We’re already halfway through 2021, and while you should be enjoying some much-deserved time off this summer, you might already be worried about the second half of 2021 — and how to tackle digital acceleration and meet the goals of executive leadership … when you’re feeling burned out … and your team is exhausted.
Which is why Gartner’s recent webinar, “How to Digitally Accelerate When You’re So Freaking Tired,” had me at “so freaking tired.” Because almost everyone I know is so very tired — and yet, we have never-ending to-do lists that seem to get longer as the pandemic drags on.
Mary Mesaglio, a Gartner distinguished VP Analyst, ditched the PowerPoint in her refreshingly candid presentation on how to bring your best game and meet your digital goals when everyone around you is experiencing crisis fatigue. It’s well worth listening to the full webinar, but in the meantime, here are a few takeaways.
Some of us are still in lockdown, some are emerging from lockdown and some are in full-fledged recovery. Whatever your situation, how do you keep your team motivated? How do you help them move past fatigue (and anxiety, and grief) when you have to execute on digital plans in the second half of 2021?
The four crises impacting teams
“I think that one of the reasons we’re all feeling so tired is that we’re actually dealing with four crises, not one. And these crises are bearing down on leaders of every ilk, in every level, in every organization, geography and sector,” says Mesaglio in the webinar.
The first crisis, of course, is a health crisis — not just COVID-19, but the “quiet mental health epidemic that is sweeping the globe where suddenly managers and teammates and colleagues are being asked to weigh in on things like: What are the early signs of depression? What does anxiety look like? What about social isolation? How do I know if my team is close to burnout? How do I know if I’m close to burnout?”
The second crisis is an economic crisis, which shows up differently for different sectors and geographies. But it manifests in the work environment in a similar way: as a cause of worry and anxiety (about losing your job, for example, or losing your house).
We also have a social justice crisis. These types of conversations never used to take place in the workplace. That’s changing. “I, for one, believe that these conversations are totally overdue, and very welcome. But that doesn’t make them easy,” says Mesaglio.
Gartner research on generational expectations of leadership suggests there are vast differences among multi-generational teams. Those 45 and older define a leader in the workplace as someone who doesn’t talk about sex, race, politics or religion. But for millennials and Gen Z, many expect leaders to weigh in on these issues.
And then there’s the climate crisis, where leaders are being questioned about sustainability, carbon footprints and ESG goals. New hires, customers and investors alike want to know if your organization has a credible sustainability strategy — and it could affect whether they choose to work for you or do business with you.
Digital acceleration during a crisis
“So if you’re feeling fatigue, it’s no wonder,” says Mesaglio. “A lot more than COVID has been going on in the world since March 2020.”
In the midst of dealing with these crises, digital acceleration has been front and centre as we build out remote and hybrid work forces. Indeed, Gartner found that seven out of 10 boards of directors were investing more in digital acceleration while cutting in other areas.
And yet, “the symptoms of fatigue are the exact opposite of what is required to digitally accelerate,” says Mesaglio. When you’re fatigued, for example, you have a decreased ability to communicate, solve complex problems or make good decisions.
How to fight fatigue and motivate staff
Mesaglio has a number of tactics that leaders can use to combat fatigue and motivate their teams. One of the top fatigue fighters? Creating a sense of progress and completion.
We get a psychological boost from ticking an item off our to-do list. So if you want to help your team fight fatigue, Mesaglio recommends assigning work in small chunks that can be completed in a day or a week. “For those of you doing agile transformations, I am not talking about a sprint — I’m talking about something even smaller than that.”
But there is no magic bullet. “This is not getting easier overnight,” she says. “It’s slow. It’s long. It’s taking longer than anyone thought.”
So you need to address the “r” word (resilience) if you want to keep your team motivated in the second half of 2021. Many of us are tired of that word. So Mesaglio recommends using the concept of negative visualization: rather than focusing on the absence of obstacles, acknowledge what could go wrong and how you’ll deal with it.
“This notion of negative visualization is one of the tactics that’s most overlooked and can really help with resilience as you enter the second half of the year,” she says.
That approach is much more empowering than “toxic positivity,” which doesn’t address the underlying grief and sense of loss that we feel — so we can move past it and, eventually, move forward.