I miss my team. Don't get me wrong, we talk weekly, more now than prior to COVID. Somehow a video web meeting isn't quite the same thing. I find this entire circumstance both fascinating and frustrating. At this point in time it is almost difficult to remember what we were doing before COVID. In 2019 our team got together in person for a global meeting with folks coming in from the US and Europe. We spent nearly a week together discussing our vision, setting strategy and goals. We communicated ideas. We held conversation, ate together and had fun. It seems like a distant memory.
Now, I love my team. As their leader, I feel tremendous responsibility for their well-being, success and happiness. According to research from the Mayo Clinic, your supervisor is more important to your health than your primary care physician. Being a leader matters. I see my teammates as partners. We have a common purpose and share a special bond. Your team understands the struggles, frustrations and triumphs at work like no one else can. You see each other every day. You have more waking hours with your team during the week than your family and friends outside of work. I love these relationships. I love these people. They matter to me.
COVID was slowly making its way across the globe. In early March, 2020 we decided to do a trial "work from home" day to test out VPN connectivity and troubleshoot other issues while we were still allowed into the office to fix any issues that would arise. At the time we didn't realize that only 4 days later we would be scattered to our homes and offsite with the exception of critical work that had to be periodically performed onsite. It was likely only going to be a couple weeks - perhaps a month tops. That was nearly a year ago.
We are social creatures, even our introverts like to be around people, just not necessarily being the center of attention. It is hard being distant. At one point someone set up a Zoom happy hour just to have casual conversation. We were all sitting around in our homes, basements, backyards, kitchens with a beverage chatting it up. It felt great to see faces and just talk. Suddenly it ended abruptly. Everyone was there and then completely erased from my screen. To my surprise, tears sprang to my eyes. I didn't realize how much I needed the daily interaction. I missed everyone terribly.
We decided to meet several times a week at first to give updates on what was happening around the globe and to check-in on each other. I'm ok, are you ok? What needs to be taken care of at work? Who is going in? Does everyone have what they need? Anyone do something fun? New hobbies to share? Does anyone need toilet paper? I tried to do something silly - wear a funny hat or drink my coffee out of 5 incrementally smaller coffee cups to see if anyone noticed. Anything to break up the monotony, lighten the mood and distract us from the feeling of utter helplessness.
What I saw evolve from this really inspired me. I was incredibly impressed at how quickly people adapted. Communication increased. People became more open. I became more open. My team found new ways to share information. People stepped up, took charge and shaped the policies for what was needed for when we did have to go into work to be safe. People felt safer going into work than going out anywhere else. Everyone continued to deliver amazing results and have outstanding impact. Team members created new ways to show appreciation and celebrate each other's successes. We ended 2020 on a high note with a global holiday celebration we had never done before. I feel closer to my team now more than ever even though we are physically distant.
Something that I have learned from all of this is that when you are in doubt, be more human. Be extremely kind. Be more caring, more compassionate. Everyone has their own battle whether it is kids, parents, spouse, other relationships that are weighing them down. It was so inspiring to see my team help each other out. Behind the scenes, people were delivering care packages, meals, doing well-being checks with each other. It was amazing.
Now I had purchased the book: Together is Better for our team and left it in our lunchroom long before COVID. People would read it while waiting for their coffee to brew or lunch to heat up, sometimes leaving it open to a page they found inspiring for the next person to find. I was, of course, very eager to attend Simon's book club when I saw it advertised this past year. My team knows Simon well. We have watched multiple TED talks together, repeatedly.
I think one of the best leaderships books has to be this this modest picture book, Together is Better; A Little Book of Inspiration. Now, Simon recommends purchasing the book for someone, reading it and then passing it on to the next person you wish to inspire. This is the best idea, but tough during COVID. So, thanks to some help from my team, we purchased and shipped a copy of that book to everyone of our people around the globe. We purchased so many copies, that Amazon froze the account we used to make the purchases because it thought it was a bot. People read the book and shared their favorite quotes in team chats. That was our way of passing it along to one another and doing something to inspire one another. We snapped a photo at one of our video meetings of everyone with their copy.
The message in the book is pretty simple, but perfect during these times. Together is Better. "the more we are inspired by the amazingness of our people, the more we can inspire them." It is like a circle of inspiration. I am simply inspired by how amazing my team is. This pandemic certainly seemed like an impossible problem, but my team proved that wrong. We are closer, stronger and better than we were before. I hope this story inspires you, like my team inspires me every day. I am honored to lead these incredible people. I can't wait to see what extraordinary things we do next, together.
*Thank you to my awesome team for their permission to snap their photo and share online!