ASK KRISTIAN DUNN, LIFE COACH: What's The Equivalent of the Informal Office "Hey" During the COVID Lockdown?
Capitalist Note: From time to time, one of my high-level friends will ask me a question that causes me to cease being Kris Dunn (HR Leader and HR Pro) and morph into Kristian Dunn (life coach/executive coach, my real name btw). These are their questions and my well thought out answers worth at least $500/hour (ha). Submit your questions to Kristian Dunn, Life Coach, by messaging him on LinkedIn.
I'm an executive who should break through to the C-level in a major company in the next 5 years. I find that during the COVID-era working remote I'm struggling to find informal places to connect with my team. What's the equivalent of the informal office "Hey" during the COVID lockdown?
Signed - Janet
Great question. The short answer is that there are no natural informal "hey" moments in COVID lockdown life. You're not going to walk by someone on the way to the ladies room, in the break room or in the lobby. There are no random encounters when you're working from your plush, Pottery Barn-styled home office at the home McMansion and your direct report is set up at their Kitchen table and has their 3-year old throwing Cheerios at them the majority of the day.
Your instincts are right. Having no informal moments may make you seem unapproachable, and you're right to understand that could be career limiting for you if this whole pandemic thing goes on too long. The verbatims that could be written on your 2nd quarter engagement flash report from your directs and 2nd and 3rd level team members include the following:
--"Janet feels a little aloof"
--"I sometimes wonder about Janet's EQ"
--"You know that boss on The Devil wears Prada"? That's how Janet makes me feel"
--"Janet's kind of cold bitch. I'm not feeling it"
Any and all of these are like kryptonite to your career. That means you're going to have to work a little harder in the COVID period to seem approachable. Simply put, here's your reality:
"During the COVID lockdown, there are no random encounters. That means your job is to plan random encounters/engagement that provide the appearance of warmth and empathy"
Not sure how to do that? Ideas include the following:
--Text each direct report 2x a week with an article that would interest them that shows you're connected. Ask your assistant for help if you're not sure what that is.
--Message each person (Slack, Glip, whatever) who reports to your direct reports once every two weeks with some recognition for something they did well. Ask your direct reports how their teams are doing in your 1/1s for fodder for this activity.
--Share a story on your team calls to show you're struggling just like everyone else. Note: Talking about how your direct connection to Fiber at your house seems a little slow these days is not the story to use. Remember most of your team has a cable modem, not Fiber to the house.
Bottom line - there are no chance encounters during the COVID period. You can't 1/1 meeting or Zoom team happy hour your way out of this one. Do the work if you want to appear warmer than you are during COVID.
Yours in leadership and life,