Caroline talks about her trip to Iceland, current work, and what it feels like going hybrid.
I hope you are having a great summer!
My family and I just returned from an awe-inspiring trip to Iceland, which was also our first plane ride since 2019. Exactly two weeks after the younger members of my family completed their second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, my husband booked this trip to the “land of fire and ice” where all restrictions for fully vaccinated or fully recovered visitors were lifted beginning July 2nd. (To return to the US, we still needed a fresh negative Covid test result just prior to the return date. Check the CDC site for the latest information.)
Family time in Iceland
Photo credit: Chong Oh
Even in our slightly uneasy state from being around maskless strangers, we fell head over heels in love with the sight of little sheep families (mostly single mothers and their twin lambs) roaming freely all over the countryside, and the icebergs that were the color of frosted blue Gatorade. The sun stays bright through most of the night in the summer, which was just wild. I wish this beautiful country and its people the very best as they begin in earnest to bring back their economy and way of life with full force.
Wall Street Journal article on meeting fatigue
Before leaving for Iceland, I had the opportunity to speak with Rachel Feintzeig who writes the Work & Life Column for the Wall Street Journal, and got to contribute a couple of quotes to the piece called “The Pain of the Never-Ending Work Check-In.” It came out just this week and I think it captures so well the current overwhelming and helpless feeling so many workers feel in this strange moment. Also, my hats off to the graphic that accompanied the piece, showing a calendar from hell with color-coded and overlapping meetings for days!
Meetings are so important for collaborative work. If leadership is about getting things done with other people, meetings are one of the most important tools to help you do that. It’s just so hard to find that balance that gives you the right amount of meetings and the kind of meetings you need, yet it’s so important.
In the piece, I described how painful it is for the modern manager to feel they have no control over their own schedule (two of my clients independently described their calendars as Tetris game pieces falling into their schedule!), and how many managers may feel the extra pressure to check in more often to show their empathy during the pandemic. I also added: “Sometimes caring more means saving a worker from one more Zoom.”
Well, that little quote was mentioned in “raceAhead”, Fortune’s twice-weekly newsletter on race and culture, currently being guest-edited by journalist Stacy-Marie Ishamael who added a thoughtful line and a question I wish I had thought of.
“As managers and leaders attempt to navigate the twin forces of The Great Hybridization and the Great Resignation, there’s a temptation to schedule ever more meetings-about-meetings-about-work. A more useful question might be: how can we get out of the way?”
If you have trouble accessing either of these pieces (ie pay wall), please let me know and I can send you a PDF!
Speaking of going hybrid and meetings, I have found myself at a bit of a loss for words this summer every time a client asked when I will be returning to in-person work. As a raging extrovert, I thought I would be more desperate to return to work in person by now. But frankly, working completely remotely has brought me a new level of efficiency and surprisingly good quality of work. While I miss working with people in person, the all-remote schedule has worked out very well for my family and work.
So I have been pushing off all in-person work inquiries saying “I will be back in September,” and yikes, September is going to be here in a minute. The in-person inquiries are coming mostly from institutional clients for retreats and workshops, rather than individual coaching clients who seem, for the most part, happy to continue to meet via Zoom, at least while they are figuring out their own back-to-in-person work schedule.
Here are just a couple of articles and resources I found interesting in my recent exploration on the subject if you are also thinking about this stuff a lot.
Since I began drafting this Note, a client asked if we could turn a Zoom offsite meeting scheduled for this week (yes, this week!) into an in-person one. And I agreed! The thought of leading meetings in person again is both exciting and a little anxiety-provoking. Will I bring back the giant post-its for live note taking? If somebody can’t attend in person at the last minute, will we invite them to join on a screen? If so, will folks in the room continue to drop comments and links into the Zoom chat box? What should I wear after all these months working from home? What still fits?
As I think about these little logistics, I was reminded of a talk Erica Dihawan, author of “Digital Body Language,” gave called “Leading in a Hybrid World” for Chief members recently. She said that (paraphrasing here) in the hybrid world, the most effective meeting facilitator will look and feel a lot like a game show host who can easily talk to the camera for the remote audience, banter with the in-room participants, and read questions coming through the chat box, all the while herding everyone towards the same meeting goals. It sounds intriguing and also very hard!
See you in August!
Photo credit: Chong Oh
I will be in touch again in August! In the meantime, please share what is happening where you live and work!
P.S. It was so fun to see some of you at the Bolster Panel on How To Be An On-Demand Executive. The panelists were excellent and I was so honored to be with them, though I felt like I wasn’t at my best. The organizers took excellent notes of what we discussed, which I link here. Enjoy!