Dr. Seuss’s birthday is on March 2 and marks National Read Across America Day. Aside from his books being great tool in teaching your child how to read, there's a lot we can learn from Dr. Seuss and his stories.
March 2 also happened to be the same day I first really paid attention to coronavirus—and, like many, very much discounted how it would change our day-to-day. If you really think about this disruption to our personal and business lives, it’s a big one. But not the only one we’ve experienced in our lifetime. In fact, crisis and conflict causing disruption are happening more regularly—think 2008 recession, 9/11, natural disasters and beyond.
The reality: It’s important to be prepared for these disruptions and make sure at the core, organizations are strong and nimble so business can continue. Maybe not “business as usual” but consider it’s “business evolved.”
And maybe that’s what really makes the work of Dr. Seuss noteworthy—the valuable life lessons that can be found throughout his writing. Let’s go to Dr. Seuss to inspire best practices for keeping organizations and individuals strong, aligned and engaged.
No matter how complicated a change feels, the answers remain simple. There are many things that have become commonplace in the last few weeks and months, that were once perceived as significant challenges. Swift, educated decisions had to be made to address really big concerns.
For example, how can we keep the workforce healthy and safe? Can we do business with a remote workforce? Will employees be productive in a remote work environment? Can the culture extend outside the walls of the physical workspace?
It’s quite powerful to recognize and reflect on these questions because we have been forced into an abrupt change. Evolution at a personal and organizational level has occurred whether we felt prepared or not. What were your prior concerns with things like remote work or flexible work policies? Were some changes proven to be less complicated than originally perceived? Can some of the forced change support a better way of doing business in the future?
Organizations that thrive through and after disruption communicate transparently and frequently. The messages leaders deliver in times of change, when delivered to employees with empathy and support, and the impact to employees top of mind, enable their workforce to overcome any fear and anxiety they are feeling. This allows a productive mindset.
Consider video messages from leaders that are grounded in the employer brand, emphasizing the policy, benefits, programs and values that will support employees through what might be a challenging time.
Now is also a time to really lean into your employer brand and values—and to consider a campaign focused on them. Employees will remember how you made them feel and this will influence their loyalty to the organization in the future.
There’s no better time than today to do the things that you’ll be remembered for tomorrow.
When employees are dispersed across thousands of different work locations, communication and clear expectations are more important than ever. And, some new approaches to engaging with employees may be needed.
Remember, each employee has a different communication preference, learning style and personality so various modes of communication will be needed. In the workplace, you may have been using posters, flyers, printed desk drops, TV monitors and in-person events to engage with employees.
Delivering consistent messaging broadly today might look slightly different. Consider video, podcasts, screensavers on individual computers, and segmented messages to defined employee populations. Leverage your engagement platforms or maybe build microsites as a central hub where you can direct employees to find all messaging being pushed and to interact with each other. It’s important to note many industry experts are suggesting the future of work is about creating a culture that supports people, it’s about a high-trust environment leveraging that culture (or maybe working to adjust it) to support employees in getting their work done in way that is satisfying and that allows maximum performance.
Time of disruption and change cause processes and norms at work and home to be challenged. What used to be activities of daily living, can now seem daunting.
Think about the changes you experienced when social distancing was enforced in your community—we all faced some change. Anyone that was a caregiver of children or elderly parents was suddenly faced with finding new ways to give support to their loved ones. And, all of us had to re-evaluate how to fulfill basic needs like getting food and other essentials.
Life is a great balancing act, and it’s important to support each employee as they adapt.
Support can come in the form of 1:1 connections between leaders and employees, lunch connections with colleagues or recognition for a job well done. Something to consider during times of change is enhanced employee listening to make sure the sentiment and the needs of employees are understood—this can be done through pulse surveys, focus groups or recognition platforms—and each can have both in-person or electronic formats.
In “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?,” Seuss breaks down all of the situations you might not want to find yourself in. In each, you can find the negative or you can find the positive.
Did you know 40% of our happiness is determined by thoughts, actions and attitudes (i.e., entirely within your control).
There are certain habits that have been shown to be consistent among happy people: they devote time to family and friends, practice gratitude and optimism, are physically active and savor life’s pleasures. Some ideas to come out of the study of applied positive psychology include:
- Promoting positive thinking;
- Re-focusing negative thoughts into positive thoughts; and,
- Helping people savor the positive in what might be otherwise challenging times.
Practical ways to support this in the workplace might include:
- Launch a campaign highlighting the good happening across the organization through inspirational experiences, comments and metrics;
- Promote recognition programs;
- Host recognition promotions focused on behaviors that are important during the given time; and,
- Encourage gratitude journaling.
6. “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.”
Dr Seuss’s characters forces readers to escape into the world he dreamt up. Fantasy helps you turn the focus inward, rather than outward, facilitating learning in the process.
Times of crisis and disruption aren’t easy, but they do force us into uncomfortable situations and new ways of doing things—like looking through the opposite end of a telescope. Tap into the creative ideas and innovations employees are realizing during disruption. And empower employees to share their ideas by establishing or promoting an existing innovation program. Seek process improvements as well as entirely new ways of doing things. As Seuss quotes in another book, “Oh, the thinks you can think!”
To wrap up, it’s important to note not every day will be sunny. And people and organizations will face ups and down during times of crisis and disruption. Be prepared for some rocky or not-so-fun times and have a plan in place for how to deal with them so you can still feel good and make the most of it. What is important to know is that if the core of your organization—your brand, culture and values—are strong, you can have fun, evolve and connect in new and maybe even better ways than pre-crisis.
Need a hand getting off on the right foot? Learn how building a resilient culture prepared to handle any kind of disruption is the power behind successfully navigating change in our ebook, How to Build a Resilient Organizational Culture.