Just before we made the decision for all employees to work remotely due to the COVID – 19 outbreak, our company held our annual strategic planning. And when I say “just before” I literally mean the day before.  A big part of that planning was a group exercise that I’m sure many of you have undertaken before called, Stop Start Keep. If you haven’t, google it, I think you’re going to find it valuable. It’s an exercise where you look at things you should stop doing because they are holding you back from success, things you should start doing because you could probably do them better and things you should keep doing because well they’re working well – identify the bright spots you should continue to focus on.

So there we were the day before we decided to close the offices and have everyone work from home and we were really engaged in strategic planning.  Thinking about it at first it seemed like it was very poor planning for us to have done this and then be isolated from one another. But, it was actually good. Having done the exercise while we were together, allowed us to efficiently drill down and come up with the top 3 things that we can do better, the top 3 things that we should stop doing and the top 3 things we’re doing well and should just keep doing. Having that framework set a focus for everyone, even when being a little more disconnected by working remote.

Like everyone else we are using technology like Zoom so that we can stay in contact as much as possible. Initially the meetings were mostly social to make sure everyone was starting to emotionally adjust to what was happening all around us. Because of the recent strategic focus, they are better prepared to move through these new times with a higher level of confidence and sense of purpose and that’s why I wanted to share our experience with you today, in hope that you’ll benefit and recognize that now’s the time to apply the exercise. Not just with your team, but for yourself and maybe for your family.

Now’s the time to think lean. Many of the business groups I belong to are suggesting the same. Lean doesn’t just mean cutting costs. Remember, you can only cut there so much…and while now’s the time to preserve money, it’s just as important to plan for the immediate future and when things turn around. There’s consensus in smart business circles that now is the time now to invest in personal and leadership development. Whether we admit it or not, we have extra time right now, even if it’s just because we’re spending less time driving to work. It’s a time when “not having the time” to do strategic work doesn’t make sense as an excuse. Of course, we want everybody to do what is needed to manage the stresses of being sequestered, but now is not the time to squander this opportunity and watch a couple more Netflix episodes. Now is the time to pick up a new skill or build new relationships or two that will be useful to you in the future.

All of us should step up our leadership responsibilities, whether that means leading our teams, our families or our friends. This is a great time to think critically about our responses to this situation. Let’s think about all the decisions we’re forced to make based on new information arriving by the hour sometimes and use what you learn from an easy to apply exercise like, Stop, Start, Keep to help you leverage those results and apply to all areas of your life.

No doubt we all feel a collective purpose right now to stay safe and help others stay safe as well. Let’s take that collective purpose and move it into our business life by making sure we have the same values and objectives. Although there is extreme physical distancing, in many ways we are all more connected and having to rely on each other to do the right things. For this reason, it seems trust is growing. If your team doesn’t have a collective culture of trust and sense of purpose, working virtually is not going to be very effective. Use this time to build it. Remember, being connected isn’t just about the technology. It’s not just about getting your virtual meetings like Zoom to work, where everyone’s sound and imaging works, it’s about working together, sharing together and having set goals with a clear path to achieve them. I’d love to hear that you started now to get laser focused!

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