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

What is this Discomfort? 5 Stages of Grief and How to Handle It

Grief.  Naming our thoughts and feelings are arguably the first important step in managing them. David Kessler, an expert on grief, and the founder of grief.com has a lot to say about what we all may be experiencing right now.

The world has changed, and we know its temporary, although it doesn’t feel that way. We know things will be different. We fear the loss of normalcy, the economic toll, and loss of connection. It’s all hitting us, and we are collectively grieving. We may be feeling something called anticipatory grief.

Anticipatory grief is when we don’t know what the future holds. We know a storm is coming, but we don’t know how or when. This grief is confusing because it breaks our sense of safety. This is a common feeling in individuals or groups, but now, we are all collectively feeling it.

Understanding the stages of grief is a good place to start when learning how to manage it. The stages are not linear and don’t always happen in this order.

  • There’s denial, when we think the virus won’t affect us.
  • Then anger, where we may feel upset about our lost jobs and freedoms.
  • There’s bargaining, where we rationalize if we isolate for a short time, everything will return back to normal.
  • There’s also sadness, where we may experience intense feelings regarding the unknown ending of the virus.
  • Finally, there’s acceptance, where we recognize this is happening, and figure out how to adapt.

Acceptance is where the power lies, and we begin to focus on what we can control. Anticipatory grief takes our minds out of the present and into the imagination of the worst-case scenario. We need to learn how to find balance in the things we are thinking of and let go of what we cannot control. The goal is not to ignore our feelings, but to regain control over them.

It’s important we acknowledge what we are going through. We sometimes miss the mark and tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can, and should, stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.

Repurposed from HBR.org, Scott Berinato

How to Teach Decision-Making to Your Team

As a leader your team must understand what you want to be done – it is just as important for them to understand why you’re making the decision you are, which means occasionally having ‘why’ chats about the decisions that are being made.

Your role as a leader is to develop the team to be able to tackle new and more challenging work, which means you don’t want them to know just what you expect of them but also the why you’re making the decisions you are so that they can learn how to think about the work, not just what to think about the work. 

Practice sharing how to think about the work. The goal is to develop each member of your team to be able to make similar decisions when the context changes. If you teach them what to do, you’re only teaching them something very contextual. In this specific circumstance, here’s the decision you should make. However, when you teach them how you think about it and why you’re making the decisions you are, you’re equipping them to be able to make decisions for themselves in other circumstances when the context is changed.

Action Steps – How to walk others through your thought process on a key decision.

  1. Frame up the decision that needs to be made.
  2. Share which variables you considered.
  3. Talk through the key reasons that made the decision you made. The key is explaining how and why each variable is critical in this situation.

Ultimately your goal is to teach your team how to think vs. tell them what to do. This takes time and the payback is magical!

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together” – African Proverb

Better Quality Sleep = Better Leader

What do Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have in common?  Beyond being some of the most well-known country and business leaders, they share the belief that adequate rest and sleep is vital to being able to lead and perform their best.   

Sleep positively impacts our human capacities that are most important for leadership effectiveness:

  • creative problem-solving,
  • interpersonal savvy,
  • sound decision-making,
  • self-awareness, making connections and inferences
  • and higher energy and lower stress

Bottom line…well-rested leaders have better cognitive functions. Who wouldn’t want to work with a leader like that?

Unfortunately, 42% of leaders get fewer than 6 hours of shut-eye a night versus the recommended minimum of 7-8 for optimal repair and performance according to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership.

Organizations need leaders with the skills and capacities to engage others, steer through challenges and manage change and complexity—which is why they provide development opportunities, training, and career experiences.  But for leaders to be high performers, on top of their game, and functioning at their very best—consistently—they need sleep, too.  Click here for ways to improve your sleep from wellness expert, Andrea Cassell.

Need a mask? We can help! We teamed up with our local church to supply masks to assisted living homes and elderly care facilities. To date, this team has supplied over 2500 masks to those in need. We also care about you and your family, so if you need masks, please let us know – We are happy to help. We are in this together! Email us at aha@ahaleadership.com

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

5 Strategies for Adapting to Change

We have been forced to change the way we live and work. Most of us are working remotely and spending more time together than we ever imagined with those who share our home. We cannot avoid this change (crisis) in our lives. Our government has mandated “social-distancing” and implemented numerous Executive Orders to shelter in place. 

While not everyone has been impacted by a tragic loss of life to COVID-19, everyone is experiencing some level of loss right now. 

Perhaps it is the loss of income or your job. Perhaps your child may be missing out on the final days of their senior year in high school or college. You may be feeling the loss of quality time with important people in your life or missing anticipated events like a wedding or graduation. Big or small, these losses can feel overwhelming. 

How are you adapting to the changes (losses) in your life?

We cannot avoid unexpected events or crises, but we can use these moments to challenge ourselves to grow.  Stepping outside of your comfort zone is where the “magic” happens…where you stretch yourself and achieve something you never thought possible!  

Here are 5 ways to help you adapt:

1. Change Your Mindset – The Choice is Yours! 

We cannot control the events of change in our life, but we can control how we react to the impact that these events have on our lives. The more you use your power of choice and the more you focus your mindset on positively adapting to change, the more resilient you will be to dealing with the impact that change will bring to your life.

2. Find Your Purpose

Take time each day to plan for tomorrow. What three things will you accomplish? Define your purpose. Purpose and meaning in life give you the courage to step out of your comfort zone – which is where you will find incredible opportunities for growth and improvement.

3. Let Go 

Let go of your missed opportunities and regret things you did or did not do. You cannot change the past.  All you can do is change the future.   A simple exercise to deal with regrets is to write each one on a piece of paper. 

Then, burn them. As they disappear into ashes, out loud say goodbye to them. It is a very simple but effective way of dealing with the pile of regrets that you have collected in your lives. Use those ashes as fertilizer for a new plant or flower and watch how your past lessons can grow into something beautiful.

4. Face Your Fears

Change is scary and it is all about stepping out of your comfort zone into the unknown. Train your mind to do the things that scare you by getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Make a list of scary things that you would like to do but have been too afraid to try them. Put a plan in place and then go do them! (Refer to #2)

5. Focus on Balance and Health

When you live a balanced and healthy life, you improve your resilience to the disruptions in your life. Find positive ways to deal with the stress you face each day. The key is that you commit to activities that enable you to be resilient, optimistic, physically and mentally fit to successful work through the impact that change can bring to your life.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Benard Shaw

Sourced from an article: Adapting to Change: Why It Matters and How to Do It by Kathryn Sandford)

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.   

Two Mood-Changing Actions

The way we feel can be triggered by outside events.

And that can change how we act.

And the way we act can reinforce how we feel.

Of course, the opposite is true as well, and far more in our active control.

How we act always changes how we feel.

Two mood-changing actions:

1. This is a perfect moment for upskilling. For a sprint in learning something difficult to learn. Not because a teacher or a leader made us do it, but because we chose to. Not only do we get to keep that skill forever, but the act of taking control and expending the effort will change our mood.

  • My upskilling focus?  Continuing to add skills and practice conducting activities for our interactive virtual learning experience sessions. 

2. And this is the perfect moment for generous connection. Going way beyond the news of the day, we have the chance to create intimate digital interactions that last.

  • How are we creating connection at Aha! Leadership remotely?  We are holding virtual coffee breaks.   We are designating 20 minutes for casual conversation via video chat.  We are celebrating wins, exchanging personal updates and even sharing a funny meme or two.  It provides us the positive connection people crave. 
  • Who says you can’t have cake with coffee?  Our intern turned 20 years old this week and here is a picture of us celebrating with her virtually…pajamas and all!  While it may not be her ideal way to celebrate her new decade, I am sure it will be one she will retell fondly for years to come.  A little coordination with a family member for the surprise went a long way!

It’s a significant posture shift, one which might change who you see when you look in the mirror.

We might not be able to do anything about external events, but we have control over our actions. Sometimes, it’s hard to stare right into that opportunity, because it comes with a lot of responsibility.

As leaders of our teams, our families, people are watching….what can we model?  What will you learn today? Who will you teach?

Warmly, 

Judy Rathwell, Project Manager-Aha! Leadership

Excerpt from Seth Godin Blog  3.23.20

16 Tips for Effective Videoconferencing

As we acknowledge our ‘new normal’ for engaging in business, including working remotely, we want to help make your online meetings meaningful and productive with these tips for video conferencing.

1. Computer positioning. Position your computer back a little to create a shoulder/headshot view vs. face only, so everyone does not feel on top of each other.
2. Prop to eye level.  Prop your computer webcam up to eye level.  Try using a ream of paper under your laptop to position it up for web calls.
3. Turn on your video camera.  Humanize the meeting by turning on your camera so people can see you – and set the standard for others to do the same.  We are social creatures and this aids connection. 
4. Use a headset.  Use an external microphone or headset to eliminate background noise.
5. Hit mute.  When you’re not talking, hit mute.
6. Unclutter your background….position it for a less cluttered background.  Some services even allow you to blur your background.
7. Momentarily unshare if… you need to walk away, let the team know and unshare your screen for a moment.
8. Add a professional picture to your webinar profile, so if you are unable to share your screen, people can still see your smiling face.
9. Don’t sit with the window behind you. The glare is blinding for others.  A little effort on lighting goes a very long way.
10. Look at the camera.  When you’re talking, spend some time looking at the camera, not the screen. You’ll appear more earnest and honest this way.
11. When you’re talking, go slow. To ensure understanding while using this new medium for many.
12. Don’t walk if you’re using a phone. And if you’re using a laptop, put it on a desk/table and prop it to be eye level vs. on your lap. 
13. Organize yourself and materials before the meeting if you are hosting.  Have all your documents open that you will be sharing during the meeting so you can share your screen vs. scrolling through your computer folders while on the call.
14. Assign a partner to aid you as the meeting host. They can help with follow-up or aid people with technical issues or manage the webinar chat box so that it does not derail the rest of the participants.
15. Have an email/cell phone list of participants available if you need to email or provide information while on the call.
16. …and remember to SMILE!  It uplifts you and all during this social distancing time in our lives.

For many, working remotely is new and for others, it is not.  We all need to practice patience and empathy as we learn this ‘new normal’ together.

People want to connect and have a conversation. They don’t want to be talked to.  So remember to slow down, engage and talk with people. Connecting as human beings will add more value than making sure you get through all of your content.   

We, at Aha! Leadership, have been working remotely and conducting training in a webinar format for 10 years.  If we can help answer any questions or just want to pick our brain, please reach out to us.  We would be happy to be there for you!   

Sincerely,
 
Robyn Marcotte
Founder and CEO, Aha!  Leadership
Robyn.marcotte@ahaleadership.com

“The human has been working from home the last couple of days and every so often, they let me participate in the video calls.  All the other humans cheer when they see me.  I am the only thing holding their company together.”  — Dogs everywhere