weeds of how all of this could and should happen, this article asks some of the bigger questions to reflect on first. I thought this article, Here’s What You Need to Know (and Ask) if Your Company’s Considering a Hybrid Work Setup, also provided a lot of helpful parameters.

📝 What Does It Mean to Be a Manager Today? Many of my conversations with senior leaders revolve around several unknowns: 

  • How flexible do I need to be with the stress of returning to the office? 
  • What do I do about expectations around the vaccine? 
  • How do I plan ahead when we are still entering such uncharted territory? 
This article doesn't solve it all (don't I wish?!) but it does break some things down. 

📺 What I am watching... I am more of a reader than a watcher, but a few things caught my attention this month.

  • Hemingway. This is a film documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. As a forever former English major, I was excited to watch this. Plus having enjoyed past Burns and Novick docs on the National Parks, the Roosevelts, Jackie Robinson, the Civil War, etc., my expectations were even higher and it did not disappoint. I binged it in 3 consecutive nights and was left with more questions than answers about the writer himself, his motivations, his mistakes, his genius. I immediately ordered his memoir A Moveable Feast to keep chewing on the questions. PS If you are not a subscriber to PBS, it's only $5/month, people! That's unlimited access to British Baking Show. What else do you need?!
  • Derry Girls. I am late to this party but delighted in it all nonetheless. It didn't hurt that I had some extra time on my hands after my 2nd COVID vax left me on the couch with zero energy. I am now counting the days till Season Three comes out...
  • WeWork: or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn. I'm not sure if this is a story about a tech supernova that blew up, or a cult. It's a trip, regardless.

Final Thoughts.
As we each ease out of this pandemic into a different world from a year ago, be gracious with yourself and others. I read this this morning and it touched me deeply.

May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam ċara.

-John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Friday, April 2, 2021

APRIL 2021: Develop. Survive. Thrive. Reset.

I've gotten my first Pfizer shot, 2nd one is due soon and I cut 3 inches off my pandemic hair. The times, they are a-changing! I'm excited in some ways as things slowly open up, and concurrently concerned by the premature cancellation of mask-wearing, Spring Break travel busting out all over, and the variants. Eeesh.

As always, I've plowed a bunch of great tools and resources. Here goes!

Leadership Development. This is my favorite topic to talk about... so much so that I got interviewed on a podcast about it! And apparently the response was so strong (most downloads in their season after 1 1/2 days) that they asked me to come back for more. Thank you to those who listened. Upcoming interviews will be on burnout, remote team-building, and the how's and why's of leadership development (intern programs, onboarding, management training, performance reviews and about 15 other things!). Stay tuned.

More resources for leadership development:

  • How to Step In as an Interim Manager. I have used this with a couple of clients and they found it very useful, as a sort of roadmap to get started.
  • What I Learned from Taking Fridays OffI liked this article because it's written by a seasoned leader, not a younger worker who just wants more time to mess around with friends (not that that is bad, but I'm well past that stage!) I've found that my stamina is so different as I've gotten older, and I need more time to decompress and "re-create." This article captures some of the issues around that.
  • Coaching Real Leaders. This is my new favorite podcast (and I love me some podcasts!). I want to be Muriel Wilkins when I grow up.
  • Most Requested Leadership Development Resources. I've done a little spring-cleaning on my website, and if you look to the right of this post --> --> -->, you'll see a boatload of the docs that clients request most from me. There are some gems in there. Have fun! Tell me which ones work for you and why.

Surviving and Thriving.
I do wonder how we will all do as things shift beyond the pandemic. There is certainly no going "back" to the ways things were, but I can't tell what it will be like as we move forward. I think it might be like my experience during every finals week in college, when I pushed really hard with the carrot of knowing that I'd get to have a break... and promptly got sick as soon as I finished! I think once we let our guards down that some stuff might bubble to the surface. Let's be kind to ourselves and others as life unfolds...

  • Beyond Burned OutFrom the HBR "Big Idea" research for March/April 2021. I appreciated having an official definition of burnout, plus a reminder that it's not just an employee problem, but also an organizational one. Additionally, they offer interventions to avoid sustained burnout. A few other tidbits:
    • Millennials have the highest levels of burnout.
    • One of the greatest needs of employees is an empathetic manager.
    • Leaders need to get the right systems in place NOW, before the NEXT crisis happens.
  • CEO Stress, Aging, and Death. I know, I know, not a happy times title, but useful research here.
  • Letters from Esther Perel: Routines and Rituals. Renowned therapist and relationship guru provides great questions for reflecting on the impact of the pandemic over the last year.
  • Which small changes in pandemic habits will stick? Again, "don't waste the pandemic." Use this tumultuous experience to reflect, reset, reboot.

Mental Floss. We all need to take a breather during our days. Rather than mindlessly scroll through social media, try these...


Hearty Bread for the Whole Journey? aka, "What's with the vague subtitle?"

If you have sat through (endured? enjoyed?) one of my Strengths Finder presentations, you know that I often refer back to my life as an eter...