I had four virtual coaching meetings last week, in the midst of the Covid-19 work-at-home phenomenon. Two of my clients were women and I was collaborating with them about on the nuances of leading during uncertainty. And more than ever we discussed how to improve communication, maintain balance and keep up healthy practices such as exercising and movement and how to model the way as a leader. Both women are on top of their game, running exceptional teams at great organizations achieving challenging results in challenging times! And they were both working 10-12 hours a day, by their estimates, because there were so many meetings and requests. And quietly, as women, they needed to be the best at what they do and have urgent answers to any question, which that takes a level of dedication and intensity that requires long hours. When I challenged them on the saved commute time, they agreed that they were working during their former commuting times though were mostly able to make it to family dinners each night, whereas before it was more variable.
I also coached two men last week. These clients were both on a journey of transition. Figuring out what was next, where to seek happiness and reward. Both also high-achieving men who were finding the isolation while searching to be difficult. And both men commented that they were picking up slack at home while school was out including childcare for young children, cooking family dinners, cleaning, etc. And both men commented that their wives were working 10-12-hour days at their intense jobs.
And so I wondered if the long hours related to women taking it all on. Were women doing too much, carrying the emotional load, and lacking support at work to decide what thing they should give up. And beyond gender, what accommodation are organizations making for employees. I find it quite sobering that grueling schedules haven't abated despite unprecedented circumstances.
We are in a new era of work, an era in which we're no longer performing on optics. How can we redefine what work means and resist the inclination to have Powerpoint presentations perfectly formatted and hold excessive performance reviews . We know that productivity and long hours are not directly correlated. Who are the leaders who will encourage a parent to spend an extra half hour with his child or go for a walk or develop an avocation without penalty?
When I worked at Ernst & Young early in my career, it was in the early Internet days and companies were figuring out how to be successful. I worked on an internal consulting project that was a take on building a better mousetrap – building a better surfboard. The wave was coming, and we were analyzing which companies would be able to take advantage. Which companies were doing the new thing in the old way and which ones were reinventing the experience? Amazon is a great example of building a better surfboard. Companies like Walmart and Target eventually adapted. Department stores couldn't adapt and sunk. I was recently at a mom and pop hardware store in my mask trying to check out at the register. How many minutes was the checker going to ask me about my rewards number and ask me to fill out a form and sign a receipt? Adapt or die.
Silicon Valley seems to be ahead of the game. Engineering organizations have long been experimenting with remote work. I often coach engineering directors who "grew up" in a remote and meritocratic environment where time spent counted for very little. The manifesto “It Doesn't Have To Be Crazy At Work” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson rejects the prevailing notion that long hours, aggressive hustle, and "whatever it takes" are required to run a successful business today and outlines ways to implement these ideas today. And this book was written when long hours meant face time with your boss and colleagues. It is even more relevant now because long hours means Facetime on your computer. Alone.
After a little research on Covid-19 responses, I found one company that was making changes in preparation for returning to work. The company was called Trundle and was going to limit meetings to 15 minutes - starting to set the stage for a new normal. What would the day be like if you weren't buried in countless meetings? What would a 15-minute meeting force you to do ahead of time to make it efficient and maybe even make you think twice about who to invite and how often.
What do you wish your company could do to lead the change? What are you doing?
Collaborative coaching can provide some relief in this difficult time, and I have active experience working with clients to find their voice and lead resiliently. If you are looking to lead your team through the muck, if you need help navigating the new normal at work or if you are ready to make a change - contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free consultation! I am coaching virtually and am offering all sorts of 'kids at home' discounts! I'd love to help you envision and achieve your next greatest success!