3 Tips for Successfully Leading Your Team Back to the Office

Reopening and going back to your workplace does not mean going ‘back to normal’– the workplace post-pandemic has forever changed.  Here are some Situational Leadership strategies that will leaders navigate “re-boarding” the new processes and expectations for how people will return to the workplace.

1. Reflect and Recalibrate. Businesses had to react almost immediately to adjust with the demands of the pandemic. Now is the time to reflect on the lessons learned and the new strategies that can be applied in the plan towards reopening.

  • Send a short reflection survey to your team to get feedback on specific processes that worked well and those that didn’t to decide which practices to continue moving forward.
  • Use targeted, purposeful survey questions to help your team members identify the next normal.

2. Assess the Current State. Businesses refined and created new solutions and procedures to perform their jobs during the pandemic.

  • Now, to get an assessment of the current state, identify and prioritize team members’ tasks.
  • Take time to determine skills and specific tasks that are now essential due to the changing work environment. Look for ways to leverage support, mentoring and delegation within the team.

3. Engage to Manage the Movement. If you haven’t already implemented 1:1 coaching practices, now is the time to do so. This coaching is vital to help team members navigate the fear that accompanies a changing environment.

  • Establishing proactive communication is essential to cultivate trust and personal connection.
  • Encourage your team to be accountable to their own performance and establish touchpoints to discuss current priorities, their status and what they need from you. Compare lists and develop a plan for direction and support.

What is one adjustment you can make, something to stop doing or start doing, to increase your effectiveness as a coach?

Repurposed from Situational.com

Listening is an Action – Will you Listen to Create Change?

Black Lives Matter 

At Aha! Leadership we stand in support with all humanity. In light of recent events, we unite with the black community and recognize that racism is real. 

Leaders must lead by being willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations that drive change. The next right step is to listen and learn. 

There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing happens when we’re able to recognize a sound. Listening happens when we put in the effort (action) to understand what it means.  And when we take action, change happens.

As a leader, ask yourself….

  • Are you willing to lead?
  • Are you willing to step into uncomfortable territory?  
  • Are you willing to really listen to others?  
  • Are you willing to act on what you learn? 

Being receptive and understanding others are key components to creating a respectful workplace. 

Please know, we are here to help your team listen, learn and create an inclusive workplace. 

Please email Stephanie Gibbons stephanie@ahaleadership.com or Robyn Marcotte robyn@ahaleadership.com.

“To understand and be understood – those are among life’s greatest gifts and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.”   – Maria Papova, writer

5 Reasons Why Teleconferencing is Draining Your Energy & What to Do About It

For a lot of us, the current situation we are in means we are spending a lot of time working from home and in video meetings. But why do virtual meetings seem more tiring than in person ones?

  1. We miss out on non-verbal communication. We pay attention to the facial expressions, gestures, and tone of others and respond accordingly. During in-person meetings, this processing is automatic. However, video chat requires we devote significant energy and attention to pick up on non-verbal cues.
  2. What’s going on in the background? We feel anxious about our new workspace and how it appears to our colleagues. We worry our kids, partners or parents could walk in at any moment. We also focus more of our attention on the backgrounds of others. The environment where meetings are held is also very important to our processing. We attribute certain meetings to specific rooms and adjust our behavior accordingly.
  3. No more in-passing small talk. In-person, we often meet people on the way to a meeting and have time for small talk and catching up before the meeting starts. On video, it’s all business right from the start.
  4. Watching ourselves is stressful. The heightened focus on facial cues and the ability to see ourselves has proven very stressful. Viewing negative facial expressions can intensify those feelings and emotions in ourselves and others.
  5. Silence is awkward. Silence in real-life meetings is normal and provides rhythm. However, over video, we don’t know if the other person is listening or frozen. Silence makes us anxious about technology and lagging connections.

So, how can we reduce fatigue?

Experts suggest limiting video calls to only the essentials. Additionally, turning your camera off or your screen to the side can make the call less tiring.

Restructuring meetings may also be helpful. Try introducing a shared document in addition to the video call. Make time at the beginning of the meeting for small talk and catch-ups. Check-in on the well-being of others.

Lastly, building in transition periods can help us adjust. Try stretching or doing some exercise before a video meeting. We need buffers to allow our minds to transition our focus from one thing to the next.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” -Wayne D. Dyer

12 Tips for Effective Emails

Email is a communication currency that can lose its value very quickly if not used appropriately.

We “hear” what is being said through our senses, so when we can’t see verbal cues or hear someone speak, there is a greater chance for miscommunication.  Working from home as a ‘new normal’ for many makes our email communication clarity even more critical.

To ensure your email communications are clear, we outlined the following: 

  1. Include a clear, direct subject line.   Examples include:   “New Meeting Date,” “Quick question about your presentation,” or “Suggestions for the proposal.” People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line, so ensure yours is clear what it contains.
  2. Think twice before hitting ‘reply all.’ Refrain from hitting “reply all” unless you think everyone on the list needs to receive the email.  IF you do copy everyone, write why you are doing so – outline why the person (s) were included. 
  3. Include your auto signature. This allows your email recipient to easily contact you, in case they want to call you in reply.
  4. Use professional salutations“Hey you guys,” “Yo,” etc .  While the email may have a relaxed tone, you should still address an email professionally.
  5. Use exclamation points sparingly.  If you choose to use an exclamation point, we recommend using one to convey excitement.  If overused, you can appear too emotional/immature.
  6. Be cautious with humor.  This is one where it can get lost in translation without the right audio tone and/or facial expression.  This is best left for in-person or videoconferences.
  7. Factor in different cultures speak and write differently.  Tailor your message to the receiver’s cultural background or how well you know them.
  8. Reply to your emails.  This includes when the email was accidentally sent to you, especially if the sender is expecting a reply. Or if you were “copied” on it, you should let them know that you are intending Cathy to respond if directed to Cathy and Cathy is better equipped to handle.    Example:  “Cathy, I will assume you will reply to Joe on this issue.”
  9. Proofread every message.  Don’t rely on spell-checkers. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off.  Grammarly is a free tool that helps with grammar beyond email spellchecks.
  10. Add the email address last.  It is easy to hit “send” by mistake before finishing your message.  This will save a lot of headaches as you compose and proofread your message first.
  11. Double-check that you’ve selected the correct recipient.  Pay extra attention when typing a name from your address book on the email’s “To” line especially since it may autofill similar names.
  12. Nothing is confidential—so compose your emails accordingly.  Every electronic message leaves a trail.

5 Ways to Prevent Miscommunication from Infiltrating Your Team

Words matter and words can be misunderstood. You can break a heart or start a war simply based on the words you choose. We know communication is important – Especially now, as are working remote and stress levels are high.

Remember, everyone processes information differently. This gets into some pretty nutty areas of neuroscience and behavior. For those of you who use DiSC to aid your communications, attached is a refresher overview of how each style is wired.  

For those that are not familiar with DiSC, knowing someone’s DiSC style helps us communicate better with them.  For example, some people are good at active listening, while others are not. How we absorb and digest information is a factor as well. Some process information visually, while others process through sound or touch. Lastly, perception based on what we want to hear versus what’s said is also a huge factor.  

Conversations can easily be misinterpreted because of a combination of bad communication habits: people are hurried when they speak; they’re distracted and not actively listening; or they simply have a lack of understanding or context to what is being said.

So how do you prevent your team from falling prey to miscommunication? Here are 5 steps:


1. Make sure everyone involved understands and realizes that misinterpretations are human nature. We’re all guilty of it. Just because you told someone something, doesn’t mean they got it. 


2. Be aware of yourself and others. The more you know about yourself and those with whom you’re communicating, the more effective you will be in disseminating information to ensure you are aligned with someone else. This is especially helpful for aligning with people who are wired differently than you or who come from a very different background where their understanding of something could have a wildly different meaning from what you meant. 


3. At the end of a conversation with someone, repeat what you heard. This allows for feedback on whether you understood the message in the way the speaker intended. You will be amazed by how many times the other person will say, “No, I didn’t mean that. I meant…”  You will save time by taking this simple step to being tactically aligned.


4. Leave a few minutes at the end of a conversation or meeting to go over next steps. Allow for questions to provide further clarity or context for those who need it. This is especially important if a lot of different topics or ideas were discussed. Context shifting is a heavy task for our brains, so the more topics, the greater chance there is for tactical dissonance.


5. Account for the digital age we live in and be mindful of how you’re delivering your message.  Email is best used to spread information, like recapping action items after a meeting or sharing attachments others need, NOT for in-depth communication. This means no debating, convincing or critiquing via email—save that for face-to-face communication.

The good news is, I truly believe that our new working environment will help us develop stronger communication skills if we slow down and use this time to focus on improving the quality of our messages.

Source Excerpts from Leadercast March 2020

Using DISC to Power and Support your Remote Team

Knowing your team’s DISC assessment results is always beneficial since you can tailor everything from assignments to workstations to match your worker’s skill sets and preferences.

For remote workers, the knowledge imparted by a DISC assessment is even more meaningful.

You’ll know how much support, attention and feedback each member will need, and even get a good idea of which of your team members can handle the sometimes-isolating aspects of remote work. Since each individual style needs different support and will value different aspects of remote work, knowing what to offer is essential if you want to have a successful remote program.

Click here for an overview of how to support your remote team based on their DiSC style.   

5 Ways to Improve Team Meetings

We’ve all sat in a meeting where we wondered what’s the purpose, why are we here and what we are supposed to accomplish. And if we are honest, we may have led meetings that didn’t meet the mark.

Harvard Business Review surveyed 182 senior managers from various industries, where 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

Here are five (5) ways to maximize your efficiency and effectiveness of team meetings:

1-Prepare a Clear Agenda

  • List the topics, outcomes and how much time will be spent on each topic.
  • Add the purpose of the meeting to the top of your agenda.
  • Distribute the agenda ahead of time. Some DiSC styles need time to process the information before responding. Give your team the courtesy of properly preparing and eliminate the “meeting after the meeting”.

2-Invite Participation

Lack of participation during meetings can cause frustration for everyone, and withholding information is a sign of team dysfunction.  Think about what could be contributing to this problem:

  • Did you invite you invite the right people to the meeting that are knowledgeable to speak on the topic?
  • Are your team members somehow communicating something with their silence?
  • Be clear you want a conversation. Ask: “What are we missing?” and “What have we not thought of?” to create an environment that welcomes different points of view.

 3-Shorten Your Meeting Time

One hour is the standard meeting time most people; however, to minimize wasting time, cap your meetings at 30 minutes or less for problem-solving. This provides laser focus for the one or two meeting items that you outlined in your agenda.  Then if you need more time, schedule the next discussion and its purpose.

 4-Speak Last

Do participants feel they need to agree with the majority or stay silent? As a leader, you will naturally have a psychological hierarchy in the team. Avoid sharing your thoughts first as it tends to set the stage for everyone else to follow. Go last and encourage your team to come up with a strong solution.

5-Improve Your Facilitation Skills

If a significant portion of your job is to lead meetings, invest in improving your facilitation skills. A well-run meeting is done so with intent and design. A good facilitator can help to maintain the flow, curtail any dominating thoughts or ideas, and create the space for team members to contribute without feeling scared or intimidated.

We each have 1440 minutes in a day. Maximize your results by improving your meetings.

The Missing Piece to Making Meetings More Effective

Meetings.  The word can solicit strong feelings about their value and level of effectiveness.  Regardless of how you feel about them, meetings are an essential part of most organizations.  Many of us practice the standard guidelines for creating a good meeting: creating a clear agenda/meeting objective, keeping time, recapping action items, inviting the right people, etc.

So how can meetings be more engaging and productive?  What’s missing? 

Knowing your audience’s personality style is often the missing piece.

 A personality assessment like EverythingDiSC® can help bridge the gap between employees and optimal workplace communication.  For example:

  • Consider that D-styles prefer meetings with minimal small talk and an agenda that everyone sticks to.
  • Allow i-styles to flourish by allowing them to express personal opinions and have open discussions with others.
  • To ensure S-styles feel comfortable, provide them with your meeting’s outline or agenda in advance so they can prepare.
  • Remember that C-styles don’t do well with making big decisions when they feel rushed or pressured.

These are some of the elements of how knowing your communication style and that of your other meeting participants can make for more effective meetings.

-Adapted from  EverythingDiSC® blog July 11, 2019

3 Key Ways to Prevent Miscommunication

A wise man once said, communication makes friends; a lack of communication makes enemies. Our words have power!  We all know communication is important, and yet effective communication can be a battle for individuals, teams, and organizations. Communication is the gateway to clarity, which ultimately gets the right things done.

As Alan Schaefer, Branding People Together states, “to ensure we have clarity, we must consider how we share and process information. Most of us have experienced a scenario where you have a meeting with one or several people. You have a robust, or at least what appears to be forward-moving, conversation. You break the metaphorical huddle and go running whatever plays you understand to be correct. You come back together and people are so off course that you have a twilight-zone moment of disbelief wondering, Was the other person in the same conversation as the rest of us?”

So how do you prevent your team from falling prey to the telephone game? Below are three ways to prevent miscommunication:

  1. Use the right format –Email? Phone?  Face to face?  We tend to default to email a lot!  Email is best used to spread information, like recapping action items after a meeting or sharing attachments others need, NOT for in-depth communication. This means no debating, convincing or critiquing via email—save that for face-to-face communication.
  2. Know Yourself and Others. The more you know about yourself and those you’re communicating with, the more effective you will be. This is especially helpful with people who are wired differently than you.
  3. Repeat and Recap.  At the end of a conversation, repeat what you heard, allowing for feedback on whether you understood the message in the way the speaker intended. You will be amazed by how many times the other person will say, “No, I didn’t mean that. I meant…”   This includes recapping next steps if applicable.

The good news is, like anything else, you can build your communication skills and become a skilled communicator that’s productive and clear.  You are what you repeatedly do.

 Are you known as a skilled communicator?

5 Steps for Challenging the Status Quo

“Well, that’s just how we do things here… It’s how we’ve always done it… It’s best that you don’t rock the boat…”

Have you ever heard these dismissive responses when you or your colleagues have suggested changing things in the workplace? Change is always met with some resistance – just ask any visionary.

Anyone Can Challenge the Status Quo

Even when we know something should be different, we don’t always have the courage to take action. And when we do, we risk our ideas falling on deaf ears, or being overruled or ignored. These five approaches can help increase your chances of success when considering challenging to the status quo.

  1. Ask the Right Questions

If you keep asking yourself “why” when you’re following a process or regular course of action, you’ve likely identified something to be improved.

If that’s the case, ask yourself and other people questions, in order to fully understand why things are being done in a particular way. There may be good reasons that you’re unaware of, or maybe it is just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Listen carefully – their answers may lead to further questions, problems or solutions that you hadn’t considered.

  1. Prioritize Your Ideas

Perhaps you have a whole list of ideas that you’d like to implement. If so, it’s important to pick your battles. Being passionate about change is admirable, but rattling off new ideas every day will see people start to tune out, and your best ideas may get lost among the lesser ones.

For maximum impact, pick the ones that are most relevant and likely to succeed. Choose wisely; take time for self-reflection and factor in some personal brainstorming.

  1. Gather Allies

If you’re planning to challenge long-standing attitudes or processes, it can help to have people on your side!

Multiple perspectives can help creativity to blossom. You won’t be the only person in the office with ideas, and you might inspire others to speak up with theirs. You’ll gather allies who can support you if you meet resistance, either face-on or behind your back.

Remember, collaboration is the key to success, so it’s important to put your ego aside.

  1. Perfect Your Pitch

There’s a fine line between firm reasoning and antagonism, and change is a scary and therefore touchy subject for some people. If you’re too forceful, you risk people shutting off, and perhaps shutting down your idea before you even had the chance to sell it to them. Be sensitive to other people’s points of view. Listen to what they have to say and be clear about what’s at risk and what will be improved by your idea.

Keep your pitch short and snappy, and leave plenty of time for discussion and questions. Be sure to choose the right moment too.

  1. Keep Calm and Persevere

If you don’t succeed straight away, don’t let exhaustion, anger or stress get the better of you. It’s important not to let failures get you down. Learn from the experience and focus on turning negative emotions around. Some ideas can take a while to come to fruition.

Have you ever challenged the status quo? How did you approach it? What was the outcome? Would you do anything differently next time?

Source: Mindtools, Faye Bradshaw April 2019