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People who run charities or other volunteer organizations have a big advantage over those of us in the for-profit sector: They know they have to tap peoples’ energy in a different way.

Because, of course, they can’t pay those volunteers. Well, maybe with a bit of beer and pizza, but that’s about it.

Over the course of my life, I’ve volunteered my time and energy in many places. And I’ve led teams of volunteers myself. Am I crazy?

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Zoom has become an absolute lifeline for many businesses. How would we have gotten anything done at all without the ability to do office jobs from home?

But we’re finding out something very important about what it means to work with others via video-conferencing: It’s not just about performing work tasks.

Yes, it’s very easy now to pull together a meeting. We discuss. We make decisions. We follow an agenda. But … it’s not enough!

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We all have excuses. My alarm didn’t go off. Someone forgot to tell me. I’ve been busy.

Yeah, there’s always a reason for messing up someone else’s life. It couldn’t possibly be … me!

This is deadly to your reputation as a leader. Leaders are all about getting stuff done – as an individual, and as a team. So when you make an excuse, that’s laying the groundwork for everyone to blame others, and not accomplish very much.

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I was discussing today the importance of having friendly relationships with your neighbors. You know, those folks who live next to you who can make your life miserable.

I’ve discovered a crucial philosophy to create friends rather than enemies: Lead with generosity, friendliness, and flexibility.

But what does this have to do with business? Everything!

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This last year has worn us out. Sure, we can blame Zoom Fatigue – which is a real thing – but the honest truth is that we’ve an intense period of uncertainty, fear, instability, and even boredom.

But this is going to continue, and we wonder if we’ll ever experience “normal” as we had it a couple of years ago. I suspect not.

So how do we keep our energy up?

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As you call people back to the office, you may have a hard time figuring out how strongly to demand that everyone follows the same rules.

There are so many variables! Nature of job tasks, desire for people to connect face-to-face, costs, sanitizing requirements, and so on.

What it comes down to is this: You want to have enough flexibility so that everyone feels reasonably productive, comfortable and supported.

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I see a lot of businesses struggling with their new model for people working in the office versus from home. This is a significant issue for those who worked so hard last year to suddenly create new approaches.

We’ve now discovered that “calling the troops back” isn’t nearly as simple as we expected.

Part of it is the still-evolving regulations, of course, but that’s minor compared to what workers need and expect from their employers. The difficult truth is that each person is making his or her own unique decision, based on complicated factors that they’ve never had to deal with before:

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Rebuilding your work environment post-pandemic is going to be a big challenge! Sure, you have to work around government regulations and community rules. You’ll put cleaning regimens in place and spacing requirements.

But that’s the easy part. People are always much harder.

The problem is that each person has their own requirements, unique comfort levels, and new work patterns developed over the course of a year.

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One of the key frustrations that employees have identified with returning to the office is that they haven’t heard what the plans are.

I get that. As a leader, you want to have a plan that’s solid, one that’s been checked out and can be committed to your folks. Otherwise you might look flaky.

But you have to fight that urge. Your people deserve more respect and need to know what’s in the works before it’s totally solid. And you need their feedback.

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Recently I had a chance to connect with the Fort Collins Chamber’s Talent Summit, which focused on the 2021 emphasis of workers returning to the office. There were a number of golden nuggets that I’ll explore in the coming weeks.

McKinsey has done a big study on Return To Work, and discovered that 29% of employees would consider switching employers if required to return to the office full time. That’s a stunning number, something we couldn’t have predicted a year ago.

If this transition is mismanaged, you could easily lose over a quarter of your workforce. And probably the most valuable workers, since they have the greatest mobility to other companies.

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