My Crazy Office

My Crazy Office is a weekly workplace podcast dedicated to helping listeners navigate their careers. Executive coach Kathi Elster and career therapist Katherine Crowley combine their expertise to solve both serious and silly situations at work. Join Kathi, Katherine and producer Logan Medrano as they answer real workplace questions with solid advice and a side of humor. Do you have someone or something at work that’s driving your crazy? Send your questions to info@mycrazyoffice.co. (All submissions kept confidential.)

The Best Leadership Tactics for Getting Through the Covid 19 Crisis

You may be the leader of a large organization, the executive director of a nonprofit, the manager of a team, the owner of a business with a few staff, or the sole proprietor of a small business.  It does not matter how many people directly report to you. At this time, we are all called to be leaders. What does that mean?

1 – Be the calm in the storm. One of my clients is the Executive Director of a large retirement community.  After describing the extensive plan she’d developed to protect all residents and staff from the virus, she said, “You want me in a crisis, because when everyone gets upset I get calm.” She shared her process: “I make my lists and methodically take care of each item as calmly as possible. I think through what could go wrong, and take steps to eliminate every problem as best as I can.” 

2 – Make tough decisions. Confronted with the prospect of several months of delayed revenue, managers, business owners and CEO’s everywhere face tough decisions. One CEO told me she’d asked her CFO for a cash projection for the year. To her surprise, she found out that her organization had more cash on hand than she’d originally thought. Because money will be coming in, she does not have to let people go. Another CEO conducted the same kind of financial analysis for her organization with less favorable results. She is preparing to lay staff off.  

3 – Be the positive voice, and at the same time be realistic. It is time to be transparent. I know you’re thinking that the term transparent has been overused.  Transparent simply means tell the truth. If you know that your company or department or organization must take difficult steps like letting staff go, communicate that clearly. Describe the problem and what you are doing about it: “We may have to let some people go. We may lose business. But we are looking to secure financing.” Tell them the truth. Tell them you are doing all you can – then deliver on your promise; they are watching.

4 – Care about your people like you have never cared before. I had a client ask, “How are you doing?” I said, “Fine.” She said, “No. Tell me how you are really doing.” That individual showed true concern for my well-being. Take the lead in this area, and express true interest in your staff’s physical, mental and emotional state. I have another client who is holding a virtual happy hour for her employees every day at 6:00 pm – participation not required. If you manage people who are considered essential workers, give them food, drinks, cash – whatever they need. And be sure to take care of their families. 

5 – Look for creative ways to give. This is not a time to look for business. It will come if you show and believe we are all in this together. Think Give not Get. Can your company retool and make masks or hospital gowns for medial staff? Can you put your services online? Shaun the co-owner of Seagull Hair salon here in NYC, is putting up tutorials on how to cut your bangs, touch up your roots and trim your beard at home. Think out of the box: How can you keep your clients be engaged without any expectations? When you return to work, your clients will return to you because they received from you.  

6 – Make sacrifices. This is a time when you may have to ask staff to take pay cuts. Those pay cuts should not exclude you. You may have staff that are home schooling while their partner is an essential worker. You might want to take on some of their work to lighten their load. 

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co with any questions or for further help around this topic.

Kathi Elster – Executive Coach and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises.

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Dealing with Uncertainty

Without question, these are uncertain times. Daily routines, work lives, economic conditions and social lives have been uprooted and disrupted. Homes now serve as offices, school rooms, infirmaries, and personal gyms. We don’t know when we will get our normal lives back again.
Because there is so much we can’t control at this time, it’s important to notice and act on the things that we can. The following are things you can do to calm your nervous system, take control of your environment, and deal with these uncertain times in a constructive manner:
• Create order in small areas that you can control
Uncertainty can feel chaotic. To manage the chaos, it’s important to take small actions that provide order to your life: Get up at a regular hour, make your bed, dress for work, continue your workout routine (even if you have to modify it), plan meals, coordinate with family members when scheduling your day.
• Do things to calm your nervous system
Think of your emotions as energy-in-motion. To release anxiety, you want to do things that let the energy of anxiety move through your body. Physical activity or home workouts can really help here. Meditation, yoga, and relaxation exercises are also good. Activities like cooking, singing, playing music, playing games, making art or building things can help your brain relax.
• Stay informed but don’t drown in information
Uncertainty makes us crave control. One way you may strive for control is by tracking every piece of news that comes out about CoVid-19 on social media, online news, or TV. Information overload will make you more anxious, not less. Limits on news consumption (checking in the morning, mid-day, and at end of day) will help your brain rest – which it needs to come up with clever solutions to uncertain times.
• Look for ways to be of service
Helping, assisting, caring for others is a very concrete tool for calming your mind and lifting your spirits during times of uncertainty. With social distancing and self-quarantining, the kind of help you can offer may not be “hands on” but it still counts. Phone calls to people living alone or elderly friends/family can make a difference. Video chats with friends who need to connect. Cooking meals for others that can be dropped at their homes. Reach out in some way, and offer to help. It will give you a sense of purpose and control.
• Work at being present
Being present means you are not running forward trying to predict the worst-case scenario nor are you glancing backward focusing on what you, your business, or your government should have done differently. Being present means you look at where you are today, appreciate what you have, and take small, concrete actions to live your life as well as you can. Being present can be very challenging during uncertain times, but it allows you to deal with the current reality from a non-hysterical place.
• Practice gratitude for simple things

Practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful tools you can use during uncertain times. Gratitude allows you to see what you have and what’s working rather than focusing on what you may lose and what isn’t working. You can be grateful for your food, your morning cup of coffee, your smart phone, your bed. List three things you are grateful at the beginning of every day and share that list with a friend.

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co with any questions or for further help around this topic.

Katherine Crowley – Career Therapist and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises.

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15 Proven Techniques for Working at Home

If you’re new to working remotely or have experience but still find yourself getting distracted, here are our tips for staying focused and productive:

1 – Set up a designated office space (not the dinning room table if you have to move everything for your family dinner). It should be a real space where you can have a proper chair, good lighting and a place for what you need.
2 – Be sure that you have good Wi-Fi connection, and enough plugs to keep your technology going.
3 – Create an attractive video backdrop for when you are on a video call. Include items like flowers or a beautiful painting – not a messy closet, or a cluttered living room. The more professional you look, the better your outcome will be.
4 – Wake up at your usual workday time every day. Keep your schedule.
5 – Try to get in a workout. Use YouTube or any other form of support.
6 – Dress for work. You never know when you might have to jump onto Zoom, Skype or a video conference call. Casual attire is fine, but get dressed, comb your hair, apply light makeup, and do whatever makes you feel good about yourself.
7 – Prepare your breakfast (and maybe lunch) as you would for work. Try to avoid the kitchen and refrigerator while you work. They can be a big distraction during the day.
8 – Log in to work at the usual time. It may be good to start your workday with a company or department go-to-meeting so that you feel connected.
9 – Go for a walk midday – if allowed in your community (keeping 6 ft. from others).
10 – Stay on purpose and stay in touch – over communicating is necessary at this time.
11 – Check on your co-workers. Think of creative ways to reach out to your clients. Giving without expectation may go a long way at this time.
12 – Pets and Kids – if you have a door to your office you are in luck but, if not, try to minimize interruptions. Depending on who you are talking to it might be OK if your puppy barks or your 3 year old wants to sit on your lap. But in certain circumstances either get support from someone else in the house or take that meeting in a more secure space with a door.
13 – Close your office at the same time each day. Try to maintain healthy boundaries between work and homelife. Check for evening emails the same way you always do.
14 – To avoid the isolation, turn on the news in the background.

15 – Remind yourself that this is not permanent.

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co for any further help around this topic.

Kathi Elster – Executive Coach and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises.
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Uncertainty At Work: My Crazy Office Overtime, Season 7

Kathi and Katherine talk about uncertainty on this week’s My Crazy Office Overtime show.

How should you deal with uncertainty at work and in what ways can it show up?

Listen to this week’s podcast here.

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#10: Family Work Ties – My Crazy Office, Season 7

Kathi and Katherine talk about family work ties on this week’s episode of the My Crazy Office podcast.

First we give advice to an employee who has been doing the work of an incompetent family hire.

Then we discuss how to manage an employee who is related to a senior executive at work.

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