Lessons I’m learning as we adapt to our new reality

One of the best things I’ve done in the last few years is join the Virginia Council of CEOs. VACEOS is a group that connects leaders of companies throughout the state and places them in small peer groups, called Roundtables, which meet regularly.

One of the backbone rules of the Roundtable is that we agree not to give people advice but to “share experiences.” I’ve found that experience sharing approach invaluable in helping me grow both professionally and personally. So, I’m writing this post in that spirit, since much of what I have seen online is folks giving advice on how to handle the current pandemic. The goal of this post is to share my current experiences in real time in the hopes that it may help others who are going through some of the same things.

Prepare

I think we did a good job seeing this coming. We are a fairly flexible group to begin with and have worked from home in the past, so the technical transition was easy. We also quickly identified issues like “how do we write checks” and “who will pick up the mail” as things we needed to quickly address. I’m finding there are still things to prepare for and am trying to spend at least a few minutes a day thinking about them, so we are not caught flat footed later.

The is no such word as “overcommunicate”

Like others, we immediately shifted to a standard all-staff Zoom meeting, which I’m actually thinking of keeping after all this is over. It’s a great daily touchpoint that we weren’t having in normal times. I’m also trying to be more intentional about “check-ins” with other Hodgers, clients and partners, just to see how they are doing. Even in the best of times it takes three times of saying the same thing for it to sink in with folks and these are not the best of times. Overcommunicating is hard but I’m finding it helpful and something I can do intentionally to stay connected and avoid issues before they start. My goal is at least having one of those check-ins a day.

Friendships

We have many long-time clients and partners who have become true friends over time. This is when those friendships really pay off. I’ve had frank conversations about business, stress, life and “what happens next” over the last few weeks that have been invaluable. My friendships are keeping me and my business on course and I’m grateful for them.

Do good

Hodgers have great hearts. Meg Irvin had an idea of buying gifts cards from the restaurants we do business with the most and it turned into #RVAThrive, which turned those gift cards into coffee, snacks and food for area health care workers and first responders. It’s great to help others if you can.

Also, I’ve had a ton of folks reaching out to me to catch up for career advice for obvious reasons. I’m doing all I can to do calls and Zoom conversations with them to catch up and try to help. 

Finally, we have many business partners who are taking a hit right now. We’re trying to fit in projects with them that will be mutually beneficial for things like staff development and client work. We’re trying to spread the wealth for as long as we can.

Be patient

It seems like our business is changing hourly. One client pulls back and then two days later the same client says full steam ahead. We lose something here and wonder if anything is going to make up for it over there. I’m forcing myself not to get caught into the “churn drain,” because it will pull you down. I, like others, have developed a basic plan and methodology. I’m forcing myself to maintain it and trust it as best I can. I’m thinking we are transitioning from initial shock into a more sustained phase of “this,” so my plan and methods are my best friend.

Also, be patient with your co-workers and clients. The regular workday, if there ever was one, is out this window. People need new windows to take care of their kids and their families. Traditionally our attitude has been “as long as the work gets done.” That mantra is truer now more than ever. Besides, it’s been fun seeing the kids on the Zoom meetings, even if their parents don’t agree.

Innovate

I’ve been making a list of things I really like about our current working set up and will likely want to amplify or continue when we can get back into the office. I’m also using my spare time to think about how this will change us and how we operate moving forward. I experienced this three years ago when a knee injury forced me to work from home for three months. That experience totally changed how I managed our monthly billing process for the better. 

I anticipate other similar breakthroughs in this experience and I’m trying to intentionally think about them in real time.

And finally, have some fun

I know it’s a tough thing to do but it is important especially with the daily drone of bad news. We’re planning our first virtual happy hour. We’re telling our folks to get outside and enjoy the good weather. We are also exploring things like Zoom “game” meetings. 

Fun is part of the Hodges DNA and we are continuing to look into ways of having fun and would love some suggestions.

Whew, that was cathartic. Would love to hear from everyone. Email me at [email protected] and we can talk. It really helps.

Jon Newman

In 2002 Jon cofounded The Hodges Partnership and has helped to grow it into one of the country’s largest public relations firms (based on O’Dwyer’s annual rankings). Jon has taught communications as an adjunct professor at VCU, speaks regularly at conferences and meetings and blogs and tweets about public relations and marketing issues.

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