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Why virus offers a true stop-and-think moment

Gina London


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'This is a stop-and-think moment," John Riordan, director of support for Shopify International, told me this past week during a video conference call.

If ever there was an understatement during this time of pandemic and confinement, this is it, isn't it?

Many of us are overloading on thinking. We're constantly glued to our phones or TVs to the tumultuous torrent: news reports, Facebook posts, tweets, forwarded messages from somebody's 'expert' brother's cousin - even memes.

The innumerable sources of information and misinformation are combining into an unrecognisable ooze flooding our brains and our emotions. We are in danger of short-circuiting.

And that's precisely why this really is a stop-and-think moment. It is up to us to stop. Slow down, breathe deeply (with proper safety precautions in place, of course) and take back control of what we let our minds think about.

To illustrate my point, I advise my clients to picture a Venn diagram. (Remember those from your early mathematics classes? In one circle there's a set of apples. In the other, there's a set of oranges. Where the two circles overlap is the intersection or subset.) Got that pictured? OK.

Imagine one circle is labelled 'Things That Matter'. In this circle would be words like coronavirus shutdown, mental and physical health, job security, finances, etc.

Now imagine another circle labelled 'Things I Can Control'.

The area where these two circles intersect is the only place where you should put your focus.

1 Focus on what you can control

For instance, while the coronavirus shutdown absolutely matters, you cannot control what will happen with it five months from now.

Instead, you can focus on trying to control how you respond to the daily challenges. If you've already lost your job (which a dear friend of mine did last Tuesday), you cannot control where your next pay cheque is coming from.

But you can control reaching out to unemployment offices and your lenders to apprise them of your situation, and to seek assistance including waivers or partial payment plans.

If you haven't lost your job, perhaps you're self-employed like I am and worried about your financial future.

That matters, so what can you control? Can you modify your service or product offering to better suit the current climate?

I've been developing an online training platform off and on for several months, but guess what? I am fast-tracking that project tout suite! Stay tuned.

Or finally, maybe you're one of the many office employees who have now been forced to 'WFH' (work from home). But what is home? Many tech employees in Ireland are foreign nationals.

Perhaps they have an apartment here, but their extended families are in France, Spain or elsewhere.

It's one thing to work remotely, but it's another thing entirely to live remotely from loved ones during this uncertain time.

2 Show extra compassion

For that reason and others, I advised my corporate manager clients to show extra compassion to their remote teams in a variety of ways.

Team collaboration tools such as Workplace, Slack and Teams are extremely important, but so too is the personal touch.

One client of mine spent all day Monday making individual calls to each member of his team to confidentially ask questions, show concern and offer support.

Another organised virtual breakfast coffees every morning with his team via Zoom conferencing to bolster team spirit and morale.

Urging them to get showered and ready for the morning coffees, he declared: "Dress for continued success."

Our brave new stepped-up world of remote working brings me back to John, who happens to lead Shopify's world of remote teams.

John stressed that while this may seem like a temporary thing for now, the question is what are we going to learn from it?

"We're going to need to exercise a different management muscle," he said, answering his own question.

3 Upskill your communications

"Up until now, your standard method of communication has largely been the real life. Utilising subtle body language and a range of nuanced language and tones," John explained.

"But in remote workplaces, where video conferences are often recorded for documentation, communications must be more deliberate and structured.

"You need to know how to take your physical presence and translate that to video calls and writing, to effectively confirm the outcome of the discussion and reaffirm understandings of what was discussed."

I agree. Companies, like individuals, can use this time to create more structure while deliberately demonstrating compassion for each other, and considering ways to develop and adapt services, products and skills. It is time to stop and think.

NEXT WEEK ON THE COMMUNICATOR:

I'll share the second half of my provocative interview with Shopify's John Riordan as he contends our new world of increased remote working is going to change the way we work forever. What matters and what can we control?

AND FINALLY, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY

A word for all the mums out there - many of whom, like me, have been cooped up with their wonderful children for a week with at least another on the way. God help us all.

Sunday Indo Business