Beware the After-Times

Bullet Proof Consulting

I am quite taken with the terms before-times and after-times.  As in pre and post-pandemic. 

This week, hubby and I took the car in for some work and decided to grab a Starbucks – as walk-in customers. The place was like a massive cavern because all of the usual 30 or so tables with chairs were gone. The fellow taking orders was masked behind the tall plexiglass. We, too, were masked. And the only inside customers.

After placing our order, I removed my mask. Without thinking. I have no idea why I did — I just did. The fellow behind the plexiglass asked me very politely to put it back on. Realizing I had committed a stupid human trick, sheepishly I masked up again. Hubby was stunned and asked me what had possessed me to take it off. I had no answer and began to feel uneasy.

That uneasy feeling lasted all day because while I could kind of excuse my strange behaviour in public, I realized that we all will exhibit strange behaviours as we enter the after-times at work.

The after-times will be trying

For all of us. For very likely a couple of years. I think the easiest way to deal with these after-times is to treat them as an experiment or a work in progress. Because as we navigate together, we will inevitably toss out that which did not work, and bring forward or amend that which now does.

Even better, if we could view these after-times similar to a continuous improvement project, I believe the transition will be much easier on everyone. So from my days of leading high-performance teams in a continuous improvement environment, let me share the five things that always worked brilliantly.

  1. Clarity – Understand and explain why you are here and why you have gathered together. What is it you want to accomplish? Is there a brief agenda? Are the responsibilities clear for who provides the background, leads the discussion and provides input? Do you have any personal performance and accountability rules which need to be observed? I view most of this stuff under the term “housekeeping”. Essentially, you want to brush out the cobwebs and open the paths of expectation for everyone.
  2. Commitment – Saying you’re committed doesn’t cut it. Put your money where your mouth is. Show up ahead of time, be prepared, don’t “wing it” even an iota, allow the right amount of time for appropriate discussion, treat all those who gathered with you with respect. If there is a financial commitment, be sure you discuss progress — both for and against. Above all else, do not duck out for something more important and thereby leave your people to fend by themselves. (Life and death are the only acceptable exceptions.)
  3. Consistency – This is not easy. You want to do it day after day, week after week, and month after month. Backsliding is not allowed. You need to demonstrate the behaviour that you want everyone to model. And you also want to avoid becoming Judge Judy in the process.
  4. Reinforcement – The best reinforcement is praise and I much prefer the carrot to the stick. These after-times will tax us all. So be liberal and generous with your reinforcement mechanisms. And never forget, laughter is the best tension, bad mood and exhaustion diffuser.
  5. TEAM – Together, Everyone Achieves More. How many times have we heard this one? And how many times have we seen it ignored? None of us will be able to transition to the after-times by ourselves. We all need help. So be prepared to offer it AND accept it. Embrace the one for all, all for one concept. When done genuinely, it really does work – and better than we could ever imagine.

The after-times will be a whole new adventure. And not everyone has the skill or strength to manage through. So take these five points and use them liberally. And if you’d like a bit more from the idea department, let’s spend 30 minutes together.

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