V is for Virtual

Are you virtually working or working the virtual?

vir·tu·al /ˈvərCH(o͞o)əl/ adjective
almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition

Virtually working

Working from home, when you are used to going in to work, working with other people, and separating your home life from your work life, is like having the rug pulled out from underneath you. If you feel stressed, weird, out of sorts — it is completely normal and understandable. Furthermore, the reason we are all working from home is stressful, distracting, and filled with all kinds of emotions of loss, sadness, and bitterness. It just is. And it sucks. I’m there with you. We all are.

But we still have to work, stay busy, and stay sane.

I have now spent more than half of my adult working life, working from a home office. Some days it is great. Some days it is easier than going in to an office. Some days it totally sucks and I do laundry, clean, or surf the internet. The days where I am not working, and I feel like I should be, are the worst.

I have been working with a number of teams where progress is not being made at a rate that we think it should be, and I have been thinking it might be because the team is still getting used to working in isolation, without peers to keep them going, that connectedness you get when you go in to work. In my past jobs where I worked from home, I could do it for 2 or 3 years and then I would quit — I had to go in to work. This last stint, 8 years, I have done a better job of managing myself, maintaining connectedness, and having more fun at my work.

Here’s how I do it. I lean into my strengths.

Lean into your strengths

First, I had to discover my strengths.

I was working with a friend (shameless plug for Sara Douglas, she’s awesome!) who uses this Gallup Tool, StrengthsFinder in her executive coaching. Gallup told me my top 5 strengths are:

  1. Strategic. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
  2. Achiever. They take immense satisfaction in being busy and productive.
  3. Learner. They have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. 
  4. Activator. They want to do things now, rather than simply talk about them.
  5. Analytical. They search for reasons and causes. 

Yes, my strengths are also my weaknesses. I assume you can all see the patterns in the data that I see. I assume you all want to work as hard as I do. I assume that you all want to continuously improve. We all know what happens when one assumes…but I digress.

I was complaining one afternoon about procrastinating on a project and Sara said to me, “you get your energy by leaning into your strengths. Lean into your analytical side, see what happens.”

I went home and by midnight I had built this pretty awesome workbook that automated data collection on ticket sales for a client. I was so energized, I could hardly sleep. In actuality, I used all 5 of those top strengths to build that workbook.

What are your strengths?

There are lots of ways to figure out your strengths:

    • What do you enjoy doing at work? Things that give you joy and are fun to do are likely in your strengths column.
    • You can follow the link to StrengthsFinder and see what they tell you.
    • You can set up time with Sara or a coach of your own.

You will get farther faster if you play to your strengths.

For example, if you have Discipline as a strength, then you are happier during this time of upheaval if you can keep routine and schedule going.

As an Achiever, I stay on target by setting goals for the day.

If you enjoy working with people and in a team as a skill (Relator), you need to stay connected to people to feel that team mo-jo. Maybe daily video chats, Slack, or old fashioned telephone calls will fill the void and keep you going.

If you like to collect facts and know more (Input) you might be fighting this huge desire to know everything you can about COVID-19. Input is my 7th highest strength. I spent the first week surfing the internet to know more, more, more. Now I use that desire to know more as a reward when I get done what has to get done that day (lean into the Achiever).

Try it, you might like it.

The next time you feel frustrated by the current situation, pull out your list of strengths, and see if you can lean into one of them.

Let me know how it goes!

Working virtual. This post went pretty long, so follow this link to another post on Working the Virtual.