Letting it Out in the Time of Staying In

You ever try to hold your breath underwater for as long as you can?

Social distancing, school cancelations, and teleworking have created this cloud that workers can’t seem to escape.

Here’s how to change that.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

The State of Affairs

At first working from home was novel. Working in your sweatshirt, using your home computer for high tech Zoom calls, grabbing a snack whenever you want…this is great right?!

But it got old…fast.

With connectivity and system access that is not the same, kids demanding attention for home schooling needs, an ever present “funk” seemed to hang over all of these workplace and social restrictions.

I’ve had my staff on a half-on/half-off rotation for the past couple months to minimize people in the building. While this seems to be beneficial in allowing folks to social distance as well as to help at home more, it seems to be chipping away the family environment that I have worked hard to create.

As a leader, good communication, workplace rhythm, and co-worker socialization is important to me. A unit is most cohesive when one department can anticipate the needs of another…and this “togetherness” is essentially halted when telework is predominant.

Communications are not the same via chat or email, rhythm is lost, and socialization…is (of course) distant.

The Question

Photo by Ilkka Kärkkäinen on Unsplash
Photo by Ilkka Kärkkäinen on Unsplash

How are you feeling about all this?

As a leader, it can be difficult to pull this kind of thing out of your people. At least for me it is.

Now that I am the person that signs evaluations, makes decisions on big ticket items, and is overall responsible for the health and well-being of everyone…it feels awkward walking up to an individual and asking him/her “How are you feeling about all this COIVD19 stuff and all the social restrictions right now?”.

Or maybe it’s easy and that just an issue specific to me.

For a while I thought that might be the case… a me issue. But my staff lead and I were talking about day to day operations when we ventured to this “funk” we had been sensing. I am fortunate to have someone I can be so open with…and after just a minute or two of talking about this dark cloud hanging over our staff…we began brainstorming.

The Next Steps

Photo by Nic Low on Unsplash
Photo by Nic Low on Unsplash

Over my years as a leader in the military, I can say that one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that humility and honesty go a VERY long way with those you lead.

I was fortunate to learn this lesson early and to this day it is both surprising and satisfying to hear junior folks tell me how refreshing it is to have someone so open and honest in charge. Not to say that I don’t have things to keep learning, but I feel like I worked those attributes in to my leadership style and it has seem to work well.

With that, I decided that if I feel awkward asking my folks directly how they feel, that I will have a forum of openness…and I will kick it off with my own struggles.

What followed was more emotionally charged than I had expected.

The Opening

Photo by Amy Lister on Unsplash
Photo by Amy Lister on Unsplash

I dove straight in.

I kicked our weekly meeting off with the reality of what we had been sensing,

“I feel like there is some sort of cloud hanging over us” I stated, “and I do not know how everyone is dealing with this or feeling about it…so I’m going to go around the room and if you want to talk you can. You don’t have to…but I want you to know that we’re here for you and potentially hear what others are feeling too.”

It was pretty quiet and I saw questioning looks…not surprised…but unsure.

Without giving them too much to overthink it, I led off with the slightly depressive feeling that I had been sensing. I talked about how hard it has been for me not to see them everyday at work, and how difficult it is for me to work at home while also helping homeschool my kids.

I often consider myself an extrovert with some strong introverted tendencies (I need time alone to recharge, etc)…but this has been different.

As we went around our conference room table, some folks I didn’t have much to initially say so I tried asking some open ended questions to challenge them a bit…push folks a bit out of their comfort zone.

Some of my staff are “geo-bachelors”…live away from their families.

– “How do you feel about not being able to see your family?”
– “How is your family doing?”
– “How do you feel about all this?”

At a couple points folks got choked up. As we opened up you could really feel the emotional toll this social isolation was taking on some of us.

“This has been hard”
“It’s been tough for my kids…they don’t understand”
“I’m hanging in there”

The Other Side

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash
Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

You ever try to hold your breath underwater for as long as you can?

Then you have experienced that feeling of intense pressure that is lifted when you surface and take a deep breath.

That is almost what it felt like at the end of our meeting. All of the pressure wasn’t gone, we are all still treading water in these uncertain times…but it felt like some pressure had been lifted.

It’s one thing to know that “we’re in this together”, it’s another thing to hear it from other people in the same room as you (albeit socially distant by 6 feet).

Opening up in this time of staying in is more liberating than you may realize…if you have the chance, ask someone that question:

“How are you feeling?”

Both of you will appreciate it more than you know.

Links of the Week (5/25/2020)

The benefits of coffee and all the blogging tips and tricks…

How does your morning coffee really impact your brain? Most importantly, are there certain times of the day where your latte-caffeine boost is better for your health?

​Good thing I like coffee. ☕️

What your morning coffee really does to your brain

So how do you go from having lots of cold readers to having a bunch of raving fans? Well, that’s what I’ll be focusing on over the next few weeks.

How to Warm Up Your Readers and Make Them Raving Fans

Remember the 80/20 rule: 8 out of 10 readers will read your headline copy but only 2 out of 10 will read your entire post.

Since headlines persuade your audience to read your content, you should dedicate 50 percent of your efforts to writing magnetic headlines before you write the rest of your copy.

Here are 10 compelling tips to help you win the battle for your audience’s attention.

​Some GREAT copywriter inside info here.

10 Ways Specificity Helps You Build a Profitable Audience – Copyblogger

Whether you are entirely new to email marketing automation, or still have reservations, you should know that automating your email promotions will make you money in the long run.

If you’ve ever been curious to start something like this like I have, this is a good place to start educating yourself. There is a lot here to learn from.

Email Marketing Automation Bible – More Then Detailed Guide From Email SaaS Experts

Best All-Around Smart Lights: Philips Hue

I love these…

There are a lot of smart light systems on the market.

However, when I moved to Pennsylvania and in to a larger house, I thought it was time for me to jump on the smart home light train. Part of this was driven by the fact that our new house has about a million light switches that we can’t remember what turns what on.

Perfect time for a home technology upgrade!!

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

The Options

Multi-color or standard dimming: I knew that I didn’t really want (rather need) to turn my living room a lovely shade of purple at dinner time, so I stuck with the more basic (and less expensive) option.

Most of these two-tone dimming bulbs give you the bright to warm option that you get with normal light bulbs.

Hub vs No-Hub: This one may depend on how big your house is or how many smart light bulbs you plan on purchasing.

I was moving in to a bigger house and had a bunch of lights I was going to be upgrading, so I went with the Hub option. From what I have read, this puts less traffic on your home wifi-router as well as all the smart lights access your internet via the hub rather than directly.

Also, since going with the hub system normally keeps the brand all the same, it’s easier to keep them all up to date. (from what I’ve seen)

Homekit vs Google Home vs Etc.: What system the smart bulbs are compatible with didn’t really matter to me since I already had a Google Home and Apple products.

Best choice is to get a smart bulb system that works with both…which is what I did.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

My Choice

Philips Hue smart bulbs.

Getting the starter pack gives you the hub and a few bulbs, and they are incredibly easy to set up. You can use Google Home or Apple Home Kit, I use both…which I really like.

I’ve got them set up with multiple rooms, both upstairs and downstairs. One of my favorite features (easiest to set up with Home Kit from what I can see) is timing downstairs lights to come on before I wake up and turning off all lights at midnight incase we forget to turn them off.

Also, Home Kit has a location aware setting where the smart lights will turn off if both my wife and I leave the house and turn on again when one of us returns.

All that to say…the name brand company is sure to stick around, is available almost everywhere, and I never have to fear they will go by the wayside.

If you’re curious, you can check them out over at Amazon.

Capturing a Memory: A Day at Home

I was surprised at how much I liked this…

I got this “Day at Home” idea from Cody Wanner when he did his own home/first person POV video.

When I tried the whole concept, I just went with a GoPro and was not really pleased with the initial footage. The quality was grainy, shots were kind of wobbly, the colors weren’t my normal quality…the list goes on.

But when I decided “I’m going to capture this memory!” and just threw the footage in the final cut pro x, found a wistful song that I liked, and started editing…it was like magic. After about 5-10 minutes of editing I already knew that this was going to be one of my favorite videos I’ve made to date.

Even if it doesn’t get any views on YouTube…I am SO HAPPY I made this video.

The nostalgia I already feel when I rewatch this is powerful and I know that nostalgia will only grow in the years to come.

I can’t encourage you enough to try and really capture memories of your family. Memory is a fickle thing and little treasures like this are worth the effort.