BEYOND LIMBO – How to Reset 2020 for Your Team
Limbo… it’s an uncertain period of time waiting on a resolution. And while our experiences over the last 90 days have been different, overwhelming, emotional, defining, and exhausting, I think we would all agree, it’s also been a state of limbo.
We’ve made the best of it. We shifted to new formats, and we navigated a new normal. But we’ve been thinking about it as a transition period and something we would leave behind soon. And for most people, that’s begun to happen. Many people have gotten a haircut or a manicure. They’ve been to a restaurant or a store. They’ve increased their circle to include friends and extended family. Our life seems to be resetting. It’s modified. It’s still full of uncertainty and caution, but it’s coming back.
The one area that may still seem in limbo is work. Some people are back in offices. My team has returned, and it brings back a sense of normalcy and ease of collaborating. But for a lot of corporate employees, the formula just doesn’t work. The guidelines for social distancing don’t fit the corporate footprint.
Companies are trying different formulas. Employees come in on different days; departments set different schedules. Other companies have said they will stay home until there is a vaccine. Regardless, work isn’t resetting easily, and as other parts of our lives fall into place, employees may still feel like they’re waiting for a resolution for their work setting.
Leaders need to reset their teams to move beyond limbo. And communication is the best way to do that.
The reset message needs to feel different than what they’ve been hearing for 90 days. Most groups have been in “survival mode.” Companies have laid off employees or reduced employee hours. None of those messages have been easy, and most of them focus on what’s happening today. Leaders are exhausted and managing through a week by week view of things. Teams are behind in forecasting the rest of 2020, and leaders are late in getting a clear view of what’s ahead. But it’s time.
It’s time to talk about what is certain and what is not, and it’s time to instill a more forward-looking view into an organization. Employees need a reset and a look ahead in order to move beyond limbo and feel a sense of security and confidence. Some leaders do this at the midpoint of any year; all leaders have to communicate this at the midpoint of this year.
Here are some thoughts on how to reset your message:
Leaders have been very internally focused with their communication. And for good reason! They are making a lot of decisions about the current state of companies. But now it’s time to use the midyear communication to shift that focus. Talk about customers and clients.
Your customers instill confidence in a way that nothing else can. Even if their news isn’t good news, it answers uncertainty. When things begin to make sense and pieces fit together, everyone can move forward.
Connect the Year.
Connect your message back to the start of the year. Companies started 2020 with goals and expectations. And in fact, most companies started the year quite well. A lot has changed. But not everything has changed. When you connect what you’re doing now with what you set out to do, employees hear consistencies and begin to see that some things are on track. That builds hope and confidence. They’ve lived the differences, so they need less about how hard it’s been and more about where it’s going.
Adjust Goals, not Expectations.
Redefine success and adjust the 2020 goals to something employees can reach the second half of the year. We lived with a “shelter in place” concept that was imposed on us. It felt safe, but it felt out of our control. Everyone would like some control back.
It’s important for company goals, but it’s also important for the mental health of your team to feel there are expectations and adjusted goals that they can achieve. Give employees a reason to get up and turn on their laptop every day.
Make it Personal.
Many leaders have done this effectively throughout the whole process. Others just simply haven’t had the time. Personal touch will be the piece that helps employees feel the most connected. When you reset the year, commit some of your time to this as well.
Plan online lunches or afternoon breaks. Meet with team members in very small groups….no more than five virtually. Turn off the videos and make a few calls just audio. Invite a group to walk with you in their own neighborhood as you sort through a topic or simply connect with each other.
It’s harder virtually, and it takes more effort. But it’s worth the effort. The big decisions that impact the second half of the year are now in focus. The best use of a leader’s time now is to inspire employees around that focus with a sense of hope, accomplishment and even joy.
Nothing about the last few months has been easy. As a leader, you must be exhausted. No one can get beyond limbo if they don’t feel they have a fresh start. So, take the time to replenish your own energy. A week away sounds good to me!
Then, invest the time to create the right message to move your team beyond limbo.
It may be harder than it’s been before. And it may be more challenging to bring clarity or conviction to your thoughts. But that’s leadership. The ability to see ahead of a team and instill the energy and inspiration that employees need to get beyond limbo.
It’s an important message, and you need to do it well. And if you’d like a little help thinking it through, I hope you’ll call us.