My husband, Matt, commutes nearly 60 miles – one way. He’s driving nearly 120 miles round trip just to be in the office, so you better believe he is doing everything possible to really maximize his time while he is there. So for you returning to the office, you may not have to commute 120 miles, but there is time, money, and energy that has to go into going back to the office. Now, these things may not be any different than they were before, but you’ve spent the past few years getting a taste of what it’s like to not have to do those things, right?
You might have to get up earlier, actually take a shower, do your hair, pick out real clothes to wear, pack a lunch, spend money for fuel or public transportation, then actually spend time on the commute, maybe even time to make other childcare arrangements. I mean, the list can go on and on. So if you’re going to be doing these things, if you’re going to be expending these resources, you better take advantage and maximize your time in the office.
Today I’m addressing you as a leader, the four things that you should be doing, the specific actions you should be taking to really maximize your time in the office. Number one is schedule your weekly, or whatever cadence you have, one-on-one meetings for when both you and your direct report are in the office together, assuming that your direct report isn’t a permanent remote worker. The one-on-one meetings, they really are meant to be intimate. And while there’s certainly a level of intimacy over a virtual call when it’s just the two of you, there is absolutely more intimacy by being physically energized in the same room together.
That conversation can be about engagement, about development, progress, even just projects. So use the time, and schedule the one-on-one’s when you know both you and your direct report will be in the office. The second thing I want you to schedule are your team meetings. So if it’s required, certainly this is easier, but if not, I would be making a request that your team is all in the office on the same day, every week, or at the very least once per month, and schedule the team meeting during the time when everybody is there in person.
This really provides the energy that’s needed for creativity, collaboration, and culture – the three C’s of what makes the office life easier. By physically bringing everyone together in one space, you’re going to create that environment. In addition, now you’ve created the opportunity for impromptu conversations to happen while they’re going to and from the meetings; or just the fact that everyone’s in the office, they have more of a chance to run into each other versus needing to schedule the virtual meetings.
So schedule team meetings, try to get everyone in on the same day so you can do so. The third thing that I want you to do is to schedule coffee chats and lunch meetings. Here’s why – you need to continue your career trajectory. And in order to do that, you’ve got to either expand or strengthen your network. And this is the best way to do it, in person. So schedule coffee and lunch meetings with either your peers across departments, across teams, your manager, even potentially your manager’s peers, depending on the relationship. But this is the perfect time when you are in person, to really strengthen and expand your network in order to support your career growth.
Finally, number four: I highly, highly encourage you to leave personal matters out of the office. Especially if you are hybrid; if you are hybrid, leave the personal stuff for the days where you are working from home and you get some time back, where you don’t have to commute, you don’t have to do all the prep that we talked about. But when you’re in the office, it is such a great way for you to stay focused.
Look, work from home and the situation we’ve been in in the past few years has created these situations sometimes with no boundaries, right? Everything seems so blended, work and life. Use the time in the office so that you can actually create those boundaries physically, so leave the personal stuff outside as much as possible. All right, leaders, you have your four action items of what to do to really maximize your time for yourself and your team when you’re in the office!
What you most likely know, but just in case, is that I am a self-proclaimed group exercise junkie! I mean, I only do group exercise – unless I’m in a situation traveling where I’ve got to work out alone. But even then, I’m looking for classes. I have primarily been focused for two decades on cardio, and I still do my cardio three or four days a week, and I love it. But in recent years, I’ve gone back to integrating strength training; working on muscle building, and I consistently do that every week, three days a week.
And it feels so good! It’s also promoting healthier bones and longevity, I love it. And it got me thinking about the other kind of muscle, outside of the major muscles in our body, the other muscle that I continue to work on and I invite you to join me working on – which is your leadership muscle. I thought it would be fun today to talk about three exercises that you could be doing to build your leadership muscle. Number one is you should be reading or listening on a consistent basis, one to five days a week, to some kind of content that is centered around promoting leadership skills. That could be something in communication, in emotional intelligence, employee development, whatever it is. But you’ve got to be digesting that on a consistent basis, even if it’s small chunks.
For example, when I was in my corporate position I subscribed to a weekly leadership newsletter, and then I would follow one or two leaders online. Within the skill sets I knew I wanted to continue to work on, emotional intelligence being a big one. Really simple, just one day a week I would make sure that I was reading a quick article or listening to a podcast or an audiobook. Something really simple but done consistently, week over week. Then the second exercise you should be doing is to up that game and at least once per year, you should be investing in formal training.
The reading and listening on a weekly basis is very much receiving the information. When you invest in training, where you’re attending something live, whether it’s virtual or in person, there is a workshop collaboration and reflection component that takes your training to a whole nother level than just passively digesting information on a weekly basis. So it’s funny, I text my husband Matt, because he is in real estate and he has to go through formal training every four years in total, but it’s roughly 10 hours a year of training in order to maintain his real estate license. Why don’t leaders do the same thing?!
You are working with people, so you should be treating your leadership title and responsibilities as if it is a license; a certificate that you’ve got to renew year after year. So you need to be investing in training. You can either do that investment out of your own pocket, or I highly suggest going to your organization to ask for those funds. And organizations, you should be supplying that training. A digital library is one step, but you should be promoting live training at least once per year for your leaders – for retention of not only that leader, but your employees and for their development.
The third thing that I would offer to exercise your leadership muscle is to remain curious. Just simply remain curious everywhere you go, whether that’s remaining curious about new leadership strategies, techniques, skills, or remaining curious in your conversations with your direct reports instead of always giving advice, listen to what they’re saying. Remaining curious when you’re speaking with your peers or upper management, coming in with less about always needing to prove your knowledge and what you know and more about what could you learn in this conversation and this situation.
We were just training on this recently with a group of executive women during our Five Star Leadership Workshop. And the value of remaining curious is so high that it will not only affect the leader and the employee, but it will also change the organization. So those are your three exercises that I encourage you to do to really strengthen those leadership muscles. What exercises are you doing today? Post those in the comments below!
After spending several days with a group of executive women, I walked away with this weird energy that was coming from them. Some people felt anxious, some were frustrated, other women just had downright animosity – and it was all centered around the same thing. Returning to the office. Look, we have to acknowledge that for nearly three years, people have become accustomed to and created new routines around working from home.
They have more time back in their day because they’re not commuting five days a week, they have some more flexibility where they can maybe integrate household chores or just see their family more often. So to then be shifting in this abrupt way, in many cases, it is challenging. We are asking people to recreate, re-establish a different set of routines, and it may be something they just aren’t comfortable with, and have really liked their current routine.
Now, look, there is absolutely a case for organizations to bring people back into the office; not necessarily full-time, five days a week like it was in the past, but absolutely to bring people together. So what can you as a leader and an organization do to get your employees back on board with coming into the office?
It’s simple – people. What people are missing most is the social connection. By nature, human beings need social connection, and that’s what they are missing most. Harvard Business Review put out this statement, and I love this quote. It is, “The value of the office is in the people, not the place.”
So if you want people to be less resistant, or even excited to come back into the office, you have to create an environment that promotes social connection. Simple things are trying to get as many people in the office on one team on the same date, and that’s when you have your team meetings in person. Or you bring in lunch, or you invite people to go to coffee. What else, in a broader sense, could you be doing to promote networking and social connection?
It may even just be educating your current employees on how they themselves can set up time, intentional time, when they’re in the office. So if you want to create a spirit, an energy, to get your team, your employees on board with coming back in the office, it’s got to be centered around what they miss most – social connection. Find ways that you can leverage that to bring them back into the office. What are you going to do today? Put that in the comments below, we’d love to hear your ideas to share out with the community!
I was invited to speak at a human resources conference, and I noticed this one theme that really kept popping up – it was about offering mental health resources to employees. Now interestingly enough, the CDC found that employees at risk for depression had the highest healthcare costs. Even when you took risks such as smoking and obesity into consideration, depression still was the highest.
So it absolutely makes sense that organizations would be offering these mental health resources. However, things such as sleep improvement programs, training on meditation, yoga, all of those things, those alone are not enough to cure the underlying factor – which is burnout. These things just absolutely alone will miss the mark. In fact, we can argue that those types of strategies are often offered as a reactive strategy, after somebody is already in that state of burnout.
So, I want to talk with you today about how to be proactive as an organization and a leader, and what the three things are that you can do to proactively, in conjunction with these mental health resources, really activate so that you are mitigating that burnout as best as possible. Number one, employees need to be paid fairly. Are you consistently reviewing your compensation plan, or is it something that’s been set decades ago? Are you actively reviewing that? Are you looking at the increased skill set, how your current employees are growing, and are you matching their compensation fairly?
When employees know that they’re being paid at least fairly, that’s the foundation. We’ve got to at least hit that. If we haven’t, we are absolutely going to lose those employees. Not just to burnout, but just a loss of retention overall. So that’s the first step you as a leader and your organization need to do, is to regularly review the compensation structure.
Number two is you’ve got to have great managers! There is such a high variance as to whether or not people feel engaged and or stay at companies simply because of the manager. So you need to be training managers on a regular basis, and you need to be quickly getting rid of bad managers. Number three, we’ve got to have realistic workloads. It is, we are no longer in a state of emergency for most organizations; people are tired of saying, “All hands on deck, we’ve just got to be all in! It’s only going to be a short period of time.”
If you’re not familiar with one thing, one culprit of these unmanageable workloads which are called NPTs, I recommend that you check out one of my recent videos on NPTs. It’s a great way to really go in and tackle, to make sure that we’ve got manageable workloads. As organizations and leaders, if you can hit these three things in conjunction with mental health resources, you are going to be more successful at mitigating burnout and retaining that top talent!
I am in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I’ve never been to Wisconsin before. Admittedly, it was not easy to get here, but it is absolutely beautiful! The people here are lovely. My Uber driver was telling me all these great spots that I could eat, and I’m thinking, “I’ll be lucky if I see more than the hotel and the convention center.” But nevertheless, I’m thrilled to be here.
This is my fourth conference in six weeks geared toward women in leadership, and this has just been a phenomenal experience. I have to tell you, this conference has to be sold out; I mean, this morning in the main session, there were women still looking for chairs even as the initial session started. And then in my session alone, it was standing room only; there was a line out the door, they had to bring chairs in, women were still standing against the walls. And I share that with you because I was presenting on the “and” life – how to have that powerful career and extraordinary personal life.
And so I am so grateful I had an opportunity to share the strategies about the “and” life, to help retain those women in their workplaces and provide them tools so they can thrive. But more importantly, afterward when I had a chance to speak with so many of them, they shared the impact that being at this conference in person has had on them; that not only hearing my stories, but being able to share stories with each other. We talk a lot at The Corporate Refinery about offering training, and if you are not investing in getting your emerging leaders, your executive women, your high potential leaders across the board, if you are not investing in getting them into developmental conferences such as this, you are missing the boat.
It shows them that you care about their growth and development, which in turn allows them to be more connected to your organization and to your team. But also, so many of the women were sharing what they were going to bring back to their company. So it has that trickle-down effect. I just wanted to remind you, especially as we are coming out of COVID and being able to be back in person, the absolute power of attending conferences like this. So organizations, leaders, find ways that you can support your employees and give them, provide them these opportunities for the development and mental growth.
So much power for the individual, the organization, and the team. Message me, I’d love to hear what is coming up on your development agenda. This is what we are focused on. We here are forging new paradigms for women and what leadership means in today’s world, and I’d love to hear from you!
Yes, it’s true. Today is my birthday! And I don’t share this with you because I’m asking for anything quite yet, as I am a very low-key birthday person. I have family members who celebrate their birthday for the entire month and friends who celebrate for a week – you may do the same. I am super low-key though; when my family asks what I want, I am “no gifts” because I do not like stuff, I’m very much a minimalist. I like to have dinner, let’s invite my parents and my mother-in-law over, very low-key on my birthday.
However, this year, because it is falling on a Thursday, I do have an ask as a birthday gift for me – but really, it’s a gift for your employees. Today, on my birthday, I am asking that you go to each one of your direct reports and you create an experience that makes them feel like today is their birthday. And I have three specific questions I want you to ask in this very kind of intimate, sincere, personal conversation. This should not be done as a passing conversation, as a casual thing at the end of a check-in.
I want you to intentionally set up, even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes, be intentional and ask these three specific questions: number one, how are they feeling? Be sincere about this, legitimately, how are they feeling right now? And just be there to listen to them as much as they want to share. One of the tricks that we use in our employee development process is to ask how they’re rating or how they’re feeling on a scale of 1 to 10. So if that feels more comfortable for you, go for that. But just ask how they’re feeling.
Number two, ask what they are most excited about right now. Now, it may be something professional, it may be something personal, but allow them to have this kind of celebratory birthday feeling, by letting them share what they’re most excited about. And number three, ask how you as their leader could support them today. That might be support specifically right now on a project, it might be support for development in the future. But how can you, as their leader, support them? That is my birthday ask, my birthday wish is for you to go pay it forward, create a birthday celebration and feeling for your employees, and go have a genuine, honest conversation today. I thank you sincerely for doing so!