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How to re-enter the world of people and get your office groove back
Many months may have passed since you last saw your favorite clients and your staff in person. What are the new rules of engagement? People who were up close and personal may no longer be huggers or hand-shakers, greetings and goodbyes may be fraught with awkwardness, and meetings might need to happen outdoors. There are things we may want to save from our seemingly endless WFH days, and things we want to quickly toss out the window. Here’s how to navigate the new normal.
Make it safe
Rule number one when welcoming anyone back into the office or meeting in person: make it safe. Consult the CDC and local state and business mandates for the latest health and safety recommendations where you’re doing business – and then communicate out the safety protocols you’ve instituted to staff and clients alike.
Tip: Do a quick Google survey with staff to learn what they would feel comfortable with in the office and how they want to engage. Some may want to remain remote for a percentage of the workweek, others may want to return full time. Make accommodations for staff who want to distance their workspace from others, or those who want to be near a window they can open. Collaboration is the key here, so gather your info and have an all-hands-on-deck Zoom meeting before re-entering the office. Buy-in is important and you want everyone to feel they have input and will be completely safe coming to the office, even if it’s just for a meeting once a week.
Tip: A direct email to clients announcing your reopening of the office, with bullet points of all the safety steps you have taken, will go miles in assuring them they will feel comfortable coming into the office. Offer digital or hybrid options for those who still don’t feel comfortable.
Tried and true
We’re all bound to be more than a little awkward when coming face to face again. Stick with the tried and true – be genuine, look people in the eye, ask questions, stay off your phone and focus on the interaction at hand. Catch up on latest achievements, wins and life events, and ask about people’s priorities now that the pandemic has shifted. Do staff want to keep some of their pandemic work schedules going? Many of us have learned new things in the past year and are placing value on different areas of our lives as a result – find out more about changing values or new norms from those you serve and work with.
Tip: Communicate your safety preferences upfront and ask what theirs are so you can set the stage for a comfortable interaction.
Tip: Get people to open up with three simple words – tell me more. These words can open up conversations you never knew you’d have.
Tip: If you started obsessively baking homemade sourdough bread during the pandemic, share that with your staff or your clients. Ask what habits they developed and even swap recipes!
With the advent of warmer weather across the country, meeting and working outdoors may become a standard. Many restaurants have doubled their seating outdoors, a trend that will continue through the fall. And with more people enjoying being outside, consider new ways to connect with your staff. Instead of indoor meetings to set strategy for the next year, why not horseback riding or picnicking at a local park? Can client meetings be moved to outdoor venues as well?
Tip: Explore walking meetings – these have been proven to not just get the ideas flowing, but may even extend your lifespan!
Keep or toss?
The pandemic changed a lot about the way we do business, the way we interact and even the way we dress – WFH sweatpants, anyone? We had to adapt, and quickly, to new technologies, new protocols and new ways of being. Digital everything propelled to the forefront at lightning speed. Pickup and delivery replaced in-person shopping. The challenge is to identify the habits we want to keep and to throw out the ones we don’t.
Tip: Make a list of all the things that made life better or worked well during the pandemic. Contactless pickup? The ability to get more delivered? Share your list with your staff – which pandemic working and living habits would they like
to keep, and which would they like to throw away?
With all of the new ways we will be interacting and gathering. As we return to life in the office and in-person client meetings, tune in to those you are interacting with, eliminate awkwardness by genuinely connecting, and continue to build those all-important client and staff relationships.
- Consider making your next staff meeting a walking meeting – plot a short course around the office as a test run
- Establish a safety protocol for your office following CDC, state and local mandates
- Think about new places to connect with clients, and consider outdoor meetings
Sources: pwc.com, crainsdetroit.com, shrm.org, esquire.com, cnet.com, huffpost.com, youtube.com
Teams, talents and time
Maximizing productivity with common-sense tactics
As a business owner, figuring out how and where to put the resources you have to good use is an everyday challenge – and in a fast-moving business it’s easy to get lost in the day to day. It turns out that managing your team’s time with a few common-sense tactics can not only help you increase your productivity, but also allow the talent you have to really shine at what they do best.
First, it’s important to understand every employee’s hourly rate. Knowing this simple internal metric is as essential as bringing in new business. Why? Because knowing the internal cost of any initiative will quickly allow you to align the right talent to the job.
Top accounts often require your top talent, but, when appropriate, consider opportunities to encourage growth within your organization – by involving junior or mid-level talent in projects that allow collaboration with top talent. This helps empower growth from the bottom to the top of your business and can be a strategic investment in and of itself.
Second, nurture talent and allow people to shine at what they do best. That senior team member who has a special affinity for social media and seems to understand Twitter better than anyone you know? Put them on point for starting a more consistent and relevant social media presence for your practice. When staff branch out into new territory, offer praise and applaud wins in front of the entire team. You will build loyalty and also embolden other employees to give feedback to one another.
Finally, encourage employees to focus on attention management instead of managing their time. Attention management includes focusing on the big fish first, assigning value to your time, and programming out distractions like batch-checking email and scrolling through social media. Attention manage-ment is about focusing on what is important as well as understanding when those things need to be done. Identifying only one thing that is most important to moving your company forward and making that your focus for the day can also be an effective way to deploy attention management.
We all resort to business as usual when our plates get full, but taking time out to deploy a few simple tactics to maximize your team’s talents and time can lead to running a more productive, profitable and even happier practice.
Things to consider for the future:
- Calculate the internal costs of your team – how does doing that make you think differently about who you assign to which project?
- Identify an employee whose natural skills might benefit your practice outside their current role
- Think about how to engage talent at all levels of your business in your next big initiative
Sources: americanexpress.com, forbes.com, entrepreneur.com, linkedin.com, nytimes.com, hbr.org, the1thing.com
Advance your prospects – with advanced prospecting
Use this checklist to take your networking to the next level
The pandemic has upended much in our lives, not the least of which networking and prospecting. No longer are in-person lunches or coffees the automatic go-to for getting to know someone, and connecting with potential prospects at events is not happening. LinkedIn has grown exponentially in importance for business owners at every stage of the game during the pandemic, but especially for small business owners. And it’s likely to stay that way. Whether you are a newbie to LinkedIn or have been on the platform for years, there are still plenty of ways to power up your networking mojo.
A picture is still worth a thousand words
When is the last time you looked at your LinkedIn photos? Now it’s not just your profile pic that speaks for you. Your background photo has a chance to make a first impression as well.
Hit all the marks with your bio photo – a recent professional picture (one taken with the iPhone portrait setting will do!) that shows you wearing business-appropriate attire and smiling.
Background photos can add a bit more depth. Stay in the professional zone but consider a picture that represents an activity you love outside of your work. Tip: Google LinkedIn background photos to find plenty of free apps that will design one for you.
Make the connection
Level up your connection game by going back to basics. Take just 10 minutes a day and add vendors, clients and customers you already have, family, friends, and everyone in your phone contact list. Though it seems obvious, many of us forget to add contacts along the way. Tip: The most effective connections on LinkedIn come with a personal note – even just a few words make an impact.
Narrow your focus
Take 20 minutes to get savvy about all the filters on LinkedIn – from job function to seniority. Get into the Advanced Filters and narrow down where someone went to school, what industry they work in or where they are located. Use this info when you send a personal note to connect – a reference to a local sports team win or a mention of a news headline that might be valuable for their industry are great ways to start.
Bonus round! LinkedIn Premium
If you haven’t yet dipped a toe into LinkedIn Premium, sign up for the free 30 days and have a look around – it’s worth it. With the ability to message with people you don’t know, advanced search capabilities and access to LinkedIn Learning, Premium can be a great way to supersize your network, fast.
Check these sites out for a deep dive:
- SocialTalent: socialtalent.com/blog/recruitment/linkedin-search-filters
- Top Dog Social Media: topdogsocialmedia.com/linkedin-sales-navigator-advanced-search-tutorial
- Entrepreneur magazine: entrepreneur.com/article/346388
- LinkedIn: linkedin.com/learning/linkedin-quick-tips/utilize-advanced-search-filters
Sources: blog.realnex.com, makeyourmarkdigital.com, spotio.com/blog, neilpatel.com, forbes.com, socialtalent.com, topdogsocialmedia.com, entrepreneur.com