3 Ways to Navigate the New Work Normal

Photo by airfocus on Unsplash


Let’s face it, when it comes to going back to work in the middle of a pandemic, one question still remains: should we even go back to business as usual? The short answer? We couldn’t even if we tried because what was once viewed as “business as usual” before the pandemic now poses a severe health threat. For example, open-floor plans, working near one another, buffet-style lunches, and meetings without masks are just a few of the business norms being reimagined given the current climate. While there is no going back to “business as usual,” there is a way to move forward. It starts with three ways to ensure your employees not only feel “physically safe,” but also “psychologically safe” as they transition back to work.


  • Add more social distancing measures—surprise, surprise, right? With coronavirus cases back on the rise, social distancing isn’t going anywhere, and the truth is, your employees most likely won’t either unless you have a plan that allows them to safely distance. Depending on your company, it may be as simple as repurposing common areas so employees can spread out or turning that open-floor plan into a closed one with (wait for it) cubicles. 
  • Bring back employees in shifts—if social distancing isn’t an option at your company at the moment, having fewer people in one space is a great alternative to help your employees feel safer as they transition. In other words, trade-off when individual employees are in the office while others are working from home to lessen the chances of community spread. 
  • Stop neglecting the elephant in the room—encourage employees to talk about their personal life because whatever is going on their lives is most likely having an impact on their work-life, too. After all, feeling physically safe can only take you so far if you don’t feel “psychologically safe,” which is built on learning to trust the people with which you work. And nothing builds trust better than getting to know the people you collaborate with (like really know them). Activities can include anything from ice breakers to kick-off meetings or merely helping people think about the way their work and personal lives mesh together. 


Of course, the best solution your company might be able to offer employees amid a pandemic is to normalize working from home, especially if employees don’t feel comfortable and/or safe. Naturally, normalizing new habits involves many things. For employees, it might mean having the option of more flexible hours if their kids are doing distance-learning again this fall. And for companies like yours, it might mean investing in new technologies, methodologies, and even home office equipment to make working from homework. Just make sure that you have a working agreement in place so that everyone’s on the same page about the values, norms, and expectations being set in place.  


Black Trans Lives Matter

My dad is a Baptist minister and it is clear that much of the jargon that defines my life and the world around me is rooted in his and other powerful sermons. I was too young to even comprehend the depth of the Biblical text but I knew that this storytelling was impactful to our community. 

There is a particular scripture that has played constantly in my mind as I struggle to find meaning in the trauma that is being visited upon my Black trans siblings. Corinthians 1:31 says “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 

I think about me as a child. I was bright and bubbly yet I was constantly reminded that my life was in danger from so many angles. I was in danger from G-d if I did not comply with the Bible. I was in danger from white people who might consider me a threat. In reality, I was in most danger of never being allowed to be myself fully and unapologetically. In fact, I was robbed of the opportunity to just be a child, to speak as a child, and to think like a child because every Black person in America must grow up at an uncompromising accelerated pace in the hopes of just surviving in this country. 

Being Black in America is already threatening. But as a child, I always felt different within my own Black community. I assumed this was because of my “fancy” whitewashed education that led to me speaking a bit more like Clair Huxtable than Hariette Winslow. As a college student, I finally let myself acknowledge that I loved differently than most of the people from home. I identified as a cisgender woman who only seemed to be moved by other women. The sheer terror of that acknowledgment and the othering that stemmed from that transformational moment seemed to be a sure-fire way to kick me right out of my family and my Black community. I remained stagnant for the next decade because it was as far as I was willing to go in my journey.

The cognitive dissonance of calling myself a woman when I really didn’t identify in that way was a weight around my neck. I tried to fit in as a “bro” in my lesbian community and rose to the highest level of influence in my community. In actuality, it was all a facade to make other folks feel comfortable. However, I am a trans nonbinary lesbian and I was only able to come to this conclusion through love.  My life even with the vitriol, hate, and ignorance from strangers, friends, and family has been fundamentally moved and influenced by love of my trans siblings and more specifically my Black trans siblings. All of you drive me daily. 

We often reference James Baldwin’s famous words when we talk about being Black in America “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” I would posit that if we had to boil down something similar for the Black trans community that it would be something along the lines of “To be a Black trans person in America is a study in courage and a fierce desire to not be forgotten.” I say this because Black trans folks are told that they belong neither in the Black, LGBTQ, or American community on a daily basis. It has become a rite of passage to make it to the age of 35, which I just hit a few weeks ago. We are beaten in the street when we are around our skin folk. We are constantly targeted by government institutions and told we are not worthy of the laws for which this country was founded. We are told by our LGBTQ+ community that we are somehow defective and mistaken in our assertion in the fundamental principle of who we are. Yet despite every sign that we are not wanted, we love harder. The first folks in line for Black people, LGBTQ+ people, women, and other marginalized people are Black trans folks. We must remember that trans folks have always been here and no matter how organized the assault against our humanity we will not be erased.

Today and every day I will say that I will lead with love and courage and I will not be forgotten. After hearing this message, I ask all of you to take up this mantle and not forget the courageous, beautiful, loving Black trans folks who fought and died for you because we’ve always deserved more than you were ever willing to give.



How to Make Decisions More Effectively

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

“You cannot make progress without making decisions.” – Jim Rohn


Whether you’re in charge of leading a small team or leading the country, making decisions decisively and effectively is key when it comes to successfully moving a company, or country, forward.  


On the flip side, being indecisive or too slow to make the necessary call often translates into devastating consequences, including lost customers, time, money, and in the case of this year’s pandemic – even lost lives. 


After recently watching the latter happen as the U.S. leadership struggled to come to a decision on how to properly deal with the COVID-19 crisis, I couldn’t help but wonder how much better off everyone would have been using the proven RAPID® method when coming to a decision.


Yup, that’s right, another acronym for you to remember. Except for this time around, it’s intended for whenever you need to make smart decisions quickly. 


What RAPID stands for:

Recommend – once valuable input has been gathered, one individual recommends a course of action or presents a series of options to take.

Agree – while open and constructive debates are always welcome, the goal is for all individual(s) to agree on a proposed recommendation. If an individual doesn’t agree with the rest of the group, the final decision maker can sign off on the agreement instead.

Perform – once a decision has been reached, the individual(s) must execute the decision in an efficient and effective way.  

Input – individual(s) are consulted to provide hard facts, data, and evidence that inform the recommendation.

Decide – once all of the options are on the table, a decision must be made by a single individual. However, it’s important to note that non-decision makers still have a responsibility to support the final decision regardless of their personal stance. In short, even if some folks don’t agree, they have to commit to executing the recommendation that has been greenlit by the decision-maker.


Now that you understand what RAPID stands for, let’s take a closer look at the order and 5-day process of actually applying this to a hypothetical decision of whether you as a business owner should allow employees to work from home through fall of 2020 due to the recent pandemic. 


What the RAPID process looks like in action:

Day 1 – 2: Gather all of the necessary input to inform the best recommendation: in other words, talk to your employees to see how they’re feeling about working from home, as well as what kind of impact working from home has on productivity before you set anything in stone. 


Day 2: Make a recommendation based on input: if your recommendation is to extend your company’s work from home policy, make sure your input validates your recommendation. In this case, the majority of your employees would have had to provide positive feedback about working from home, without any noticeable impact on productivity or the work itself. 


Day 3: Agree with your leadership team on this recommendation: think of this as your virtual kumbaya moment to get sign off from the rest of your leadership team on your proposed recommendation of employees working from home through fall. If for whatever reason, there is someone in the group that can’t seem to agree with the recommendation, the key decision-maker (you in this case) can override their disagreement. 


Day 4: Make the final decision: if you’re the key decision-maker, then make it official by letting all parties involved know where you landed. If you’re not the key decision-maker in this process, remember that you still have a responsibility to support the decision that has been made, regardless of your personal viewpoint.


Day 5: Take action: assign an individual(s) to communicate the decision in a timely manner via the proper channels (email, company-wide call, etc.) about the final decision that has been made to have employees work from home through fall.


If you’re already on board with the new RAPID method, but not so sure your team or company will go for it, try applying the same method by gathering input first before you make any recommendations. If your team collectively mentions they don’t feel like they need a new method for decision making, then it might not be the time to bring up a recommendation. However, if your team expresses that decisions take too long to make and are costing the company its customers, the RAPID method might just be a welcomed recommendation.



The Way Forward

The blood that runs through my veins has a little Nigerian, Ghanian, and Congolese in it. But more than anything, I am a child whose family was taken from our home and brought to Mississippi centuries ago.

Growing up, my mother and father would take me to their family homes and show me the graves of my ancestors.

I remember as they proudly told me about how this great uncle was the first to get free, and then he bought his wife and others or how that great aunt was the first to graduate from high school. There was so much pride in accomplishments that my classmates (who were all white for most of my life) would have taken for granted.

I also remember with pain the stories they told of the family and friends who had been lynched when they spoke out of turn.

Those stories left the greatest impression and served as a lesson in the consequences of being Black in America. I remember the desire to be as perfect as possible because I never wanted to be on the wrong side of the law. The desire for perfection nearly broke me in more ways than I can count mentally and emotionally.

As a teenager, through some strange cosmic joke, I was even arrested, prosecuted, and eventually exonerated for numerous felony offenses of which I did not commit. Still, since I was the Black teenager in the vicinity, the police decided I must have done it. Like many cases with a happy ending, it was only through a well meaning attorney who charged my parents less than she could that I eventually regained my freedom.

I share this because there is no such thing for a Black person and especially a Black trans lesbian as myself to act in a way where I can ensure my safety. My only possible protection occurs through my desire to dismantle the systems that perpetuate crimes against those who look like me. If you’re reading this, you also have this power.

It is no longer a time for measured comments, patience, or planning. We must all act now because it is clear that if we fail now, we doom not only ourselves but also future generations to the very same mistakes.

It is not lost on me that this movement begins as we celebrate another in Pride month, so I leave you with a quote of a personal hero of mine.

”You have to join every other movement for the freedom of people” ~ Bayard Rustin


Why It’s Time To Retire “Working Harder”

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash


I hate to break it to you, but some of the things you’ve learned about how to be successful are simply outdated. And the biggest one is that you need to “work harder and longer to be successful.”


So, what’s the golden ticket to being successful, you ask? Great question. You have to learn to work smarter or, as I like to say, work some PPE into your day (and no, I’m not talking about personal protective equipment). What I’m talking about is preparedness, prioritization, and execution.  


“In all your working, make sure your work is working.” ~ Regan Donofrio


Now that you’ve got the acronym part down, here’s how you put it into action:

1.     Prepare – the last thing you want to do is let emails or calls hijack your morning before your coffee has even kicked in. That’s why preparation is critical when it comes to planning out your day the night before, but preparation doesn’t just apply in the short term. You can benefit significantly from long-term preparedness by reading up on a field you want to pursue in 6 months or training for a marathon you want to run in a year. 


2.     Prioritize – if you’re tired of feeling overcommitted, overwhelmed, and overworked, you’ve got to get over the hump and learn to ruthlessly prioritize what’s most important. Prioritization starts with accepting that you have a limited amount of time to do an unlimited amount of things. Thus, you’ve got to constantly and consistently push yourself to do the most important and impactful thing FIRST. 


3.     Execute – you can prepare and prioritize all you want, but none of it matters without effective execution. So, what separates effective execution from plain ‘ol execution? Four things to be exact; staying organized/being clear on who’s doing what, setting deadlines, providing positive feedback, and resolving team conflicts. 

Did you notice what’s not a part of PPE? Working harder and longer hours to be successful. Sure, pulling a late-nighter to get that thing done for your boss may get you a few extra compliments in the short term; however, it’s not a sustainable or efficient way to do your best work in the long run. 


“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” ~ Lena Horne


There’s a good chance this kind of working style will only zap your energy and lead you straight to burnout. And if you’re like most people during quarantine these days, you’ll need that extra energy when you’re trying to juggle working from home with your other full-time job of super parenting or super streaming the latest show in your sweats. 

 

The bottom line? It’s time to retire the idea of “working harder and longer to be successful” once and for all and start embracing a new way of working when you put preparedness, prioritization, and execution into play. Seriously, think about it! You’ve got nothing to lose (besides feeling overwhelmed and overworked, of course) and everything to gain.  

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