Preserving Business Communications Modes and Manner Post Covid19

“I ask them to bring their drink of choice to our meeting,” one of my coaching
clients told me this past week, describing how she conducts her virtual one to one
meetings in our new world of remote working. “This allows me to show up with
my own glass of wine,” she confided, chuckling.

The introduction of a more personal beverage selection into the business
meetings (conducted after five o’clock, I am assured), has seemed to prompt a
more intimate atmosphere in which her team members feel freer to divulge more
of their personal lives.

“One team member shared the home-schooling challenges he and his partner are
struggling with with their young children,” my client explained. “Another woman
has revealed the painful ordeal of the break-up she is enduring with her husband
while they are self-isolating under the same roof.”
“It’s going to be strange then, isn’t it,” she mused aloud to me, “when we
eventually go back to our offices and no longer communicate like this?”
“Wait a minute,” I cautioned. Let’s examine that notion for a moment. Your team
members are entrusting you with sensitive vulnerabilities. Receiving and
maintaining such a high level of trust demonstrates a higher level of leadership.
Do you really want to try to put this genie back into the bottle or would you
rather find some way to preserve this special atmosphere you are creating?
Which brings me to today’s point. After six weeks of remote working, I, and other
business forecasters, are projecting numerous things will not revert to the way
they were. Many remote workers will not return to their offices or desks, fewer
executives will travel internationally for meetings that can be more efficiently

conducted virtually and more of those humble audio-only sales calls will be
stepped up to video conferencing.
Yes, the modes of business interactions and communications are dramatically
changing. But, as illustrated by my client’s conversations with her team members,
we are also witnessing a dramatic change in the manner of our communications
as well. Quarantine is prompting a communications leader-shift. The more we can
acknowledge it, the more likely we will be able to codify it.

1) We’re collectively getting real

From CEO to frontline worker, the complications of our “self-isolationships” are
requiring us to move out from behind our personal protection comfort zones.
Toddlers or teens are hollering at us from beyond – and sometimes directly in
front of – our screens. Difficulties with partners or roommates have prompted
some of us to initiate social distancing guidelines inside our own homes. Unlike
pre-Covid restrictions, we feel comfortable talking about these difficulties with
pretty much everyone. The world is in this together and we’re all talking about it.
We’re getting real, really fast.

2) We’re collectively experiencing a wide-range of emotions

Now that we’re working, cooking, drinking, binge-watching, exercising, eating,
crying, praying, dancing, cursing and laughing with the same people every meal,
every day, the aggravations, anxieties and even warm feelings of contentment
from a reflective stroll under the brightened-from-less-pollution blue skies of
nature, are smacking into us wantonly. Waves in a storm-wracked sea.
The noise from our tumult of emotions is softened, however, by our awakened
awareness that others – our colleagues, our bosses - are experiencing them too.

3) We’re entrusting ourselves

For those reasons, then, we feel more comfortable in discussing our situations
with people before whom we might have once been more guarded.

Last week, for instance, during my very-first prospecting call (video-call, of course)
with the head of learning and development for a large financial institution, I
smiled as she unleashed a torrent of exasperation over her pre-teen who simply
refused to do any more homework and had retreated into video games instead.
“I can relate,” I commiserated.
We are in a global trust-fall. As leaders, we cannot catch someone today only to
pull away from them tomorrow.

4) We should create new protocols

As CEOs and management teams are preparing new rules around social
distancing, and intensive cleaning in preparation of re-entry, so too, should
protocols and guiding principles be established to ensure our heightened and
enlightened communications combined with the more encouraging and nurturing
leadership approaches that are being established continue to be honoured and
protected.
Some organisations have installed special frameworks to provide support for
remote workers during this time. “Rant-buddies” or “Thinking-partners” or
“Support-mentors” have been assigned to employees. These alliances can be on-
going. Employees have been mobilised to innovate team-building, sales and
services ideas. Any such special incentive programmes should continue.
What we are learning about ourselves and others during this time, will benefit
and enrich companies and their employees for years to come.
Committing to a continuation of transparent and trusting communications and to
enhancing the teams and infrastructure you are establishing now, will go a long
way toward ensuring the emotional and mental well-being of your workforce
continues as well.

Another proven way is to encourage your workforce to tote their favourite adult
beverage with them to your next business meeting. Or perhaps not.

Write to Gina in care of [email protected] With corporate clients
in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure
and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN
anchor. @TheGinaLondon


Looking through the Covid19 crystal ball

“I was looking on Amazon the other day, trying to order a crystal ball, but like webcams and laptops, they have run out,”

“I was looking on Amazon the other day, trying to order a crystal ball, but like webcams and laptops, they have run out,” Etienne Coulon joked as I asked his opinions on the Covid19 future of business during our Whatsapp call this past week from his home in France where he’s self-isolating with this family.

Etienne is the co-founder and CEO of AnotherTrail and AnotherCEO, companies that use software, emerging technologies and visibility platforms to ramp and expand businesses and business ecosystems across EMEA.  I met him at a conference back in that not-so-distant past world of in-person events. He and his co-founding business partner, Chris Reid, were presenting on future trends and I was facilitating.

I found them both engaging and thought-provoking. And funny.

And while, of course, it’s not the time to make light of this unprecedented time of uncertainty, it only takes about a minute scrolling social media through the thousands of humourous (and some not so humourous) memes being circulated to be reminded that humour is a very required coping mechanism in a time such as this.

For that reason, I laughed at his crystal ball joke and others too.  Even without his clairvoyance tool, Etienne raised some provocative thoughts as he peered out some six months to a year from when we hopefully after we emerge from our safe-homes and cocoons once again.

I share his forecasts and split them on either side of what he describes as “Phase One” and “Phase Two.”

PHASE 1

While global recession and other macro-economic post-Covid consequences are undoubtedly on the phase one horizon, I am narrowing our focus to the some of the outcomes Etienne predicts will affect the way we communicate and connect as employees, business travellers and consumers.

“This is a reset period and it will last one to two months,” Etienne projects. “Depending on when we are released, there will be immediate questions about the summer [Gina’s note: this presumes we will have the summer). What are we going to do? Will kids go back to school?  Will some people still want to take vacations?”

Those who can afford it, may want to get as – safely – far away from the fevered cabins in which they were ensconced, but that still may not mean international travel due to ongoing border bans. Others, who lost their jobs during restrictions, are small business owners or self-employed (like myself), will not be able to go on holiday as it will remain critical to try to work on rebuilding lost capital.

1) An extended surge in remote working

Etienne also predicts that although most of us social-contact-deprived humans will want to go back to work for a few weeks, there will be a “dramatic surge” in extending remote working policies.

“Take a country like France or Ireland where many are working for American companies, things will be different. We will change our focus, our priority and way of working. Core activities will need to be restarted, but people will want to be careful and have the option to stay home.”

2) A continuation of travel restrictions

These new restrictions will not be imposed by governments, but by companies, Etienne contends.

“You won’t be able to do things the old way anymore. The concept of flying for a quick meeting or face-to-face will reduce.  I’m sure that HR departments will start to create compliance rules that will limit travel.”

3) A continuation of cashless transactions

One of Ireland’s largest law firms, William Fry, just this past week published an online paper discussing the Covid19 accelerated trend toward digital payments and currencies.

They cite several examples including an early version of the US government’s $2 trillion Corona virus bailout package that considered using “digital dollars” to get funds to individuals and small businesses faster during the cash-flow crisis.

Etienne agrees. “In regions like in South Europe, perhaps, people will still use cash.  But many will never use cash again,” he flatly states.

 PHASE TWO

So, what should business leaders be doing to prepare right now? The one-word answer, according to Etienne, may prove extremely difficult for currently cash-strapped companies, “invest.”

“What people should do as we enter phase one, is to expedite the things that were missing like your production orders while infusing resources toward anticipating anticipate phase two.  For instance, I am losing money right now, but I need to invest in phase two.”

Etienne describes phase two as one in which businesses will need to elasticise their reach and forge alliances to ensure their future and expand market-reach.

The strategy he applies and urges his clients to apply is the “ART Model.”

1) Agility

“In one hour, with the right technology, I can find new partners for a company and establish a new ecosystem in one day,” Etienne explains. “Building new synergies that work together, like cogs, will enable companies to collaborate and reinvent themselves.”

2) Resilience

To survive and expand to meet Phase Two, you can’t just weather the storm, you and your team must adopt a positive attitude and pivot to meet the challenge with necessary changes or improvements.

3) Transformation

And finally, Etienne underscores how technology – which is supporting us through the video conferences and virtual meetings we are depending upon during this global shutdown – will continue to be the enabler for how companies reinvent or simplify. “It’s all about cost-reduction and optimization.”

Write to Gina in care of [email protected]  With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon


Communicating in the Time of Coronavirus

At this point, we all our have stories.

 

During the uncertain time which we find ourselves in with the outbreak of the Coronavirus Covid19, emotions are running high. On both ends of the spectrum.

 

There was the taxi driver who drove me this week to the River Lee Hotel in Cork.  The conference I was to facilitate the following morning was going on as planned. But organisers texted me as we arrived at the hotel: three groups from the previously sold-out event were backing out and three of the business-leader speakers were now forbidden by their companies from attending.

 

I told the driver about the phone texts coming in and asked him how concerned he was since he worked with the traveling public. It was as if I hit an ignite switch. Three, two, one….

 

“Ah!” he blasted off. “It’s a bunch of damn over-kill and CYA from the government. The only thing I’m worrying about is that my fares are scarce.  I caught the swine flu back in 2009 and I’m here to tell you about it. This time around, I’ll still keep my health, but I’ll lose my business.” He had more to say, but I’ll spare you the even more colourful language.  Suffice it to say he was not happy.

 

I caught the swine flu back in 2009 and I’m here to tell you about it. This time around, I’ll still keep my health, but I’ll lose my business.”

 

Then there was the taxi driver who met me as I arrived at Heuston station. This time I was traveling back home to Dublin after delivering a keynote in Shannon at an aviation event which had about a third of the would-be participants cancel at the last minute. The taxi driver pulled up toward me in the queue and came over to help me put my suitcase in the back. He was wearing thin, blue surgical gloves.

“I change them after every passenger,” he explained. “I bought a huge supply back in January. That’s not all I’m ready for.  When the health care workers and government and safety officials are all busy with Corona,” he went on referring to it more like the beer than the virus, “that’s when the dissidents will strike. It will be anarchy.”  I didn’t enquire what other goods he might be stockpiling in preparation for that scenario.

And then there was the man in front of me this week at Lidl with two full shopping carts. Peering at his assortment of frozen pizzas (mostly pepperoni), bags of different shaped pastas, two dozen jars of sauces and lots of loaves of bread, I was surprised there was no toilet tissue.

“Why not?” I asked him.

“Because I stocked up on a trolley-full of that yesterday,” he replied, smiling as he reached for his change from the cashier.  “I’m prepared.”

I noticed as the cashier handed him a few bills, that the man tucked the money in his wallet and then vigorously sniffed and rubbed his nose without a glance at the small bottle of hand sanitiser protruding from his jacket pocket.

From those who may be blasé or angrily dismissive, to those who seem paranoidly apocalyptic to those who appear calm and cautious while perhaps not hygienic, the pandemic of emotions may be worse than the current pandemic.

I don’t claim to have any answers, but I do think that this is a good time to reflect before we react.

  1. Examine your sources

When your friend on your Whatsapp chat group writes “sh*t is going to hit the fan” and then goes on to speculate a wide range of things that may or may not come to pass, this is not probably your best source of news.

Who are you listening to? Consider whether the information is coming from a medical official with first-hand research and the latest findings, or a political leader or a news-correspondent.  The most reliable source is the person closest to the actual data.

  1. Limit your intake

Once you locate a reliable source, limit the time you spend poring over your newsfeed. Yes, it’s important to stay informed during a developing story such as this but choose your times and news curating locations wisely.  For instance, spending even a minute or two on Twitter searching #Coronavirus or #Covid19 will likely leave you anxious, frightened, angry or a mixture of all three.

  1. Be considerate of others’ perspectives

Before you announce your beliefs in no uncertain terms, consider your audience. What is their perceived level of vulnerability? Might it be a good idea to temper your declarations of doom or your well-intended blanket-statement of reassurance? Our spoken – and written words – have impact. Even saying something casually and off-hand can have a lasting and dramatic effect depending on the person.  

  1. Embrace humour

We can’t be sober about this all the time. I’m not encouraging to drown anxiety in booze, but a little well-placed humour is good for cutting the tension. 

  1. Journal

It’s better to get your feelings out then stifle them inside. Journaling is a great way to sort, organise and process the rollercoaster we are all on. We can’t control the outcome, but we can control our emotions.
Keep your head. Keep your compassion. And yes, wash your hands.

 

 

Write to Gina in care of [email protected].  With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon