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)

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

Optimism: Your Secret Weapon in 2020!

 

As an optimist myself, I know first-hand the power of optimism and the benefits it has on all areas of life.

Highly effective, optimistic leaders have a transforming effect on their teams: they have the gift of being able to convince others that they can achieve levels of performance beyond what they thought possible. They move others from being stuck with “how things are done around here” and help them see “how things could be done better.”

Consider, as well, the reverse. Those who have a pessimistic outlook typically approach changes to the status quo with the familiar: “We tried this before”, “It won’t work”, or “It will never fly.” Such individuals often label themselves as “devil’s advocate.” How can someone who has a pessimistic outlook embrace change over the safety of the known?

Countless studies have shown that people with an optimistic outlook have healthier relationships, enjoy better mental and physical health and live longer.

So, where does optimism come from? Is it something we are born with or is it learned? For some lucky individuals, like me, being optimistic comes naturally. The good news is that, for those who don’t have it naturally, optimism is an attitude that can be learned and practiced. Here are some strategies to consider in your journey to becoming more optimistic or in helping someone else who suffers from pessimism:

  1. Avoid negative environments. If this is not realistic, make every effort to seek the company of positive individuals in your organization.
  2. Celebrate your strengths. The key to high achievement and happiness is to play out your strengths, not correct your weaknesses. Focus on what you do well.
  3. Take care of your spiritual and emotional well-being by reading inspirational material on a daily basis.
  4. Manage or ignore what you cannot change. When faced with setbacks, identify what you can change and proactively try to find ways to do something about it.
  5. Learn to reframe. This involved deliberately shifting perspective and looking for the hidden positive in a negative situation: the proverbial silver lining.
  6. Adapt your language and outlook. Consider how a simple shift in the language you use can make a difference in your outlook: do you frequently say: “yes, but….” in response to your constituents’ suggestions? The “but” automatically negates anything you have said in the beginning part of the sentence. A simple shift to “yes, and…” might make a positive difference.
  7. Focus outside yourself, on important people in your life, on pursuits and projects that fire you up.
  8. Nurture a culture of optimism when you are in charge of other people at work. Expect people to succeed. Even when they occasionally fail to achieve what they set out to do, encourage them so that they can tackle the next challenge. A simple: “I know you’ll do better the next time” can have very positive effects.
  9. Cultivate spontaneity. Getting out of your comfort zone by being spontaneous helps to develop your optimistic muscle, as spontaneity essentially involves an expectation of having a positive experience.

You can do it! Make this part of your growth plan for 2020 and see how contagious your optimism can be! Practice seeing the opportunity.

I would enjoy hearing your stories – connect with us on LinkedIn or email me at robyn.marcotte@ahaleadership.com

Robyn Marcotte

CEO and Founder, Aha! Leadership

Winston Churchill had a reason for saying: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Giving Thanks Will Make You a Better Leader

For many people, “thanks-giving” is a tradition that happens around the dinner table once a year. But research suggests that leaders should encourage gratitude in the workplace year-round.

The Science of Gratitude:  Gratitude can be defined as a positive emotion felt after receiving something valuable. And science has shown that people who are grateful feel happier. They have an improved sense of well-being, higher self-esteem, experience less depression and anxiety, and they also sleep better.

The Gratitude Gap in the Workplace:  Despite its compelling benefits, expressing gratitude doesn’t always happen at work. A recent Glassdoor survey found that 80% of employees say they would be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss.

So why is there a gratitude gap in the workplace? Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant believes it’s because people don’t like to admit they need help at work, and many believe thanking someone means admitting you couldn’t do it all on your own.

How to Be More Grateful

Ready to reap gratitude’s many benefits? Luckily, you don’t need any fancy tools or advanced degrees. Here are 3 simple exercises that have been scientifically proven to boost your gratitude levels.

  1. Send a note expressing your gratitude. Writing a letter thanking someone for the positive impact he or she has had in your life is a great way to boost your gratitude. Or, send a text, if you prefer. Take out your phone right now (if it’s not out already), and send a simple text to someone you’re grateful to have in your life and let them know that you are thinking of them.
  2. Keep a gratitude journal – or even just a list. Keeping a journal of people and things for which you’re grateful can increase your feelings of gratitude. If you’re not the journaling type, don’t worry; making a short list works, too. Just jot down 3 things you’re grateful for on a Post-It note. Stick it somewhere you’ll see it often, and refresh it weekly.
  3. Take time for reflection. Simply reflecting on the many aspects of your job — large and small — for which you’re grateful can boost gratitude levels. These might include supportive work relationships, sacrifices or contributions that others have made for you, advantages or opportunities, or gratitude for the opportunity to have your job in general. Going on a short “gratitude walk” is a great way to take time out for this reflection.

 How to Increase Gratitude in the Workplace

  1. Offer thank-you cards. During his tenure at Campbell Soup, then-CEO Doug Conant wrote 30,000 handwritten thank-you notes to his employees. This practice, along with others, has been credited with how he created a culture of gratitude and turned around a struggling company. Do 30,000 letters seem daunting? Take a page out of Mark Zuckerberg’s playbook and aim for just one a day. To encourage others to do the same, emulate Starbucks and offer unlimited company thank-you cards for employees to use.
  2. Make a gratitude wall. Create a designated space for employees to share shout-outs and words of thanks. This can be a wall, a whiteboard, a flip chart in a common area…be creative! A public, anonymous display of gratitude is a great way to introduce gratitude into the workplace culture and keep employees feeling appreciated.
  3. Start meetings with gratitude. A simple way to cultivate gratitude at work is to begin meetings by sharing a short statement of appreciation (remember the difference this made in the fundraising center study!). Or, if you want to take this approach to the next level, try having everyone in the meeting share one thing they’re grateful for — it makes a great icebreaker.
  4. When things go wrong, count your blessings. It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well. But gratitude can have an even bigger impact if you’re going through a rough patch. So, next time something goes wrong at work, see if you can find the silver lining. What did you learn from the experience? What opportunity did it offer you? Share these insights with your team. Being able to be truly grateful during times of challenge and change is a great way to stop negative rumination spirals and get people motivated and energized.
  5. Be grateful for people, not performance. Sometimes, gratitude initiatives can feel like old recognition programs warmed over. To avoid this feeling, focus on social worth and think about how people have made a difference. Give thanks for people’s willingness, enthusiasm, commitment, or efforts — not their impact on the bottom line.
  6. Customize your thanks-giving. Practicing gratitude requires thinking about how specific people like to be thanked, and tailoring your gratitude accordingly. Thanking a very shy person at the global quarterly meeting might come across more like punishment than recognition.
  7. Be specific in your gratitude. Saying “thanks for being awesome” doesn’t have the same impact as “thank you for always getting to meetings 5 minutes early to set up the projector; I know that our meetings wouldn’t go as well if we didn’t have you.
  8. Don’t fake it. Authenticity and vulnerability are key parts of gratitude. If you can’t think of anything you’re truly grateful for, don’t try to fake it. Most people can tell when thanks isn’t heartfelt, and fake gratitude is probably worse than none at all.

Lastly, research shows that whether you’re an absolute novice or gratitude guru, everyone can reap the positive benefits of giving and receiving thanks. So, get out there and start encouraging more gratitude in the workplace!

Article Excerpt from the Center of Creative Leadership 2019