• Chris O'Connor

The Hallways

I’m thinking everybody may have an experience like this, but this has terrified me since I was a young kid. I can vividly remember having a dream, or maybe I should call it a nightmare, where I am walking through the halls of the high school trying to get from one class to another, but I can never get there. No matter what turn I take I can never seem to get to the next class.



This is crazy because my high school wasn’t that big or confusing. But still, I’d go to the 4th floor of A wing for English and next thing I knew I was walking through a door on the other end of the school into the cafeteria. And the worst ones were when I got to a point where I end up falling down a “pit” that inexplicably appears in the middle of the hallway.



More times than I can remember I woke up in a sweat and out of breath. I’m sure at this point someone out there is trying to psycho-analyze me and is ready to tell me about some deep seeded anxiety I have failed to deal with since my youth. And just to add to the fun, this dream has evolved over the years to between classes at West Point or in the buildings of the clients I have gone on to serve over the years.



So, what does this have to do with anything, other than a cathartic moment of sharing for me? Well, I can’t help but wonder if this social distancing is in fact my dream, or was it a nightmare… come true. Where are we going? When will it end? Will I, or any of my loved ones die from this virus?



My story is to illustrate how people’s minds, even mine, can take over and make things seem desperate and endless. Many of your employees are probably feeling this way right now. So what can you do about it? How can you as a leader help them get through these “hallways” of life right now?



“Know this is not a time to hold back with your people. Send people updates and regular communication, even if there is not a lot of new information and the message is largely personal. When people are isolated, over-communication is more important than ever.”




Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Teamand Founder of the Table Group, recently shared this perspective on a Zoom call meant to provide support to his movement of Organizational Health practitioners. Think about it for a minute. Think about how you feel or how you felt when you were being led. We talk about how in a vacuum of information, or little information; people will start to fill in the blanks with their own truths. And once that starts, morale will drop. In addition, your effectiveness to take care of your employees will wither.



Can you afford to let that happen in these uncertain times? Of course not. That is why Pat’s message is so essential. Even if you don’t have all the answers…. admit it and tell them what you do know. Most of the time, people need to feel cared-for and heard. Listen to your people. Talk to your people.



So, if you were to ask me: “What if the most important thing leaders did every day was to take care of their people?”



That’s an easy one, and I’ll answer in terms of Healthy organizations and Smart ones. Healthy organizations are characterized by minimal politics and confusion, high degrees of morale and productivity, and very low turnover among good employees. Alternatively, Smart organizations reflect good execution of those classic fundamentals of business – strategy, marketing, finance, and technology – which are considered to be decision sciences. If the most important thing leaders did every day to take care of their people, we would have Healthy companies that were Smart (as opposed to companies that consistently prioritized Smart over Healthy), because then, so many more people could experience what it felt like to be put first.

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