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Letter to Leaders

The Unknown is Still The Unknown

I attended my first live conference in three years last month. It happens to be my favorite conference (excluding those some of you pay me to speak at).

I learned a lot in three days. And I'll share those insights in-depth over the next several months. But a wanted to take a moment and talk about the big picture thoughts I took away from four days in Atlanta.

1. Holy crap: Travel is insanely expensive right now. Round trip airfare to Atlanta? $1,214. (Yuki and I will be postponing any personal travel until school starts and the crowds die down.)

2. There are two ways to inspire creativity, and both involve getting away. One is a vacation with complete disconnect from work. The other is to interact with thought leaders in your chosen area of work. And lest you think creativity is not important – you’re wrong. Everyone needs to bring creativity and perspective to their jobs; if you don’t, you’re a robot. And replaceable. And/or a burnout case.

3. The #1 app is now eye contact. Conversations must happen with eye contact. Remember that when you’re inclined to turn off your camera on a Zoom call. You didn’t turn off the camera when you were in the office, and neither did your employees. It’s time – one way or another – to bring back eye contact in the workplace.

4. One thing I see trending downward is ‘mandatory fun - the stuff s employers try to get employees involved. Stop making people go to virtual happy hours.

5. Don’t kid yourself about work from home productivity. When 70% of Americans went to work from home, productivity initially went up. Then it flatlined. Now it’s trending down.

6. I’ve been saying for months that if people don’t feel they're fairly compensated, they’re going to leave. I continue to stand by that statement. But pay is a risk mitigator for leaving. An employee may leave for lots of reasons. The most frequent reasons we see right now are a bad boss, or the lack of development or opportunity. So the employee thinks, “If I can’t get these things, I might as well go someplace where they pay me more.” Risk Mitigation.

7. An unreasonable amount of work and uncertainty are the main reasons for burnout. Sound familiar?

8. ADP estimates that 40% of leaders been in their job for less than a year. These inexperienced, untrained people are trying to do all of this while leading from home! They need training, advice, support.

9. Three reasons why they're your most productive employees or business teams: 1) those people know they’re doing meaningful work; 2) they have good support systems; and 3) they know what their growth opportunities are.

What was most important for me was the realization we all remain overwhelmed. If indeed the pandemic is abating, then a potential recession is facing us. The unknown continues to be unknown.

More than ever, we need to control what we can control – at work and at home.

We’re starting to get requests to help clients re-define corporate culture in the post-pandemic era. This isn’t coincidental. Businesses understand we need to redefine purpose and values, and align leaders to those values.

When we're connected to the culture, then we feel we belong. It’s the first step in the latest journey we face.

Eric Swenson


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