Big Windshield Looking Forward, Small Mirror Looking Back
Jun 24, 2021
By: Everett "Bud" Hendrickson
This truth has gained more relevance considering the
challenging year we all have endured. To effectively lead
entering the summer of 2021, we need to recognize key
learning points from 2020 and early 2021. Looking back will
help us better navigate going forward.
Studies have been conducted on the productivity of
employees and how well people have adapted to remote
work, hybrid work, or working safely in person. Data also
exists that shows how effective some employees have been
in being self-directed and autonomous in their work.
These successes should be celebrated! I recommend that
all teams and individuals document the positives that have
emerged from changes in the way work was done in the last
year. Develop plans and actions so that all can be purposeful
in retaining crucial lessons as we move forward.
Numerous studies illustrate how employees have adapted
well to using new technology to work from home while
maintaining the quality of content and productivity. As with
all results of studies, there are other lessons to learn when
data is approached from another direction. According to
PricewaterhouseCoopers, while 55% of employees would
prefer to be fully remote or at least remote three days a
week once pandemic concerns recede, those with the least
amount of professional experience want to be back in the
office, with 30% preferring to be remote no more than one
day a week.
Can your team perform at its best long term if newer
employees are struggling in the new work environment
we’ve had to create? Further, is there anything new we can
learn from what didn’t work with the vast changes made
to how work was done?
Our issues fall into three buckets: Some people have
challenges with learning new technology; some lack the
skills to be self-directed or autonomous; and many people
miss relationships or simply not being connected to others.
Whether employees are working remotely, cannot visit
family or friends with health issues that limit the ability to
be together, are struggling with restrictions on travel or
entertainment, or are grappling with additional problems
affecting our world, many feel isolated and possess a deep
need for connection. Focus on building relationships, since
history has shown that when people feel connected, they
perform their best and feel their best.
As leaders, what are some purposeful alterations we
can consider as we move forward? Life and work have
dramatically changed and, in some cases, have altered
permanently. The lessons we have learned about connection
with each other and focus are even more important now,
in the remote/hybrid work patterns and in the home-life
environments in which we find ourselves.
THE COMPONENTS OF COMMUNICATION
For centuries we have discussed how important
communication is. Tools have changed, the speed at which
communication occurs has increased, and the distance
covered is much greater today than ever before. But the
fundamentals have not changed. In effective communication,
and in moments of stress and challenge, the fundamentals
are as important as they have ever been.
Communication is composed of three components:
words (what is actually said); tone of voice (how we say the
words); and body language (gestures, postures, and facial
expressions that communicate nonverbally to others).
With modern technology, are we missing key communication
attributes because we are not “in person” when we
communicate? Further, with the expanding use of email,
virtual meetings, and remote work, are we missing important
information about the health and well-being of our team?
If we are not purposeful in our use of technology and being
emotionally present, we risk missing much key information. The answer is to be diligent and notice people’s gestures,
facial expressions, and comments that are out of character.
You may need to connect with someone privately if you think
he or she could benefit from some assistance or support.
Are the ground rules current for effective communication,
or do they need to be updated and revisited by your team?
Looking back over 2020, are the identified ground rules
being followed? If not, what is the next action to create a
better environment for everyone? Awareness and small
changes, with appropriate follow-up, could be the
forward navigation that steers away from future chaos
and team division.
Professionally and personally, technology has been used to
enhance communication when we cannot be there in person.
Data show how productive most have been during the
challenging times of 2020. But we don’t talk much about the
loss of connection professionally and personally.
Many people work from home, and limits have been imposed
on visiting family members who live in care facilities. We’ve
been restricted from seeing other family and friends either
because they live far away or, even worse, were hospitalized.
In the latter case, visitation is either strictly curtailed or
As humans, we are designed to connect and be social.
But in everyday life during this pandemic, we don’t see
many faces because they are covered with masks. We
miss facial expressions, which are key elements of
I encourage you to look in your past and identify events or
activities that brought connection to your team members.
From your “being present” efforts to better communicate,
ask if you have gathered information about the communication
issues that are having negative effects on individuals or
your team. Being proactive in identifying ways to connect employees
socially and emotionally can help ensure the health of your
team on a personal level. You’ll help them to interact with
others at work at their highest levels of engagement.
We all know how much better we feel when we know
someone cares about us as people. When we are happier
and feel safe, we become more resilient, energetic, and
innovative. We need these qualities not only in ourselves
but in everyone with whom we interact.
To help with this connection, allow for some open time for
people to share something about themselves not related to
work. Schedule an event to donate money and/or time to a
worthy cause valued by the team members. Adopt attitudes
of service to others.
There are great needs in all of our communities today. What
better way to connect with others than to work together for
a common good?
Focus. Keep looking through the windshield during these
challenging times. Our shared experiences last year could
provide information to help you and others navigate better
as we move forward to better times.
The efforts you make personally to better communicate,
connect, care, and be a more vibrant part of a community
will build a better you. Building a better you is key. These
efforts could form the catalyst for others around you to
do the same. AQ
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Everett “Bud” Hendrickson is the author of Enjoy Your Journey: Ten Bedrock
Truths to Improve Everything About You (Creative Team Publishing, 2016).
A performance-driven manager who strives to build an environment for all
team members to be successful, he previously worked for Owens Corning.