My son Brad’s girlfriend Renee is a brand new first grade teacher this year. Along with her commitment to putting little kids on a solid path for their lives, I am truly impressed with the thought and effort Renee puts into her work every day. It takes a lot of planning and improvisation to keep a room full of six-year-olds engaged and learning from 8:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon. If Renee didn’t walk into her classroom every day with a solid lesson plan, she would lose the children’s attention and chaos would reign.
Talking with Renee about her job made me think about the leaders I coach. While they’re not running six-year-olds, in the emerging new norm of hybrid workplaces and a lot of back-to-the-office policy debates, I’d say they need to develop their own versions of lesson plans. ‘they want their people to be engaged and enthusiastic. Now that most professionals have seen that they can pretty much do their job content from anywhere they have a Wi-Fi connection, impose back-to-office policies without demonstrating the added value of doing so is a sure way to “lose the place”. .”
One of the smartest things I heard during the height of the pandemic was a Harvard Business Review podcast where the guest was a business school professor who has been an expert on remote work arrangements for over 20 years old. His main argument was that if you force people back into the office to do the exact same work on the same laptop they were using at the kitchen table, you’re going to lose them. Why would they want to go through the hassle and expense of traveling and leaving the comforts of home just to do the same job in their cubicle? Short answer – they wouldn’t.
There are, however, good reasons to ask people to come back to the office that extend beyond where they finish their work. One thing I thought about a lot during the peak of the pandemic was the distinction between content and connection. Thanks to virtual work and meeting technology, we’ve learned that much of the content work we never thought we could do remotely could actually be better that way. For many businesses, productivity has actually increased during the pandemic. What we’ve learned is much more difficult to do remotely is to foster connection between people, which not only helps them collaborate and innovate, but, as research from the world’s longest study of human happiness demonstrates, provides opportunities to foster the kinds of relationships that lead to long-term health and well-being.
This is where leadership lesson plans come in. Here are some questions to consider that can help you develop plans that keep your employees engaged and do a great job together.
- When your employees return to the office, what do you want them to do together?
- Why is the office the best place to do it?
- What do you want their experience to be?
- What do you want them to take away from this experience?
- How do you want them to feel while they’re there?
- What types of links do you want to promote?
- What do you need to provide in terms of space, advice, equipment, support and your own involvement to successfully execute your plan?
Does it take more time, creativity and effort to come up with a lesson plan that makes coming to work a great experience for everyone than just telling them where to show up and when? Yes, of course, but the long term results are worth it. Remember, if Renee can do it for her kids, you can do it for yours.
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