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💛 Creating Your Caring List
5 ways to make and maintain outreach during difficult times and beyond
☎️ Welcome to The Switchboard. Our mission is to help you become a better (internal) communicator with career insights, inspiring stories and best practices from industry leaders. This is Edition #73! Thank you for being part of our community.
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It’s been another horrifying week for the people of Ukraine. As my LinkedIn feed has been filled with posts of solidarity, on the ground experiences and ways to help, I’ve realized — we are all less than one connection away from knowing someone impacted by this tragedy.
At this time, priorities feel different than before this war began. While looking at our editorial calendars, we have adjusted the tone of talking points, changed event timelines and incorporated even more empathy into our work.
With crises, it’s not business as usual with our to-do lists. That’s why I’m inviting you to create a caring list 💛:
a strategy for remembering to simply check-in with colleagues and friends during challenging times and beyond.
If this resonates with you, try keeping it up all year long.
“We found that 39% of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleagues check in with them, both personally and professionally…By reaching out and acknowledging their employees on a personal level, companies and leaders can significantly enhance the employee experience by making their people feel valued and connected.”
Here are five ways to create and maintain your caring list 💛:
🎧 #1 Practice Active Listening
In order to know what’s happening with your team, direct reports and colleagues, you must practice active listening. The team at Atlassian’s Work Life blog defined this important skill and curated a best practices guide:
“Active listening means listening to someone else with the intent of hearing them, understanding their message, and retaining what they say. Think of active listening as the most engaged and committed form of listening to another person.
Beyond just hearing them, you’re giving them your full attention while signaling to the speaker that their message is being received and comprehended. It also helps you, as the listener, to engage with and understand the message more effectively.”
It’s also important to actively observe — sometimes people don’t speak up so you must be aware of behaviors and background situations so that you can make them feel included and safe.
💬 #2 Change Your Syncs and Meetings
As you’re meeting with team members, either one on one or in groups, open with acknowledging that there’s a crisis and ask a question that’s not your typical conversation starter, but a more authentic — how are you coping?
In The Atlantic, Ashley Fetters wrote: “What to Ask Instead of ‘How Are You?’ During a Pandemic, Everyone’s doing badly. We need better questions to ask.” The lessons shared feel just as applicable now.
If colleagues are willing to share, make the space for them to talk. Remind everyone of mental health resources and ways to help. This article by Rebecca Deczynski in Inc. offers guidance on talking about fear at work with recommendations from organizational psychologist Melissa Doman who is the author of Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work.
“A simple acknowledgement is the sympathetic thing to do. Doman recommends a statement along these lines: ‘We're conscious of the fact that this might be impacting people in different ways throughout our company, and we want you to know that it's OK to talk about this.’…In times of unrest, you may feel pressure to have all the answers, and that can lead to silence and inaction.
But it's better to admit you don't know everything than to stay silent, Doman says: ‘We look to our leaders for permission because they sit in a position of authority and influence.’ Ultimately, this creates a space for conversation. That way, employees can feel comfortable to voice any of their concerns (especially if they are personally affected by the crisis), and so that the doors are opened for action—if employees want to band together to raise money for a charitable organization, for instance.”
📓 #3 A Paper Notebook
Track who is going through a challenging time by writing it down after you learn about their experience. Date each page and leave space for notes on your conversations. This way you remember who you’ve talked to and can look back at the end of the week to remind yourself to check back in with people on your caring list.
To keep your caring notebook special, consider making it stand out on your desk:
“A notebook is more than just a practical tool. It can be a source of joy, a covetable item that turns an ordinary, everyday task—note taking, journaling, task planning, brainstorming, or doodling—into a sublime experience.” —Wirecutter from The New York Times
📅 #4 Calendar Block
Save time in your calendar each week — carve out 20 minutes to start. Make it a recurring meeting. Treat it like a meeting with someone — it’s sacred and should not be canceled. Keep it public so others can know that it’s a priority for you or make it private so that you can list the names of people you plan to contact.
Nir Eyal, Author of Hooked and Indistractable offers calendar curation recommendations that will keep your values aligned with your priorities:
⚙️ #5 Digital Tools
There are many incredible tools for tracking deadlines. Why not make your caring list a deadline. Hold yourself accountable — by Friday, check in with these 5 people. This reminder will help keep you on track.
Tools such as Asana, Todoist, Notion, and Google Tasks are helpful resources to consider for keeping you on track with digital reminders. Take it one step further with Quantime which “intelligently finds and reserves time” for you.
Your caring list can make an impact on your colleagues by calling, texting or sending a message in work chat. Try to find the balance between a conversation and checking in to let people know you’re available, if they want to talk or just there to support them, if that’s reassuring enough.
Organizational psychologist Adam Grant reminds us of the importance of expressing gratitude with letters. Expressing care should be just as prioritized, but with a faster turnaround time and multiple outreach to ensure someone is really doing alright. Hopefully, it will make us feel happier too, but at least it will make us feel remembered. Hang in there, everyone!