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Get Up & Change Your View

Originally published on CU Insight.

This is one of those articles that make little sense if you don’t consider the publication date.

2019? “Huh, I mean, obviously.”

2025? “Oh, they’re talking about those dark times. Things are so fantastic now, it’s almost hard to remember!” (Hopefully)

2020? “Go out? Ha! You Zoom-hack our meeting with many clever jokes!”

Here in mid-2021, I hope the topic will land on understanding minds.

2020 Was Unique for Everyone

Each of us had a different experience through the pandemic. Some made radical changes to lifestyle, with stressors increasing, family dynamics strained, and finances depleted. Others had the “pleasure” of adapting to work from home (hi Zoom!) with social lives crushed.

In my case, little changed. I’ve been WFH for nearly a decade, and 98% of business interactions are over the phone or Zoom. Yes, we were the ones explaining the system to credit union staff before you had to do the same with your parents.

Sharing the Sameness

Cat on Sofa
Do you ever really “share” a sofa with a cat?

So I’m used to my immediate environment being constant. Which was both a gift and a, well, you know the rest. At first, the realization that others were facing what I considered normal spurred a creative rush. It was a perfect time to share how I’ve made it work for me.

Remember all those videos and articles? My Jedi robes? Creative they were, mmm? Mmmm?

Something was Happening

During the year, a change slowly progressed, consciously unnoticed. My creativity was lagging. We still put together interesting ideas for business, and I continued to get a few more articles out. But most of it was tweaking existing material to fit changed norms.

While this was all necessary, it shouldn’t have been the bulk of my effort. Why the shift? I’d attribute it to all of 2020. With a wealth of stressors, political insanity, health scares, and a restricted social circle, it’s the excuse to beat all excuses.

When you’re operating in crisis mode all the time, you’re not at your best.

No one should ever have to apologize for how they made it through 2020. You’re still here? Congratulations. And encourage everyone you know to get vaccinated.

It wasn’t until this week that I recognized the change. Why?

Other Humans!

Joe Winn Pulling Child on Board Through Surf
As hard as it looks. As fun for the smaller person as it looks.

Long-time readers will recall my visits to nephews. They love space, science, the ocean, and calling me “Uncle Joe”…a lot. (I’m not complaining!)

For the first time in forever, I’ve visited them again. Sure, I’ve been to Disney and Universal since the pandemic started, but that’s an exercise in schedules, wait times, and distancing from other people. A relaxed connection with others it is absolutely not.

This was a full-on life with a beloved family. A change of people and scenery from when you wake up to fall asleep. For someone who loves traveling and visiting friends as much as me, not having this for over a year was rough.

And the waterfront home doesn’t hurt. These sentences were written to the sight and sound of waves gently flowing against rock walls and wooden docks. Songbirds are celebrating the flowering trees, and destructive yet adorable rabbits bound about the yard.

In the realm of “changing your environment”, this is about the best you can do.

“Oh, hello unique thoughts.”

Person Writing in Notebook in Park
Let the pen (or keyboard) flow!

When you’ve sat in the same home, using the same desk (or sofa, or futon, or bed, or kitchen table) to complete your work, it’s easy to get mentally stuck. And we all know that innovation comes out of change. Which is really difficult to create when nothing changes.

The first day of working here (in a spinning round couch with a view to the water), I finished an entire Learning Library article. That’s unheard-of speed for me. And that’s between when the kids left for and returned from school.

Then there’s this tale, which I only began about an hour ago. It’s no core conversion, but I’ll take the progress!

Lessons from the Beach House

Sunrise Over Water
That’s a sunrise. A very-early annular eclipse sunrise, to be precise!

You’ve dealt with a lot. I don’t know your specifics, but it’s only now returning to some sense of, hopefully, better normal. To me, the trip was a delightful wake-up call (or was that the kids?). Maybe there’s some realizations you can glean from my experience:

  • Acknowledge your compromise
    • In some way, you’ve been off the 100% best version of yourself. It’s ok. Now’s when we can help get it back.
  • Get up
    • Yes, right now. Stand up. Do some stretches and breathing exercises. Walk around. It’s not just your watch telling you the value of movement. It really does help “get your juices flowing.”
  • Change your environment
    • If you can sit in front of a body of water, do that. If not, find something different to make your brain go, “oh, that’s neat; haven’t seen it in a while…or ever.”
  • Disconnect
    • Just for a bit, get away from your phone (you can keep your watch on for critical notifications), and let your mind wander. Free dissociation isn’t being “spaced out”, but rather, “connected to the world.” Take that as you will.

In a recovery run, you aim to reclaim what was lost. During your slow journey to “normal”, live in a state of open recovery. And be kind to yourself and others.

Let Your New Ideas Flow

Crayon Box with Child Drawing
Give a kid crayons, paper, cardboard, scissors, tape, etc. And then just watch.

For me, interacting outside my “pandemic bubble” was a welcome shock. Part of what makes a recovery run so interesting is that you often don’t realize what you’ve lost until you get it back. This is about running and also not about running.

Connecting with others helped me connect with myself. And getting up to change my view made all the difference.

How will you unleash your great new ideas?

Featured image credit: My nephew, after he took his mom’s iPhone.

You Can’t Shake Hands In Cyberspace

Originally published on CUInsight.com

You’re expecting another, “back in the days before COVID-19” reminiscing post. Too bad. This topic came to me years ago. You know, BC…Before Coronavirus. Yes, that time really did exist. It’s not just a dream.

Why mention the time frame?

Because it helps you understand that some of today’s challenges aren’t new. For many, remote work is our normal. In fact, getting to meet people IRL (in real life) was a special treat! In case it’s not obvious, the “our” here is me. I work remotely.

Take a look at some of my event posts to feel the excitement of being around other people. Yes, even for this introvert.

What’s Changed?

Ha! What hasn’t changed? Amirite? There’s no minimizing the enormous impact that-virus-which-shall-not-be-named has on society and business. Many, if not all of us, had to adapt to rapidly-changing norms and precautions.

When in-person became “no way”, those who could and weren’t already took shelter online. You joined us on Zoom, a platform we’ve been accustomed to for years. It’s like we’re innovators. Ok, not the way to blaze new paths. You’re welcome here as long as you need.

What Hasn’t Changed?

People Working
Who’s craving this?

People want to interact with other people.

In fact, maybe that’s changed too, because in our physical isolation, the desire to connect is even higher. Either way, for some things, there’s no replacement for an in-person experience.

At the same time, the concepts of digital transformation charge onward. Sure, it meant moving faster than you ever thought possible, but you did that because you’re awesome. Now, it’s time to think about the why. “Why did we need to implement these digital solutions?”

Yes, an unprecedented global event happened. I suppose we can’t really ignore it. At the same time, it forced an acceptance of where things are moving. Tasks which can be made easier and more convenient by using an app or website…should.

This is a golden time to look at what parts of your operation should be driven by human interactions and which can improve with digital ones. Naturally, there will be overlap, but that awareness can help guide your planning strategy, no matter what crazy events transpire.

Digital transformation doesn’t mean making everything digital. It means evolving to provide the best service, experience, and human connection with the right tools in the right ways. At your core, you’re a bunch of people working to help lots more people.

How to Adapt?

Chameleon
Get it? Adapt?

To be honest, the hardest part is the human element. Sharing data or other forms of information (interactive charts, whiteboard, etc.) is actually easiest on a platform like Zoom. Cue that time your whole team struggled to load a file off a USB drive for the meeting.

Digital stuff works great on these services. Cloud-based sharing makes secure and simple transfers possible. No more wondering if that computer’s USB ports are disabled, or if this browser is allowed to load Dropbox. Or if your emails went to spam.

Where we struggle most, and I bet you also, are the casual interactions. For all the love I have for great Zoom happy hours, you know it’s not the same as actually meeting up. As of now, no tech can replace that experience (I’m looking at you, future Apple AR Glasses).

There’s real value to meeting in person, even if we’re wearing masks. Since that’s not a feasible or potentially safe option for many people, here’s some suggestions on comfortably embracing video chat (with qualifications).

Make Video Chat Awesome (Or at least better) For Your Team

Woman with Mask on Video Chat
Good thing…you don’t have to go to this extreme.
  • Help equip your team with good cameras, lighting, and mounts/stands for their cameras (Trust me, being well-angled and lit makes such a difference both for you and other’s confidence)
  • Recognize that you can’t look people in the eye while looking them in the eye (even if it looks that way)
  • Make it ok to mute or turn off video during conversations. It’s like casually looking away in-person; not a bad thing. If someone stares you in the eyes constantly in-person, it’s uncomfortable.
  • Don’t force video chats to be “casual”. It feels weird. Empower your team to set up one-on-one or group conversations in the same vein as they would just meet up in the kitchen or hallway. Business meetings match your culture now as before.
  • Of course, also…use it like kids in remote schooling; to let your team express themselves and show off (if they want) part of what makes them happy. (Every kid wants to share their toys, bedroom, and walk the class through their house.)
  • Sometimes, audio is enough. Just because you can use video doesn’t mean you must. Recognize the potential for personal intrusion it has over audio-only.

Staring Isn’t Caring

The bottom line on keeping team engagement going is to help it be as close to organic as it would be in an office. And you can carry this over to members as well!

For member interactions which previously happened in-person, provide the option for them to use a video chat. Offer a simple video guide on your app or website to get them going. Sure, this is a rip-off of your ITM video tellers, but members don’t have to go somewhere.

See? That you already have or are considering them means you’re on your digital transformation journey! We’ll make it all as good as in-person, you just watch!

Except for that shaking hands thing.

After Coronavirus, Normal Is Forever Changed [Video]

You’re looking forward to getting back to normal. I get it. The change we’ve all had to endure is immense. It’s thrown us all off our game. It’s tossed a bowling ball into our Jenga tower of perceived normal.

And just like that toppled tower of wooden bricks, normal will reassemble itself different than what you remember.

That’s ok. So long as you’re ready and prepared. Here’s a hint: “Digital transformation” is a thing you need to do now. Before Coronavirus (BC, again?), you could get away with slow transitions. Now? No longer.

People experienced remote work. They used digital platforms. We saw highways empty during rush hour. Many of those missing cars belong to people now at home, doing the same work, without the commute.

From my house to yours, let’s help those who need it (they’ll be a lot) and work together to bring the new normal into view.

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