Lori Milner is a facilitator, mentor, entrepreneur and author, known for her insightful approach to balancing being a modern woman with a fulfilling job and leading a full life outside of the office. She’s got some great advice on how to get the most out of working from home.
So you’re at home, life has done a 360 and now you’re getting used to the ‘new normal’. I want to share some thoughts on how to show up to your meetings as your best self because this will all come to an end at some point and life will resume back to what it once was. You need to take ownership and accountability for how you conduct yourself over this period especially when it comes to your online meetings.
There is often a common culture in companies where people feel like ‘well, everyone else always arrives 10 minutes late so why bother to get there on time?’ If you adopt this attitude during this time, remember – it impacts your image and the way you show up in other people’s minds. It sounds simple but don’t click on the Zoom link at 10am if the meeting starts at 10am. Log on 10 minutes before, check your sound and connection to ensure you can start the meeting on time and not get yourself flustered.
You need to have the mind-set that we are all in this together and we need to respect each other’s time.
The truth is if you arrive late or make the entire team wait – or even one client or colleague – you are signalling two major things whether you intend to or not.
Firstly – you are telling them through your actions that you don’t respect their time and secondly, that you are unable to plan effectively. Set an alarm to remind you 10 minutes before that the meeting is going to begin so you can get yourself ready to start with a calm, confident and ready to go attitude.
Make sure there is a specific agenda for the meeting – take ownership of that to ensure there is focus and structure to the sessions. This enables others to plan, prepare and address any challenges when you have the relevant people together.
The worst thing you can do in this situation is continue the chain of sitting in meetings all day and not get to your ‘actual’ work that allows you to make progress on your goals. Always make sure that the correct people are in the meeting – don’t leave out key decision makers or include people who quite frankly just don’t need to be there.
Make email effective
Your inbox is a a to-do list where anyone can add an action item at any time. Not only can it derail you from your priorities but every time you check a mail, it is another decision. When you are busy deciding what to read, delete or save for later, you are using up energy that would be better applied elsewhere. It contributes to decision fatigue and especially during this time where you are contending with family at home and a new way of being – you need to conserve your energy for the big decisions that really matter.
Before you send a mail – ask yourself – is it absolutely necessary to send this person an email? Do they need to copied? Is there a deliverable required from this person? When you have confirmed that it is necessary, ensure the mail is detailed with specific information, requests that make it clear what the intention of the mail is.
Please – and I’ll add another please – do not send a mail that says ‘FYI’ or ‘Thoughts?’. You are making more work for team members and they may miss something important in the chain if not pointed out. Also be mindful of sending anything that is just not useful like chain mails or anything that will amplify the fear about what’s going on around us.
My best advice regarding email – rather pick up the phone. You can spend 5 minutes on a phone call what would probably take 8 email chains back and forth. We are isolated, so bring back the human touch where necessary. Spend a few minutes seeing how your colleagues are doing – do they need any emotional support? This is not just about being machines and micro managing tasks but creating a support system.
Dress for the day
When you get back to the office, are you going to start arriving in your pajamas or half dressed? So why would you even consider doing that now?
Getting ready for the day is not just about your work colleagues and clients; it is a transition tool to get you from personal mode into work mode. Most of us have never had to work from home before so you need to include rituals to establish your personal time from work time.
BC (that’s before Covid19), you would get dressed, get to the office and once you walked through the door, you are in work mode. Once you arrive back home, you have shifted your role again. Well… hopefully you have.
You need to create daily rituals to enable you to shift not only physically but mentally.
Getting dressed appropriately for work is crucial. When you address colleagues and clients online – use the camera. Don’t hack the system and switch it off so you can’t be seen. And do not only dress the top of you and sit in pajama bottoms or running shorts – you will be caught at some point.
But on a serious note, if you show up dressed for your summer holiday, you are damaging a key attribute and that is trust through lack of consistency. I’m not saying get into full power suit (you can if you want) but be presentable. Think of casual Friday – how would you normally go into the office? Remember – you will be facing these clients again in person as well as your team. Show up in a way that signals to them you are capable of great things.
Do not multi-task
This is a great opportunity to practice focus and presence. When you are on a conference call, do not open a browser and check your social feed or emails at the same time. Give the person or meeting your full attention. Do not just wait for your turn to speak or give input. You think you can listen and retain information fully while engaged in another activity but multi-tasking is a myth and no one should do it.
If you know yourself well and you know you are guilty of this – set up some triggers to ensure you stay focused on the meeting at hand. Close your Outlook or email program for the duration of the call, turn your phone on silent and disable the notifications for your social feeds. It is very tempting in the middle of a call to ‘just quickly’ check in because no one will know right?
Treat these online meetings as if they were happening in person or pretend your boss is sitting next to you. Ask yourself – would I do this in person? The truth is people can hear if you are distracted and at some point – you will face that awkward pause when someone asks for your comments and you have no idea what was said.
Show leadership in crisis and uncertainty
Among the confusion and fear, this is truly an opportunity to shine. Despite your current role, this is your time to step up as a leader and demonstrate how you navigate this period. Put your hand up for managing the meetings, the agendas, putting together the action points. Create order and help your team make progress together.
Ask yourself ‘How can I be a contribution now and add value?’ Perhaps it is something as simple as sharing links to interesting articles that would benefit the team or your clients from a work perspective. Do not send anything that will amplify the fear.
Leadership is open and available to you now – it is a choice.
When you get back to the office, you want to have demonstrated your strengths in uncertainty. How you show up every day to your team and clients will serve you in the long run when the dust settles.
This is not only about leadership in your work capacity, but leadership to your family and loved ones. Leading your kids through the day, leading your family members through fear and leading yourself through self-care is in my opinion more important. You can choose to see this situation as an opportunity and every micro decision through the day is the way through it. All you can do is choose to make the best choice in the moment and show up as the best version of you.
Here’s to showing up to your meetings!
Lori started her consultancy, Beyond the Dress, to empower women with the tools and skills they need to fulfil their potential in both their careers and their own lives. Click here to follow her on Facebook or Twitter.