Post-Quarantine Leadership Lessons
Awkward. Unsettled. Embarrassed.
All those feelings rattled around in my heart and head as I drove home—just like they did after my first job interview. First date. A conversation with someone way, way smarter than me.
What prompted this reaction? My first foray into the face-to-face post-quarantine business world. I’ve been privileged to be able to spend the last year working from home. For lots of months, I looked forward to reclaiming the joys of being out and about. Experiencing a drop in my social skills on the other side of the pandemic, however, wasn’t an outcome I had expected.
Neither had my partner in this encounter, a fellow I’ll call Fred. Fred was rude, abrupt, and impatient with my rusty face-to-face skills. During and after our meeting, I gave him rent-free space in my head and let him make me feel small, unsuccessful, inconsequential. Jane in the Before Times would have never done that. She would have pushed back with persistence and grace.
Interactions over Zoom had left my in-person social interaction skills flabby. As a result, I had a miserable few days wallowing in unpleasant memories of an unpleasant encounter. I needed time to regroup and re-acclimate myself to a world I’d not experienced for a while.
During my wallow recovery period, I committed to a number of doing/thinking/feeling items that I needed to do as part of getting back into the in-person business game. If your post-quarantine experiences parallel mine—or are yet to happen—perhaps the commitments I made to myself may benefit you, too.
Jane’s Post-Quarantine Re-entry Protocols
- Acknowledge and accept that your social skills are going to be rusty. There’s no shame in that. Very few skills left unused remain sharp.
- Embrace getting those skills back into shape. Knuckle down. There’s going to be hard work, reluctance, and occasional slip-ups along the way. Just like starting a diet or exercise program or learning something new for the first time. Keep your eye on the long-term goal, set a timeline, and keep plugging away.
- Put people on notice. Would Fred still have been a jerk if I’d given him notice that I was out of practice in verbal jousting and business gamesmanship? Probably. But other more emotionally intelligent, compassionate people would be more understanding.
- Give yourself permission to push back. There’s always (how sad) going to be the ambitious business vulture who thrives on weakness, real or perceived. Cut’em off at the knees when they come in for the kill. Stand your ground and do so with grit and grace.
- Be gentle with yourself. I let Fred make me feel like a failure. That’s on me. My “grit” muscles had gotten flabby, too. Getting your social skills back in shape won’t happen overnight. Be patient. Be persistent. Be resilient. Be kind to yourself. Don’t let the Freds of the world beat you down.
About those Freds of the world. Not that Fred would think he would benefit from any advice, but I’m going to put it out there anyway. Who knows, maybe he’ll have an introspective moment.
My advice to Fred
- Be patient.
- Ask questions.
- Listen. Really listen.
- Guide. Don’t bully.
- Check-in regularly.
- Offer encouragement and feedback.
- Let your people know you value them for both what they can do and for what they
I’m off to do some social skill exercises. You?