The evidence is painfully clear. Exhibit A: A lacerated thumb smeared with Neosporin now bandaged. Exhibit B: A general state of crankiness due to a rude awakening at 2AM. Exhibit C: A lengthy neck crick. It’s been a rough 24-hours. Allow me to connect the dots.
Annoyed that his play buddy was otherwise engaged on Zoom, Louie initiated a vigorous game of “shark dog” which resulted in the accidental thumb wound. The subsequent admonitions and withholding of affection undoubtedly led to a nightmare-induced early morning barking shakedown. And the crick? Well that’s from Louie sleeping on my head when I tried to nap on the couch after giving him his breakfast at 7:30am. A nap that brought back memories of our first Frenchie.
Pinky was practically perfect. He was gentle. He rolled over whenever people approached in want of a belly rub. He was a snuggler. Lift him up and he would melt into your arms. He never accidentally bit his human. Recalling these and other attributes, I then stopped myself. It’s a fruitless comparison. This is a different dog. It’s up to us to recognize that and adjust accordingly.
For weeks, I’ve been trying to compare the COVID-19 crisis to past challenges in my lifetime. Surely, the dotcom meltdown of 2000 could yield some truths that we could apply sagely to our current challenges. Or perhaps the economic crisis of 2008 would help shed light on what it takes to survive in a downturn. But the more I looked at those situations, the more I realized that this is a different dog. And we do ourselves a collective disservice to miss that reality.
The bite of our current situation slashes at the foundations of work (and play). We disassembled physically and then regrouped on Zoom trying to replicate the way we used to lead. We hoped to bring normalcy to the abnormal by offering virtual coffee breaks and happy hours. As it turns out, a recent study by Smartsheet found that 82% of GenZ’rs feel less connected and their biggest complaint is all the Zoom meetings! In fact, 61% of Generation Z and 57% of Millennials identified video calls as an obstacle to their productivity.
This is a different dog.
As leaders, the sooner we recognize this new reality, the sooner we’ll find and embrace new approaches. Physical isolation is taxing many on your team in ways you simply can’t see even if you’re good about starting every Zoom call with an empathetic “how are you?” Few are taking vacation days or even lunch breaks. Many are working around the clock either out of job uncertainty or the sudden lack of school or daycare support. And even with the economy starting to reopen, most of the CMOs I talk to expect to be operating virtually all of 2020 if not indefinitely.
So now what? Let’s start by leading by example in an entirely new way. You need to be the one to take time off. You need to block your calendar for thinking time and personal time. You need to share your #WFH challenges and acknowledge all the uncertainties you, too, are confronting. And, perhaps scariest of all, you need to show you’re vulnerable, not the invincible wonder of days gone by. Scary but liberating. Imagine the power of being able to say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, so let’s figure this out together.”
This is a different dog.
The same thinking goes for your marketing activities. Let’s start afresh. Virtual events modeled after physical events have mainly come up short. But there’s hope. Skillsoft’s Perspective 2020 in mid-May definitely raised the bar with a mix of content approaches, including live sessions timed for a global audience. And webinars are being enhanced with home-delivered packages of food, drinks or other on-theme goodies. There’s more, but I’ll leave that for another newsletter.
As for Louie, he may not be the best dog ever but he’s not without his charms. While writing this, he provided two well-timed full-body hugs and insisted on one cranial massage. Later today he will lead us on a vigorous 90-minute squirrel hunt in Central Park, providing a surprising cardio workout of at least 10,000 steps. In between, he will do the best he can to challenge my assumptions on all that crosses our path.
Let me know how you’re responding to our “new normal.”