New Terms for New Times

… and, admittedly, some old times, too. The terms “emotional” and “affective” labor come to me from Lee Skallerup Bessette’s Educase article called “Affective Labor: The Need for, and Cost of, Workplace Equanimity.”

In her groundbreaking book, The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild defines emotional labor as work that is done to “induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others.” Her book is foundational for understanding emotional and affective labor. It also perfectly describes the kind of intensive work we have been asked to perform these past few weeks, as well as the kind of labor we typically and invisibly do even in less stressful periods.

Hold onto these terms when you’re feeling challenged. If you’re a leader or a partner, you obviously have a responsibility to manage your feelings, and you know that. But the deeper why is that the outward expression of your feelings often function as dominoes for the feelings of others. You know that, too, but you probably forget it from time to time.

Crisis Communicators

Whether we run a school, a small business, or a family, we’re all crisis communicators right now. On that front, I’m sharing below some of the best advice I’ve heard, all from sources I trusted and consulted way before COVID-19. After noting each source, I pulled a quotation from each article.

Source: Ewan McIntosh and this article, How to Communicate in a Crisis.

Your choice of behaviour needn’t be improvised. Go to your organisation’s core values — its moral system — and show that you trust them to see you through. If your core values don’t help in a crisis, they’re not core values. They should help you make decisions, quickly, and have great confidence that the decisions are probably right.

Source: Nick Morgan and this article, Communication in the Time of Coronavirus.

If you want to come through this weird time with your soul intact, you need to be able to look back and know that you treated your fellow human beings with patience and – especially – kindness.  This virus is an equal-opportunity equalizer, and you will be tested by your ability to shed your prejudices, fears, and bad old habits to see if you can rise to the occasion and bring out the best in yourself and the people around you.

Source: Duarte and this article, 10 Ways to Communicate with Empathy and Authority in Times of Crisis.

Why do we discuss empathy BEFORE Authority? At Duarte, we’ve learned that your audience is more likely to listen to what you have to say when they feel you’re on their side. Through empathy, you earn the permission and authority to lead them. So what does authority mean right now? It means leading your team in a way that makes them feel confident in your message and trusting in you as a leader.

Virtual In-Service

Today, we hosted a virtual “in-service” for 100+ faculty members and administrators. The schedule is below to give you a sense of how we enabled people to be present together, complete urgent and important tasks, and reassure each other that we can and will run a great online version of our school.

How I’m Working [3/26/2020]

We’ve been on Spring Break, but given that we’re getting ready for the launch of online school (next Tuesday), I’ve been working steadily.

Over the past two weeks…

I’ve attended an average of 3 Google Meet calls per day. These are typically leadership meetings, some of which have a clear agenda and some of which are update/urgency driven.

I’m working in/on an average of 5 collaborative documents per day. Generally, this means someone is asking me for feedback or I’m asking someone else for feedback. This work can be frustrating, but then I revert to the tweet below from Bob Sutton. It reminds me that this work is hard because we’re insisting on being reciprocal, respectful, and coordinated. I wouldn’t trade those benefits, so I accept — and budget for — their cost.

I’ve been connecting with individuals either via phone calls, text messages, or email. These — usually about 3 – 10 communications — are by far the most important work of my day.

I’ve been working in Slack for about 30 minutes per day. I’m using Slack to organize the communications of a 10 person leadership team. I’ve liked the way this approach helps me to focus on a group without being interrupted by emails or texts — when I’m with them, I’m with them. I’ve also appreciated the way Slack helps me to maintain a pretty wide awareness of this team’s activities without the benefit of being in the same room or building with them. I have a sense of what everyone is working on, struggling with, and sharing — and I’m reminded of how helpful and interconnected these team members are.

I’ve been experimenting each day with something new — most recently, Twitter Live.

I’ve been problem solving via networking, like so:

I’ve been writing down notes for next time!

Here’s another How I’m Working post written 13 days ago, when I was just starting to work FTO (full-time online). The difference in these two posts shows how quickly my work world is evolving.

How I’m Working [3/13/20]

Since most people in my world are being asked to adjust their work practices, I figured I would start a log of how I’m working and what I’m able to “get done” by shifting my typical routines. I’m not claiming to be an expert at remote work, but I do think we can learn from each other’s approaches at times like this — especially if we share the why underneath our choices and behaviors.

This log is from Friday, March 13, 2020. My school was closed except for administrators and people who had to handle mailings or building issues. It will be closed fully starting Monday.

I started the day as I always do — having a cup of coffee with my wife. This is the foundation of my day, every day.

I set up a Slack channel for a team that I run. I picked this team because, if our school moves to real-time, online instruction after our upcoming break, it will be critical to our school’s success. I used Slack to create a focused, online place for this team to work, should the need arise.

I showed my daughter some public facing writing I’ve been working on and explained to her why I’ve been doing this work on top of everything else that parents have to do right now. In short, I’m healthy, safe, and comfortable at the moment, and I have a small bit of expertise in a needed area (leading and teaching online). Service comes in different forms, but at times like this, if you can, you probably should.

I emailed my 9th grade English class. The goal of the communication was to remind them that I’m still present in their lives (even though school has been cancelled leading into Spring Break), to tell them what they should be reading, and to wish them a safe, happy, and healthy break. (Sub goal: to show them how to be human when handling one’s business online.)

I helped my daughter recover a password for a program that would allow her to design a birthday present for her brother. His birthday plans included a trip to an NBA basketball game, so we’re working on other ways to celebrate.

I helped Reshan (my writing partner) streamline some ideas for an upcoming podcast appearance related to the public facing writing mentioned above.

I met with another leadership team via Zoom. Our goal was to think about a program that we are supposed to run in May. We discussed KNOWN ISSUES, CONTINGENCY PLANS, and COMMUNICATION PLANS.

I wrote to the leadership team mentioned earlier when one member asked me if we were moving all of our business to Slack right away. I told the team we’re using a two phase approach. Phase 1 is about capacity building. The goal is simply to log in, set up a profile, play around a bit, and understand some of the affordances of Slack. Phase 2 will be full-on use, with all communications moved onto the platform.

I managed some of the social media inputs related to the public facing writing mentioned earlier. I paid particular attention to what seems to be resonating with people and which aspects of the writing people have been quoting and sharing.

I met with a student via Google Meet. She had some questions about a paper she was working on, so we used two panels: one allowed us to speak to each other, one allowed us to look at her paper, which she had shared with me as a Google Doc. Within the first 30 seconds of the call, she said: “if this is what online school is going to be like, then this is going to be just fine.”

Near the end of my workday, I joined a conference call with another team.

After that, I went outside. The sun was shining brightly. My son, daughter, and I played soccer in the park and eventually ended up in a hardware store to buy a hex key allen wrench set to allow us to adjust the height on a bicycle seat. On the way back home, my daughter said, “I’m going to attach this tool to my backpack just in case I need it when I go back to school, whenever that will be.”