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:

Think Outside-In.

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.

Reset Yourself. 

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.

Because we’re always here when you need us.

Sally Williamson

The Wingman

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As a leader, your brand, style, message of the company, and the company itself are intertwined. SW&A coaches many leaders and considers themselves the “wingman” for people in leadership positions.

On this episode of What’s Your Story?, Sally talks with instructors Francie Schulwolf and Lia Panayotidis about their experience as The Wingman.

More About Our Guests

Francie Schulwolf: Francie’s focus is on developing strong, confident communicators. With close to twenty-five years of global, corporate experience in advertising, marketing and communications, she is intimately familiar with the demands executives face. This understanding, along with her honest and warm style, create a safe and comfortable environment for individuals to learn and grow.

Lia Panayotidis: As a lead instructor for our style programs, Lia focuses on raising awareness of individual brands and working with people to strengthen personal presence. She creates an insightful learning environment in each program and can make the most vulnerable discussions a little easier. She approaches each program with a natural joy of connection and fifteen years of diverse experience in training and development

Show Highlights:

  • As a leader, your brand, style, message of the company, and the company itself are intertwined.
  • Sally Williams and Associates coach several leaders and consider themselves the “wingman” for people in leadership positions.
    • Wingman means the person behind the leader who is focused on that individual to become successful.
  • Sally has spent several years speaking in front of groups and now uses the tools she learned in leadership and visible roles to help others.
  • Coaching is about observing others.
    • There is more joy in watching someone else succeed.
  • What is the role of communications as an influencer?
    • Having the ability to get people to deliver on a message they can get behind.
    • Understand every CEO has a different approach and skill set.
    • Being the voice behind the curtain that makes everybody sound really good.
    • Understand how to separate content from style components.
    • Practice and teach others how to become self-aware and develop self-confidence.
  • Coaching is all about connections and getting leaders to the next level.
  • What is done with the content collected?
    • SWA talks about celebrations and people.
    • SWA learns from each new leader they work with.
  • Coaches are trying to figure out what is going on and how to get their leaders/clients to that next place.
    • They work toward figuring out how to help them discover their voice and how to get them there.
  • What is frustrating as a coach?
    • Coming into a session and encountering apprehension from the beginning and an unwillingness to be open. When clients have their guards up from the start.
    • Seeing the potential that the coach knows is there and they are matched with resistance.
    • Clients who don’t realize the value of feedback.
    • Leaders who refuse to watch themselves on stage to learn.
  • What makes a great coach?
    • Chemistry.
    • Connection.
    • Relationship.
    • Creating a safe zone where clients can try new things.
    • Coaches who are still learning.
  • The clients that are remembered are the ones that really made a difference during the training.
  • The ones who grew a lot not.
  • Leadership is about:
    • learning what is happening in the room
    • Embracing the intent is behind what they are doing
    • Discovering how the listener is doing
  • Coaching is taking the love of people and development and putting it together.
  • How do you coach mastery?
    • You give them the tools and show them how to master it.
    • Encourage clients to be intentional about practicing.
    • Realize that each person’s goals are different and embrace it.
    • Ask the clients:
      • What do you want for yourself?
      • What do you see for yourself?
    • Success is gauged by audience response.
    • Helping clients realize it comes down to their own desire to master it.

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!