SCOTT GALLOWAY: Losing my beloved pet, Zoe, during the pandemic reminded me that time marches on. Here’s what else it’s teaching me.

Scott Galloway
Many of Scott’s blog posts have been written with Zoe’s head resting on his stomach.

  • Scott Galloway is a bestselling author and professor of marketing at NYU Stern.
  • The following is a recent blog post, republished with permission, that originally ran on his blog, “No Mercy / No Malice.”
  • In it, Galloway talks about how the grief of losing a loved one reminds us that time marches on with or without us.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

We put down our dog, Zoe, on Tuesday. We’re grieving. Three months ago our vet told us Zoe had growths on her liver, to take her home and enjoy our remaining time with her. Tuesday morning I woke to distressed calls – “Dad … DAD!” – coming from downstairs. Zoe had collapsed a few feet from her bed, had lost control of her bowels, and her breathing was labored.  

We shuffled her onto a beach towel and carried her to the back of our car. At the vet, we learned her organs were failing and that she was bleeding internally. The clinic had an outdoor annex, where we laid Zoe down on a wicker table and gathered around to say goodbye. Like every urbanized landmass in Florida, there was a gas station and a strip mall abutting the clinic. A car alarm was ringing. We had a remote control to notify the clinic when we were ready for them to administer pentobarbital, a seizure medication that would stop Zoe’s heart.   

Zoe’s death has rocked our household. The other dog won’t come out of his crate, the nanny won’t stop crying, my oldest doesn’t want to come out of his room, and (most disturbingly) his 10-year-old brother is doing what we ask him to. We’ve been a bit self-conscious about our grief as we recognize that 500,000+ US households haven’t lost a pet, but a dad, aunt, or other loved one in the last 12 months. But our grief persists.

Scott Galloway

At first, I was fine playing the role of the stoic dad: “She lived a great life,” “This is what’s best for her,” etc. Then yesterday, on a livestream with Verizon and 60 of its communications agency partners, I started sobbing while describing the harm Facebook is doing to society. Despite all the macho and strength I aspire to project, there I was, 56 years old and a chocolate mess on a Zoom call with dozens of people who want confirmation that they should serve ads on Yahoo.  

It’s not the worst thing for someone in my line of work to have Verizon’s agency partners believe I am emotionally invested in holding social media platforms accountable. However, I’ve been crying every six hours since. I cried watching WandaVision last night, when eating oatmeal this morning, and again doing pull-ups.  

Failed birth control

Two decades ago, I moved to New York, where I applied tremendous skill and resources to building a life of arrested adolescence. The SoHo loft, a wintertime apartment in South Beach, a summer home in Watermill (complete with sand volleyball court, despite the fact that I … do not play volleyball), and a metallic blue Maserati. Jesus, what a douche. 

I embarked on a series of obsessive relationships – with people, business ventures, and material goods (the more scarce, the better). Inevitably, the rapture would fade, and my heart would sink. A weak heart breaks more easily. I wasn’t grieving over the lost person or the failed deal so much as I was grieving the lost possibility to escape to a better life – a life of meaning, vs. the IMAX version of The Narcissist’s Playbook. 

Then I met someone nicer, more impressive, and much more attractive than me – who was also kind. However, she wanted children. I told her I was not interested in getting married again. She called my bluff with a José Aldo roundhouse: “We don’t need to get married to have a kid.”  

Looking for an alternative means of birth control, I drove to Pennsylvania to pick up an 11 week-old Vizsla. The breeders were some of the most down to earth, normal dog breeders I had ever encountered … and they were exceptionally strange. But that’s another post. We named our puppy Zoe and talk of a baby subsided. However, similar to most extemporaneous methods of male birth control, my tactic was not effective, and 38 weeks later my oldest son came rotating out of my girlfriend.  

Zoe soon became my oldest son’s dog. He had a connection with her only matched by the contempt he has for his younger brother. Zoe forged the connection by sitting in front of his crib each morning; they stared at each other through the wood slats while my son spoke a language deployed across species. They would be transfixed like this for 20 to 30 minutes (no joke). It was as if they were planning a jailbreak.

Scott Galloway

And why I think I’ve been crying.

I will miss Zoe, as she was a meaningful part of our family’s life. But the truth is, once we had boys, most of that emotion transferred to the kids. Plus, I’m not one of those guys who finds peace away from the family in the company of dogs. So yes, I am grieving Zoe, but as with happiness, real grief is internal.

Zoe’s death has rocked me because it is a marker. A reminder that time is the most relentless force in the universe: that no matter what we do, its thievery marches on. For the rest of my life, I’ll have sons. But I no longer have the baby who sat on a blanket with us in the backyard, the toddler who had an alliance with his dog to disappear his vegetables, or the 8-year-old who rang out a particular laugh only the dog could inspire. Zoe’s death is a loss on several levels.

Scott Galloway

Love persevering

Dogs are not allowed on the couch in our household. Ever. The thing is, both dogs and humans are mammals, and are happiest when surrounded by (read: when touching) others. So, Zoe and I had an agreement: After everyone was asleep, she could come on the couch, rest her head on me, and dream. It was a pact of secrecy, and not once in her 14 years did she betray this trust – Vizslas are rugged hunting dogs, and also discrete. She would lie on me, dream and, according to her paws, run for miles. Many of these posts have been written with Zoe’s head resting on my stomach as she dreamt of running through a Hungarian forest.

All Zoe wanted was affection – which is to say, love. Lying on a wicker table, next to a gas station, death came for Zoe. When her heart stopped, our other dog was licking Zoe’s ears, and our entire family had hands on her. Our wonderful dog left this earth with everything she had ever wanted. And we are grieving because our love perseveres.

Life is so rich,

Scott

 

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4 tips for reopening your workplace safely from a COVID compliance officer for Netflix and Amazon Prime

coworkers, Asian coworker with white coworker, diverse colleagues
Even as vaccines rollout, employers will need to stay vigilant with COVID precautions.

  • Demerie Danielson left her nursing job in fall 2020 to become a COVID compliance officer for VIP StarNetwork.
  • She now ensures the sets of Netflix and Amazon productions comply with COVID safety regulations.
  • Her tips to safely reopen your workplace include planning for rule breakers and staying strict.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Almost a year after COVID-19 shut down offices across America, many physical workplaces remain in stasis. But six months ago, Demerie Danielson was hired to help bring at least one industry back to working in person: the film industry.

Danielson, a registered nurse, left her job at an Albuquerque hospital for a brand-new position: COVID Compliance Officer for VIP StarNetwork, a health care contractor for major local movie and TV sets. It’s a subsidiary of Inverse Medical, a medical equipment supplier. With her medical expertise in her back pocket, Danielson learned how to safely reopen a workplace on the fly – and has since done so for seven Netflix and Amazon Prime productions, including the upcoming film “The Harder They Fall,” starring Jonathan Majors and Idris Elba.

Her experience could prove crucial for America’s business owners, especially those pondering their own return to the office amid the country’s vaccine rollout. Here are Danielson’s top four recommendations.

Tailor your solutions to your company’s specific needs

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution here, Danielson said. Each of her productions have different COVID-19 plans, customized to the number of people involved and the types of locations being used. As New Mexico’s coronavirus guidance shifts month to month, she adjusts each film set accordingly, such as modulating the amount of sanitization on touch points like doorknobs as local cases have risen and fallen.

Start by gauging the risk, particularly around air circulation and ability to socially distance. Then build protocols around personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing, and surface sanitization. When in doubt, Danielson added, refer to your state’s or city’s local COVID guidance.

“We’re always going to want to make sure we have the proper filtration of air flow if we’re inside of a building,” she said. “We’re going to always make sure we’re keeping people socially distanced.” But employees should know, she said, that your policies could shift at a moment’s notice.

Prioritize quick-turnaround COVID-19 testing

As vaccines are still sparsely available, your testing protocol could make or break your return to the office. Danielson typically divides workers into two categories: People who interact regularly with each other, and people who only visit in-person occasionally. Infrequent visitors need two consecutive negative tests before they show up to work, while regulars get tested every single day – sometimes multiple times per day.

The daily testing only works because VIP StarNetwork’s labs can turn around test results in a matter of hours. Even a 24-hour turnaround, Danielson said, wouldn’t be fast enough. Contracting with a private lab to achieve that goal is a potentially expensive proposition: Johonniuss Chemweno, CEO of both VIP StarNetwork and Inverse Medical, said his company typically spends five to 20% of a film’s overall budget on COVID safety. One of Danielson’s recent projects, Zack Snyder’s upcoming Netflix movie “Army of the Dead,” has an estimated budget of $70 million. 

Still, Danielson stressed that until you can afford to build a truly rigorous same-day testing program, you simply can’t risk bringing your workers back on a daily basis. “If you don’t have the opportunity to get your results in a matter of hours, you could possibly expose all the people within your business and have to shut them down,” she said. “Shutting your business back down for days or weeks again is costly.”

Plan for rule breakers

Most of your employees will probably be just as dedicated as you are to staying safe and healthy, particularly if their ability to work depends on it. Some, however, could push the boundaries on your mask-wearing or testing policies, and you need a plan to deal with them in advance.

Danielson said that most protocol violations she’s seen come from a place of habit – people accidentally behaving like they did pre-pandemic – so she rarely reacts angrily. Rather, she works to gain the offender’s trust through honesty and education, explaining why the policies exist and how they connect to local positivity rates. Repeat offenders get sent home, as they’ve become health hazards for everyone else.

“You don’t really get to say no,” Danielson said. “You’re going to have to do it if you want to work.”

Stay strict, even as vaccines roll out

It’ll be tempting to relax your standards for vaccinated employees, especially as vaccines become more available to the general public this year. Not so fast, Danielson said: Until more is known about how well the vaccines are working, particularly against multiple new and highly contagious virus strains, you’ll need to stay vigilant.

Plus, your employees might be vaccinated, but their families might not – and it’s yet unknown whether vaccinated people can still spread the virus as carriers. “Social distancing is going to be around for a while,” Danielson said. “We’re going to need to keep using the protocols that we’ve implemented for sanitizing high-touch areas. Even the need to test, I feel like that’s still going to be around for a while, until we know how well our vaccines are working.”

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Black Americans have legitimate reasons to be skeptical of getting the COVID-19 vaccine – a bioethicist explains why

covid vaccine
It’s important to learn the painful medical histories of Black people to help combat their trust in the medical system.

  • Black Americans are being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than white Americans, says bioethicist Esther Jones.
  • Still, many Black people are skeptical about receiving the vaccine due to distrust of the American medical system. 
  • Jones says healthcare workers and policymakers can help close racial health gap by understanding the source of this skepticism. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Black Americans have been the least inclined of any racial or ethnic group to say they’d get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The proportion of Black people who said they’ll probably or definitely take the shot has risen over time – but even by mid-January, with two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the US, only 35% of Black survey respondents said they’d get it as soon as they could, or already had gotten the shot.

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately harmed Black, Indigenous and other people of color in comparison to white members of American society. With Black Americans being hospitalized at rates 2.9 times higher than white Americans and dying from COVID-19 at rates 1.9 times higher, you might assume that Black people would be lining up at breakneck speed to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s available to them.

But the Black community has reasons for distrust – even beyond what might be attributed to the mixed messaging of the nation’s COVID-19 response. And it’s not a simple or sole matter of miseducation. I’m a medical humanist and bioethicist who studies history, ethics, and literature to understand racial and gender health disparities. My research explores the history of unethical and abusive treatment Black Americans have experienced at the hands of the medical establishment. Based on past experience, Black people have many legitimate reasons to be in no hurry to get the vaccination.

A troubling track record

The American medical establishment has a long history of unethical treatment of Black research subjects. Medical ethicist Harriet A. Washington details some of the most egregious examples in her book “Medical Apartheid.” There’s the now notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in which the government misled Black male patients to believe they were receiving treatment for syphilis when, in fact, they were not. That study went on for a total of 40 years, continuing even after a cure for syphilis was developed in the 1940s.

Perhaps less widely known are the unethical and unjustified experiments J. Marion Sims performed on enslaved women in 1800s US that helped earn him the nickname the “father of modern gynecology.” Sims performed experimental vesicovaginal fistula surgery on enslaved women without anesthesia or even the basic standard of care typical for the time.

Sims experimented on Anarcha, a 17-year-old slave, over 30 times. His decision not to give anesthesia was based on the racist assumption that Black people experience less pain than their white peers – a belief that persists among medical professionals today. Historian Deirdre Cooper Owens elaborates on this case and many other ways Black women’s bodies have been used as guinea pigs in her book “Medical Bondage.”

Cases of medical malfeasance and malevolence have persisted, even after the establishment of the Nuremburg code, a set of medical ethical principles developed after World War II and subsequent trials for crimes against humanity.

In 1951, doctors harvested cervical cancer cells from a Black woman named Henrietta Lacks without her permission. Researchers went on to use them to create the first immortal cell culture and subjected her descendants to ongoing study for years without informed consent. Investigative journalist Rebecca Skloot details the cascade of ethical violations in her book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Despite heightened awareness after the book’s publication, the ethical violations continued when a group of scientists mapped the HeLa genome without her family’s knowledge or consent.

Advances in genomics are still being used to resuscitate theories of racial “science.” For example, a now-debunked 2007 study purported to isolate a so-called “warrior gene” in Maori Indigenous men and argued they are genetically “hard-wired” for violence. Scientists and news outlets in the US jumped on board, suggesting there’s a genetic predisposition for Black and Latino males to engage in gang activity.

Legal scholar Dorothy E. Roberts explains in her book “Fatal Invention” how incidents like this one perpetuate the harm of race-based science. Using biological data and flawed reasoning tainted by racial stereotyping reinforces racist beliefs about Black people. Such logic focuses on purely biological factors and ignores the social and systemic factors that produce negative and inequitable health outcomes.

While there is now an ample body of scholarly research that reveals these truths about racism in the medical establishment, Black Americans need only to gather around the kitchen table with a few friends and family to share and hear personally experienced stories of medical malfeasance.

Present day persistence of racism in healthcare

Even though their experiences at the hands of researchers like J. Marion Sims were central to advances in modern gynecology, today Black women have not benefited from these advances to the same degree as white women. Black women still suffer worse outcomes and more deaths from gynecologic cancers and have worse health and more deaths affiliated with childbearing, just to name two.

When tennis star Serena Williams gave birth, she saw firsthand how Black women are disbelieved by the medical establishment. She might have died from postpartum blood clots if she hadn’t advocated for herself in the face of dismissive medical professionals.

Black people are acutely aware of this history of racism in the medical establishment, and the ways it persists today on both an individual and a collective level. Stereotypes about Black patients, whether the result of explicit or implicit bias, continue to affect the care they receive and their medical outcomes. Again and again, when surveyed, Black Americans report that medical providers don’t believe them, won’t prescribe necessary treatments, including pain medication, and blame them for their health problems.

And the association between racism and increased disease cases and deaths has held true during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overcoming these challenges

Ongoing trust issues around the COVID-19 vaccines are just the latest indication of racial health disparities in the US.

Still, there are ways to begin to close the COVID-19 racial health and mortality gap. Vaccinations for Black people may otherwise continue to lag in proportion to population size.

Esther Jones, associate professor of English, affiliate with Africana studies and women’s & gender studies, Clark University

 

The Conversation
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2 long-time Amazon insiders wrote a book on how the company runs – here are the best anecdotes and quotes

Jeff Bezos
Amazon has many unique corporate practices, like 20 minutes of silence at the beginning of every important meeting.

  • Kevin J. Delaney is the founder of Reset Work, a newsletter about work and leadership in the pandemic era and beyond.
  • This post is part of Reset Work’s weekly business book briefing, republished with permission.
  • In it, Delaney breaks down “Working Backwards,” a new book from Amazon alums Colin Bryar and Bill Carr.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Much of the coverage of Jeff Bezos’s recent announcement that he plans to cede the CEO role at Amazon noted the retailer’s idiosyncratic corporate practices. Perhaps most famous of them is the fact that important meetings at Amazon begin with 20 minutes of silence. During that time, executives quietly read six-page narrative memos presenting the matter to be discussed. 

Two Amazon alums, Colin Bryar and Bill Carr, just published a book called “Working Backwards” that walks in detail through how the company arrived at such singular practices. It offers advice on how you might adopt them at your own workplace (assuming, for example, you and your colleagues are game to spend long stretches reading in each other’s company.)   

The book’s name comes from Amazon’s product development process, which involves working backwards from the desired customer experience to decide what to build. 

Bryar worked at Amazon for 12 years as an executive, including two where he was Bezos’s technical advisor, effectively his chief of staff. (Bryar was preceded in that role by Andy Jassy, the incoming CEO.) Carr was at Amazon for 15 years and played a lead role in its digital media businesses, including Prime Video and Amazon Music. 

At the core of Amazon’s approach are 14 leadership principles, first codified in 2005 as 10 principles. They start with “customer obsession” and taking ownership but also include quirky statements such as “leaders are right a lot” and “leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume.” (That’s part of a principle about being self-critical.) Amazon job interviews are structured to probe whether the candidates demonstrate aptitude for each of the principles. You can read the full list on Amazon’s website. 

Bryar and Carr cite a saying repeated at Amazon: “Good intentions don’t work. Mechanisms do.” (p. 17) The company has tried to systematize its practices – or mechanisms – amid its rapid growth. Here are some of the more interesting ones: 

  • The six-page memo. The company in 2004 banned PowerPoint, which until then had been the default for its managers. The reasoning was that six-page narrative memos were much better at conveying the nuances of a business than bullet-pointed slides, and that preparing the memos was valuable for forcing teams to refine their ideas. Amazon executives spend the first part of the meetings reading the memos, so everyone is focused on the matter and discussions pick up from there. Bryar and Carr include an example memo (p. 84) and suggestions for how to approach them. They relate that Bezos, among the most engrossed readers of the memos, said that he reads them assuming each sentence wrong until he can prove otherwise.
  • Product design by press release. Often before they commit to building new products or services, Amazon managers write fake press releases describing them. The idea – central to the “working backwards” approach – is to clarify what the benefit to the customer will be, and magnify the focus on what will differentiate this product from anything else. The short press releases are followed by FAQ sections, which aim to address some of the most pointed questions facing the project. They write the press releases so early in coming up with an idea that most of the new products in the releases are never pursued. 
  • “Bar raisers” for hiring. Specially trained Amazon employees participate in the hiring process as “bar raisers,” providing a dispassionate view on whether the desired candidate is right for the company and wielding a (rarely exercised) veto over the final decision. The idea is to counterbalance many managers’ tendency to want to hire quickly so not to fall behind, and to ensure the process is thorough and structured properly. Bryar and Carr detail the structure, which includes assigning members of the hiring committee specific company principles to probe the candidate on, and written interview reports they’re required to complete. 
  • A focus on “controllable input metrics.” Managers traditionally focus on the output metrics of a company, like revenue and profit. But Amazon believes that managers should focus at least as much on the metrics for inputs they directly control – such as product selection, price, or convenience – that ultimately have the greatest impact on the outputs. Bryar and Carr spend a lot of time on how Amazon leadership uses such data, and acknowledge that there’s a lot of trial and error involved in determining the right input metrics to track.
  • Vesting responsibility and control in a single project leader. The authors write that Bezos has been obsessed as the company has grown with minimizing the coordination and communication required of teams for them to move forward with a project, and ensuring that someone is totally focused on its success. One part of the approach was to have “two-pizza” teams – groups of 10 or fewer employees (the number that could be fed by two pizzas) with responsibility for specific product initiatives. That evolved over time into what it calls a “separable, single-threaded team” which has relative autonomy and works only on the specific feature. Amazon’s approach is similar to how Apple has a “directly responsible individual” charged with making sure a project gets done.

To be sure…

  • This book is very careful to not veer into anything sharply critical, and completely omits any discussion of controversial topics like Amazon’s labor practices. As I was reading the section about how great its hiring process is, I kept thinking back to all of the stories about executive mis-hires in Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store” that weren’t acknowledged here. (Stone has another book on Bezos and Amazon due out in May, which will surely be more critical than “Working Backwards.”) 
  • The authors left Amazon in 2010 and 2014. They note in places that what they’re writing is based on conversations with other executives there since then. But presumably some of the practices described in the book have changed, or will eventually. Which makes this less of a static rule book, and more of a menu of ideas you could try in your own organization. 
  • The second section of the book describes how Amazon’s practices and leadership principles applied in the creation of the Kindle, Amazon Prime, Prime Video, and Amazon Web Services. As recounted, a lot of that history is familiar, and adds little to the understanding of the practices detailed in the first half. You could read just up to page 151 and take away most of the lessons of the book. For those wanting an even quicker read, Bryar and Carr nicely summarize the takeaways from the book in a two-page section beginning on page 261.

Memorable anecdotes and trivia:

  • Bezos always wanted the company to underpromise and overdeliver in order to exceed customer expectations. Early on, the company said on its site that it was shipping books by first-class mail, when in fact it was generally sending shipments by faster priority mail and then telling customers in confirmation emails that they had gotten a complimentary upgrade. (p. 9)
  • Amazon once had an elaborate system it called New Project Initiatives used to prioritize what teams hoped to pursue every quarter. The process was onerous and too frequently disheartening, as a faceless process effectively killed off some of the best ideas. (p. 61)
  • In early 2004, Bezos and Bryar on a business flight read an essay titled “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within,” by information visualization specialist Edward Tufte, which crystallized their thinking about the need to ditch PowerPoint. “From now on your presentation software is Microsoft Word, not PowerPoint. Get used to it,” Tufte advised. (p. 81)
  • Every two years, corporate executives including Bezos had to spend a few days as a customer-service agent. One day while Bezos was shadowing an agent, she took a call from a customer whose furniture had arrived damaged and knew which item it was because there had been recurring issues. That led Bezos, inspired by the Toyota idea of an Andon Cord, to add big red buttons to agents’ product screens that would let them freeze the sale of any item until a problem was resolved. (p. 146)
  • Prior to the launch of the Kindle, Carr didn’t think Amazon should make its own e-reader hardware, because of the expense and its lack of experience doing so. But his boss used the press release technique, and said that the company needed to build or buy the hardware expertise required to make a reading device that was tightly integrated with its e-book store. (p. 178)
  • Bezos sent senior Amazon executives an email in mid-October 2004 saying that the company needed to build and launch a shipping membership program by the end of the year. He gave the executives just 11 weeks during its busiest sales season to develop what would become Amazon Prime, announced only slightly behind his desired timeline in February 2005. (p. 188)

Choice quotes:

  • “Our culture is four things: customer obsession instead of competitor obsession; willingness to think long term, with a longer investment horizon than most of our peers; eagerness to invent, which of course goes hand in hand with failure; and then, finally, taking professional pride in operational excellence.” – Bezos (p. x)
  • “In a period of torrid headcount growth, founders and early employees often feel that they’re losing control of the company – it has become something different than what they set out to create. Looking back, they realize that the root cause of the problem can be traced to an ill-defined or absent hiring process. They were hiring scores of people who would change the company culture rather than those who would embody, reinforce, and add to it.” (p. 32)
  • “I heard [Bezos] say many times that if we wanted Amazon to be a place where builders can build, we needed to eliminate communication, not encourage it… Jeff’s vision was that we needed to focus on loosely coupled interaction via machines through well-defined APIs rather than via humans through emails and meetings.” (p. 61) 
  • “The best way to fail at inventing something is by making it somebody’s part-time job.”- Amazon executive Dave Limp (p. 75)
  • “Be stubborn on the vision but flexible on the details.” (p. 78)
  • “We had freed ourselves of the quantitative demands of Excel, the visual seduction of PowerPoint, and the distracting effect of personal performance. The idea had to be in the writing.” (p. 104)

The bottom line is that “Working Backwards” is a thought-provoking read if you’re looking for ideas for how to work differently or improve how your team or your organization operate. For me, it was like reading Ray Dalio’s “Principles” – you might disagree with some portion of the authors’ views, but you can constructively engage with them. And it’s a book from which you can take away useful practices – like six-page memos, bar raisers, or fake press releases – even if you only read half of it. 

All page numbers referenced above are for the hardcover edition.

Kevin J. Delaney is cofounder of Reset Work, a newsletter about managing yourself, your team, and your business in this moment and beyond. He was formerly a senior editor at The New York Times, founding editor in chief of Quartz, and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Online. Sign up for Reset Work’s free newsletter.

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3 ways the US can improve COVID contact tracing efforts and encourage honest participation

A person gets a temperature check before entering an Apple store on June 22, 2020 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City.
The US has a poor success rate when it comes to contact tracing coronavirus infections thus far.

  • The US has notably been unsuccessful in using contact tracing to reduce COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • A recent study suggests that more than 40% of people would not speak to public health officials when contacted.
  • Kellogg School clinical professor, Sarit Markovich, says that to get people to participate in contract tracing, there needs to be a level of trust.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As COVID cases surged across the US last December, the CDC reckoned with a stark truth: Contact tracing couldn’t be scaled up to match the virus’ spread.

The practice of contact tracing – or identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease – is an essential tool for controlling outbreaks by interrupting a disease’s transmission chains. And indeed, combined with lockdowns and mask ordinances, some countries have had great success using contact tracing to reduce outbreaks.

So why have attempts to institute it failed in so many other countries, most notably the US? And given that COVID is likely to be with us in some form for quite a while, are there ways to make contact tracing more effective here?

Sarit Markovich, a clinical professor of strategy at the Kellogg School, says that contact tracing, at its core, hinges on trust. This means that trust will need to be at the foundation of any successful efforts moving forward. This includes building trust in the technology, specifically in terms of false positives, trust that information will be kept private, and trust that people will not suffer consequences for self-reporting.

Here, she offers her thoughts on where contact tracing can fail, and how to do it better.

Consider your social makeup

Contact tracing requires individuals to share private information in service to the public good. In considering how to solicit this information, it helps to understand the difference between centralized and decentralized societies, Markovich said.

In countries with centralized governments, like China or Singapore, contact tracing is mandated and compliance is universal. Governments track people’s movement through a national phone app or wearable tokens, which people scan as they move between locations. Noncompliance is heavily fined. In general, these societies prioritize collective welfare over individual freedoms, like privacy.

“If the government makes you do it, you do it,” Markovich summarized. “And now in many of those places, people are back to their offices and normal life.”

But in democratic societies where government is decentralized, individual rights can be in tension with public health, Markovich said. Strategies that are effective in centralized societies are less likely to work in decentralized ones.

In Israel, for example, the government-mandated digital contact tracing and levied hefty fines for noncompliance. Given the country’s population size and relative homogeneity, it seemed as if national contact tracing would work much like it did in Singapore, Markovich said. But people objected to being tracked. They turned off or left their phones at home, and the initiatives have been unsuccessful.

“In decentralized societies, people do not completely trust the technology and do not completely trust authorities knowing where they are,” Markovich said. “They want privacy.”

Lower-tech approaches, where public health workers individually interview exposed individuals about their contacts, are unfortunately no more promising.

In Israel, for example, a volunteer-led startup tried to launch in-person contact tracing as an alternative to the government’s digital model. The initiative stalled when it turned out residents did not want to share personal information with strangers. That same skepticism exists in the US, where 41% of people in a recent Pew survey said that they wouldn’t speak to a public health official who contacted them by phone or text.

“The goal is to make people get used to contact tracing in a context that’s not scary and in a way where its effect on others is not negative but positive,” she said.

Keep it local

For now, Markovich believes that in decentralized societies, national contact tracing initiatives won’t work. A better option: hand the lead over to local governments and organizations.

At this smaller scale, Markovich says contact tracing becomes easier to centralize. Initiatives can be heavily encouraged or even mandated, and enforcement is also easier when it is tied to the social pressures of local communities or the requests of employers.

“Organizations and municipalities have an advantage because there’s more trust involved,” Markovich said. “They can centralize and mandate it, because if you want to be part of an organization – an employee at your company, for example – there are rules you will have to comply with.”

Over time, Markovich believes that the number of organizations and communities that mandate contact tracing will grow, especially as more local models – a church, a factory, or a city whose leaders have established trust – start to show success.

Reward disclosure without punishing exposure

She also advises that local communities and organizations think carefully about how to encourage people to disclose their contacts. This means, first and foremost, minimizing the negative consequences on all parties: those who have tested positive and are disclosing their contacts, as well as the individuals whom they have exposed.

Here, technology has a powerful role to play. Markovich observes that in some communities, COVID-positive people are blamed for spreading the virus. This practice of “COVID-shaming” could make them less likely to self-report their contacts.

“This is where technology helps,” Markovich said. “You want to use technology rather than rely on people to tell you who they’ve been in contact with or that they’re sick. It’s not about self-reporting. The technology tells you.”

But despite the benefits of technology that can automatically notify people of exposure (see sidebar), Markovich also notes that the human element shouldn’t be ignored. Follow up calls from trained professionals will provide an opportunity for people to ask questions about next steps, express concerns, and learn how to self-isolate, if required.

“The human part is important,” Markovich said. “Technology is great in terms of detection speed, but human contact creates trust.”

And whatever the technology used, if people do have to quarantine because they’ve been exposed to COVID, employers should assure their employees that they will be compensated for the time they self-isolate. Markovich cites incidents in which employees who have been exposed to the virus went to work because they lacked paid sick leave or feared losing their job. Since some sectors are at higher risk for infection, like grocery stores, the government should share these costs with organizations.

“We need incentives to encourage people to tell the truth and feel comfortable staying home,” Markovich said. “If you know that you’re going to be compensated even if you’re home, then you’re definitely going to feel more comfortable self-reporting and self-isolating.”

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4 lessons entrepreneurs can learn about problem-solving from the NASA engineers who landed Apollo 13

Apollo 13
Apollo 13 astronauts treading water as they await their recovery helicopter in 1970.

  • Entrepreneurs can grow their problem-solving skills by emulating the tactics used by the Apollo 13 NASA engineers.
  • Avoid panicking, and take a step back to assess and understand the situation or problem at hand.
  • Weigh each potential solution carefully, but once you’ve made a choice, commit and don’t second-guess your decision. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Entrepreneurs are inherently problem-solvers. After all, we start our businesses because we recognize a need that needs to be filled. Take me, for instance: Part of my previous job at an internet media company was to create tools for editors to build forms, surveys, and polls. The problem was that at the time, the form-building landscape offered few good options. I decided to change that, and my company, JotForm, was born. 

But in the course of solving big-picture problems, smaller ones are constantly springing up and threatening to derail us. Some days, it feels like there are hundreds of fires that need to be put out before I’ve even finished my coffee. 

On those days, I like to think of an anecdote from Jerry C. Bostick, the flight dynamics officer for the Apollo 13 mission. More than two decades after the spacecraft was safely brought back to Earth after near-disaster, screenwriters Al Reinert and Bill Broyles were interviewing Bostick for the script that would become the film “Apollo 13.” One of their questions was, “Weren’t there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?”  

Bostick’s answer? No. 

“When bad things happened we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them,” he said. 

If ever there was a situation when panic would be warranted, the Apollo 13 mission was one of them. But panic wouldn’t have helped Mission Control then, and it won’t help you, either. 

Work the problem

One of NASA‘s most renowned problem solvers was flight director Gene Kranz, who oversaw both the Gemini and Apollo programs during his 34-year career. While trying to figure out how to rescue the three astronauts whose lives were on the line on Apollo 13, he said to his staff, “Let’s work the problem, people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.” 

Kranz’s “work the problem” mantra is still used by the agency today. Astronaut Chris Hadfield explained the process in his book, “An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth,” describing it as “NASA-speak for descending one decision tree after another, methodically looking for a solution until you run out of oxygen:”

“When we heard the alarm on the Station, instead of rushing to don masks and arm ourselves with extinguishers, one astronaut calmly got on the intercom to warn that a fire alarm was going off – maybe the Russians couldn’t hear it in their module – while another went to the computer to see which smoke detector was going off. No one was moving in a leisurely fashion, but the response was one of focused curiosity; as though we were dealing with an abstract puzzle rather than an imminent threat to our survival. To an observer it might have looked a little bizarre, actually: no agitation, no barked commands, no haste.”

University of Virginia Professor Thomas S. Bateman laid out “working the problem” in eight steps:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Determine goals/objectives
  3. Generate an array of alternative solutions
  4. Evaluate the possible consequences of each solution
  5. Use this analysis to choose one or more courses of action
  6. Plan the implementation
  7. Implement with full commitment
  8. Adapt as needed based on incoming data

This calm, rational approach to problem-solving works for astronauts and entrepreneurs alike. No matter what you’re dealing with, take a step back, understand the problem, and descend each decision tree until you find a solution. 

Be adaptable 

It might turn out that your original vision isn’t the one that ends up being realized. Or maybe you successfully launched one product, but changing technology forces you to reimagine it a few years down the line. That’s okay. Successful entrepreneurs know that change is inevitable, and if they want to survive in the long term, they’ll have to adapt. 

Nokia, for example, began as a paper company before following consumer demand and transitioning to rubber tires and galoshes. In the 1960s, it began making military equipment for Finland’s army, including gas masks and radio service phones, among other things. It eventually rose to prominence as the most successful cell phone manufacturer on Earth between 1998 and 2012. Even though it was eventually crushed by Apple after the release of the iPhone, Nokia lasted as long as it did thanks to its agility. 

Ask “why?”

Asking “why?” over and over again might make you feel less like a CEO and more like your toddler. But the truth is that there’s a lot we can gain from having an open, inquisitive mindset. Entrepreneur Michelle MacDonald suggests asking “Why?” five times to get to the root of any problem. 

“Many times when a problem arises, we jump to the first thought about why that problem is occurring, and then focus on a solution to fix that,” she said. “This is like putting an adhesive bandage over a hose and expecting it to hold.”

Say you find yourself drowning in work because you keep putting off tasks. Your five whys might go something like this: 

  1. Why am I constantly stressed? Because I have too much to do and not enough time to do it. 
  2. Why don’t I have enough time? Because I often procrastinate. 
  3. Why do I procrastinate? Because I don’t particularly enjoy some of the tasks I have to do. 
  4. Why don’t I enjoy them? Because they’re not a good use of my time, and someone else can easily do them. 
  5. Why isn’t someone else doing them? Because I haven’t delegated them out. 

Doing this will help you treat the actual problem, not just its symptoms, and keep you from trying to resolve the same thing over and over again. 

Positive thinking

Bostick’s answer about Mission Control’s refusal to panic spawned one of the most iconic lines of all time: “Failure is not an option.” Though that exact phrasing is an invention of the “Apollo 13” writers, the sentiment was accurate.

Negative thinking undermines the brain’s ability to think broadly and creatively, because fear and stress obscure options. Of course, you’re going to be stressed if, say, you lose a major client or there’s a freak explosion aboard your space craft. But those who cultivate positivity tend to be more resilient to such shocks, said Barbara Fredrickson, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and author of “Positivity.” 

One report co-written by Fredrickson suggests that positive emotions create a sort of buffer that helps people overcome setbacks. In fact, positive emotions were shown to help businesspeople negotiate better, improve decision-making and drive high-performance behavior. 

“Positive emotions expand awareness and attention,” Fredrickson said – critical attributes for anyone trying to solve a problem. “When you’re able to take in more information, the peripheral vision field is expanded. You’re able to connect the dots to the bigger picture. Instead of remembering just the most central event, you remember that and the peripheral aspects, too.”

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How employers can better support working moms with in-person and hybrid work options after the pandemic

working from home virtual learning
Moms may report more anxiety and loneliness while working from home.

  • Working moms face a particular disadvantage when it comes to balancing remote work with domestic duties.
  • A Yale University study suggests moms are more likely to feel depressed, anxious, and lonely while working from home.
  • When deciding on continuing remote work after the pandemic, employers should consider making accommodations for working moms.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Many employers have found to their surprise that remote work offers productivity and savings. Why return to the office, and continue paying that pricey lease, when your employees are just as productive from home? I can already hear the groan of discontent from parents around the country – particularly mothers. Indeed, studies have found that mothers suffer a gender disadvantage in the remote work environment. They are more likely to work with their children present. Their household chores increase when they work from home. They are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and loneliness than their husbands.

Regardless of how attentive their husbands are to the gender imbalance in child-rearing, the fact is that mothers of young and school-aged children tend to be the primary caregiver. They have found it more difficult to manage their maternal and remote work responsibilities during the health crisis.

Employers who decide to continue the experiment with remote work after the global health crisis must avoid contributing to this gender disparity. My research and discussions with mothers reveal a singular finding about how to close the gender gap from remote work: Remote work should be an option, not a requirement.

A case for in-person work

Just as parents realized they relied on school as a form of daycare, mothers have come to realize that they rely on in-person work as a break from their domestic roles. A study by Yale University found that mothers suffered the most due to the clash between the domestic and career roles while working from home. Going to work creates a clear demarcation between these roles.

One friend, I’ll call her M., recently took mental leave because she found the demands of remote work and child-rearing too overwhelming. “I found myself scolding my kids simply because they wanted to spend time with me. They are still too young to realize that they were interrupting my work.” M. is fortunate enough to have the option of paid leave. Now she’s afraid that her firm might decide to require remote work post-health-crisis. “I cannot wait to go back to the office, and I’m not sure if I can stay at home if we go full remote.”

The allure of going remote for some businesses is obvious. Firms can save significantly on fixed overhead costs if they downsize or even eliminate their office space entirely. Indeed, many firms are considering going hybrid – placing some of their workforce in-person and the rest remaining at home. Employers are conducting occupational analyses to determine who will stay remote and who will return to work.

Pressures on mothers

Employers should also consider the gender factor. Some accommodations should be made for mothers (and anyone else, frankly) experiencing difficulties with remote work. They should have the option to return to work even if their positions have been deemed suitable for working remote.

It’s important to note that this problem will not just go away when children return to school after the health crisis. Mothers of young children will continue to care for their children at home. Many parents will decide, regardless of the distress, to save on the costs of childcare and aftercare if at least one parent is working from home.

This is not just a matter of accommodating subjective preferences. The research shows significant mental health problems for many mothers working remotely due to the health crisis. Remote work has altered the work-life balance for many mothers in ways they never envisioned, and employers considering a permanent or hybrid remote work approach must keep mothers in mind.

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How tech-based design solutions can help stop the spread of COVID-19, according to an architect

elevator button coronavirus
In some quarantine hotels, staff help guests by pressing the elevator buttons.

  • Mengbi Li is a lecturer in built environment architecture at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia. 
  • She says the design or redesign of existing infrastructure can help people overcome COVID health challenges.
  • One redesign option is to make high-touch public spaces, like elevator buttons and toilets, motion-sensitive and touch-free.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The coronavirus has been escaping with distressing frequency from quarantine hotels, threatening serious outbreaks. To make things worse, multiple variants of the virus, possibly more infectious and deadly, have recently been detected. This accentuates the need for robust hotel quarantine, especially in countries like Australia that have controlled community transmission.

While the hotel quarantine system has received wide attention, relatively few people have had the opportunity to experience and observe it first hand. Even fewer have been able to compare with other regions handling similar challenges. I happen to have needed to travel overseas and thus experienced quarantine in several places over the past months.

Based on my experience as an academic in architecture, I share some thoughts and observations here on how the design or redesign of buildings, infrastructure, and cities can help people overcome the health challenges created by COVID-19.

Our buildings and cities were not designed to handle such extraordinary situations as this pandemic. One consequence is their design has often made the need to touch surfaces unavoidable.

Take elevators, for example

Some of the most frequently touched surfaces in buildings are the buttons in lifts. In some buildings in China, plastic wrap is used to cover the buttons and a sticker showing the time and date of last disinfection is attached nearby. Other buildings provide tissues for people to use as disposable finger covers.

In quarantine hotels, this procedure is even more carefully managed. Staff help guests by pressing the button. This small touch area needs frequent cleaning, which calls for extra human resources.

At Baiyunshan airport in Guangzhou, I used an elevator with touch-free buttons. The keypad had infrared sensors installed next to the usual button. With just a wave of their finger over the touch-free button, users can select their destination.

Another mode free of physical screens features numbers displayed in a front-projected holographic display. A sensor detects the movement of pressing a button in the air to activate the lift.

This technology is not out of our reach. In response to the pandemic, authorities in Melbourne and Sydney have trialed touch-free buttons using infrared technology at pedestrian crossings.

One concern about touch-free buttons is the challenge they present to the visually impaired. Currently, a push-button is placed next to the infrared sensor. An alternative for people who need assistance would be to use gesture or voice commands. Other concerns include reliability and vandal-proofing.

Another sensitive touch spot is the toilet. The airport toilets I visited in Australia, China, and Singapore are equipped with touch-free features to activate the flush, tap, soap dispenser, and hand dryer. However, the doors and locks cannot function without touch. Touch-free sensors or foot pedals would probably help.

Alternatively, new materials or coatings like antimicrobial polymers could be applied in areas where touch is unavoidable. Of course, care must be taken to ensure the antiviral potency is both reliable and people-friendly.

Design solutions don’t have to be high-tech

Interestingly, touch-free public spaces do not always rely on advanced materials or sophisticated technology. In a Melbourne quarantine hotel, I noticed several bollards with foot pedals being used as hand sanitizer dispensers. These are designed to function mechanically and require no power connections.

Instead of a simple stainless steel bollard, this dispenser could be further reimagined as an artistic sculpture integrating the building’s signage at the entrance. Elsewhere, this design could be incorporated into litter bins along the streets.

Usually, for architectural design, circulation patterns are analysed to see how people reach each space and establish the relationships between different areas. For safety purposes, exits are checked to ensure people can evacuate in a timely way. To prepare for future pandemics, these studies could add analysis of touch points in both pandemic and non-pandemic periods.

The shared challenge posed by the pandemic has prompted some innovative ideas. For example, physical reminders to keep a social distance have variously involved using carpet tiles, mowed or trimmed landscape patterns, furniture arrangements, temporary structures, and pavements or stickers.

Other solutions involve applying modular construction from well-equipped containers to create emergency hospitals or mobile testing stations.

From touch-free public spaces to designing for social distance and modular construction, there are still many ways the design or redesign of our buildings and cities can help to protect the public. Good design is particularly important to protect those in high-risk environments, such as workers and senior citizens in health care and aged care.

As necessity is the mother of invention, there is nothing like a period of stress to stimulate creativity, industry, and innovation.

The Conversation
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How to choose between an in-person, hybrid, and remote work model for your business post-pandemic

Remote work
Companies can decide to have employees work entirely remotely or predominantly in person.

  • The pandemic has forced organizations to rethink the office work structure.
  • Post-pandemic, many leaders will have to decide what’s the best work model for their businesses — in-person, remote or hybrid.
  • The future of work requires careful planning for both business leaders and their employees.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

After about a year of working remotely and making changes due to the pandemic, many leaders are confronting the same crucial question: What does the future of work look like in my organization?

As a leader, you must decide what workplace model you want to use, considering the needs of your business and your employees. Generally, organizations will have three options: entirely remote, predominantly in person, or a hybrid of the two.

Before you decide, it’s important to know the merits and drawbacks of each model. Here’s a quick rundown:

Predominantly in person

Before the pandemic, many organizations had nearly all employees in an office most days, and some feel an inclination to return to this workplace model. Some organizations have struggled to create a fully collaborative environment while working remotely, and Netflix CEO Reid Hastings spoke for many detractors when he called remote work “a pure negative.”
 
Companies that have encountered remote work challenges may want to go back to simpler, pre-pandemic times. If you’ve led a highly successful in-person organization, it’s natural to want to regain that degree of organizational success, collaboration, and camaraderie.
 
But companies must know that while many employees cannot wait to return to the office, others have decided they prefer remote work and have even moved far away from their former office. Freelancing and hiring company Upwork found that 23 million Americans plan to relocate in response to increased remote work opportunities. These employees may decide to pursue a new job if coming back to the office is mandatory.

Before returning to a purely in-person model, get a sense of what people want by either having managers collect intel or distributing an anonymous survey. If your employees predominantly want to continue working remotely, it may be worthwhile to listen.

Fully remote

While some companies have struggled remotely, many prior skeptics have embraced remote work in the pandemic. Companies as large as Twitter have even told employees they can work from home forever.

The benefits of a fully remote model are apparent – being completely virtual allows companies to save on office space and in-office technology, such as remote friendly conference rooms and office servers. In addition, remote work can give employees the flexibility they didn’t know they craved, allowing them to set a better schedule for themselves, be more productive without the distractions of an office, and be more present outside work.

However, companies shouldn’t be replicating all their in-person workflows, meeting routines, and management approaches in a newly virtual organization. Instead, the best remote companies help their employees engage and collaborate while working from home, share strategies to help their people manage a remote workday, and invest in employee necessities by offering laptops, office supply reimbursements, or high-speed wireless subsidization.
 
That said, be aware of and think of ways to accommodate the people who were looking forward to coming back to the office and won’t be excited to find out there isn’t one.

Hybrid

It’s crucial to know that creating a hybrid work environment requires a careful strategy in and of itself; it’s not a way to avoid setting a clear course. Leaders of hybrid organizations must create an environment where employees are consistently available and every team member is engaged professionally, even if they rarely come to the office.

Hybrid organizations have one clear advantage: They give every employee an opportunity to work however they want, whether that means coming to an office consistently, working from home every day, or something in the middle. Hybrid organizations also have the benefit of a ready-made office space for in-person meetings, training, team building, and more.

However, hybrid organizations need to ensure everyone is integrated into their work environment, regardless of where or how they work. There must be clear expectations and norms about when employees can work remotely and when they should be in the office. Leaders must plan in-person meetings and collaboration carefully, rather than abruptly calling employees into the office for conferencing. Most crucially, they must ensure that employees who work from home frequently are not passed over for advancement and recognition, and don’t fall into social isolation.

Companies should weigh these three workplace models carefully, and not thoughtlessly gravitate to the style that is closest to what they’ve always done. You should also be ready for a healthy percentage of your workforce to opt out of the model that you choose, as many folks are discovering new preferences for how they’d like to work.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Choose your strategy, support it, and be honest with the people in your organization about where you are heading – knowing many of them might choose to head in a different direction after their own experience over the past year.

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4 ways to increase your level of influence in the workplace

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Leading by example is the best way to influence others at work.

  • There are several ways you can grow your influence as a leader at work, says career coach Melody Wilding.
  • Expressing trust and understanding is key to inspire passion in your employees and team members.
  • By earning loyalty and leading by example, you can steadily increase your level of influence at work.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Influence – especially in the workplace – is about setting an example that inspires others to do as you do. The keyword here is, inspire. Influencing others isn’t about pressuring people to submit to your requests. Nor is it about manipulation. 

Influence, at its core, is akin to persuasion in the most genuine form. It involves inspiring others by how you show up and how you make them feel by leading them.

So, how does a leader influence a team to work towards a vision, share their passion, and to get things done? 

If you’re a sensitive high-achiever (or what I call a Sensitive Striver), then you already have the tools that other less-sensitive leaders may not. Your team will understand that you care about their values as much as your own, because of your ability to read them and to feel how they are feeling.

Your strength in empathy gives you a boost because you know what matters to your team. This creates a space of connection, understanding, and trust. With that as your foundation, your success in influencing as a leader will shine.

Leadership by influence: 4 essential aspects to increasing your influence in the workplace

Once you have a solid base of trust and connection with your team, you can strengthen your ability to influence and further your success as a leader. Here are a few key skills to increase your level of influence:

1. Be transparent

To increase your influence in the workplace, you must remain open and honest. It’s important to allow others to voice their questions and concerns and to answer them with transparency. Being honest is easy when there is good news to share, yet remaining 100% honest when the news is bad can be difficult.

The best leaders are transparent in all instances. If a question is posed that you are not prepared to answer, say, “I want to be sure to have all of the correct information before I answer that. Let me check the facts and get back to you by the end of the day.” Be sure to follow-up as soon as you can address their question. Answer with positivity and openness, and you will achieve a team committed to you and your goals.

As a Sensitive Striver, if problems do arise, your ability to communicate with empathy will be a guiding light for the rest of the team.

2. Inspire loyalty

Inspiring a sense of commitment from your team is vital to successful leadership and influence. This can be accomplished by motivating and improving the working lives of your employees.  Look for and speak to their accomplishments. Understand that your success also lies in the quality of people that you help advance within the company.

If someone in your group is going above and beyond in their role, acknowledge them. The pride you take in your team’s successes not only motivates your team but inspires deep loyalty to you as their leader, which is the best use of your influence in the workplace.  

3. Lead by example

Sensitive Strivers don’t fall short on determination. Lead by example by staying confident and focused on the end goal. A leader crippled by self-doubt or deterred by setbacks sets an uneasy tone and can contribute to chaos among the team. When a problem emerges (which you have most likely played out in your head), keep a steadfast and positive attitude. This is important, though difficult, especially if your reputation is on the line.

If you see yourself struggling to maintain or regain positivity, take a moment to remind yourself that you can change your mindset. Your attitude is your choice, and your team will mirror that behavior. Turning obstacles into unprecedented opportunities generates a collective calm that is nothing short of inspiring.

4. Beware the perfectionism pitfall

Sensitive Strivers tend to be perfectionists. Your impeccable attention to detail and ambition to keep going until it’s “flawless” contribute to your success. Yet, at other times, your need to do things “right” can fuel anxiety. As Brené Brown says, “Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there’s no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal.”

Carrying your expectation of perfection over to the team you are trying to lead will decrease your influence in the workplace and chip away at the group’s morale. To avoid fallout, stay focused on what is working, and what you can control. More likely than not, the end goal is still intact.

The ability to influence others is one of the most essential qualities a leader can have. Taking the time to learn the steps of influencing others intelligently and ethically, will improve your success as a leader, and that of the company’s.

Sensitive Strivers, you have a leg up in the world of influencing people. Your high emotional intelligence, your passion, and your drive will set you apart. You will be a leader who brings people together with a common goal and will inspire your team to get things done and done well.

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