In her book, Option B, Sheryl Sandberg shared that after the traumatic loss of her husband, she experienced the powerful difference between being asked, “How are you?” and “How are you today?”
When I read this a few years ago, it resonated. I began to ask family, friends, and colleagues, “How are you today?” and I experienced an ever-so-brief pause, a connection, a breath between the other person and me. This question, I realized, is an invitation for us to be together, today — right now.
With the world going haywire and things getting frightening, how are you today? is an especially powerful question for leaders to ask. Within the span of a day or a minute, your colleagues may be engaged, confused, or distracted; feeling productive, appreciative, or scared. This simple question embraces the multiplicity of our humanity in an ordinary way. It allows us to be who we are as humans — ever-changing, multi-faceted, conflicted, and contradictory.
That kind of intimate human connection is not often the norm in our workplaces, and it may feel even more out of reach now that we’re physically distant from one another. But in business and beyond, the need to reach and be with one another, albeit virtually, is demonstrating the power of performance to build social connection across physical distance.
Here are three of the ways my team and I are creating deeper connections as we work remotely with one another and with our clients (and with our friends and families, too). I hope you find them helpful.
- Improvise. When we moved all of our work to videoconferencing, the Performance of a Lifetime team felt the need to kick it up a notch when it comes to practicing what we preach with our clients, and have rediscovered the magic of opening our meetings with an improv game. Playing together generates energy, focus, laughter (which we all really need), and establishes a co-creation mindset for the work we’re about to do. One of my favorite warm-ups is called “As the Saying Goes.” Here’s a 3-minute video that shows you how it’s done.
- Appreciate. Our weekly team meetings include a round of “shout outs” — quick and specific thanks that let everybody hear what people did well last week and how it was helpful; the extraordinary efforts as well as the everyday actions that we usually take for granted. Everyone gets to hear what’s going on around our company, we see our strengths — and it feels really good!
- See and be seen. The other day in our staff meeting one of my colleagues was helping us adjust our webcams to position our eyes higher in the frame. (That’s a tip, BTW.) “Yikes!” I exclaimed. “You can see so much of me now!” Another colleague smiled and said: “You realize we see much more of you when we’re in the office, don’t you?” Ahh, right. Living our lives on video is a big change for many of us — I get that. But seeing and being seen is a real gift right now. We have so much more available through video — we see the impact we’re having (or not having), we can see each other thinking, pause to let something sink in, and more fully appreciate one another. So let’s fix our hair and turn on that camera!
Maureen Kelly is the President and Chief Possibility Officer of Performance of a Lifetime.