How to Get Back to Work

Your business may have been shut down entirely, or you may have been required to work from home. You might still be being asked to “shelter-in-place” or “shelter-at-home,” like those of us in Ohio. For the past month or so, there has been no business-as-usual. If you are in sales, it’s been challenging to get a face-to-face appointment, as some companies haven’t allowed visitors into their buildings. Your productivity and your results have likely been less than stellar—and something less than you would want. It’s hard to shift to working from home.

But now it’s time to get back to work, even in an especially trying environment. It’s time to start preparing for what comes next to get a jump on your recovery. If you are well and capable, here’s what to do now, even if you must do so from your kitchen table. If not now, then when it is possible for you.

Establish Your Priorities

In a crisis, the most important thing you can do is survive. The oldest part of your brain, the reptilian part, takes over. It shuts down any dissent from your neocortex, the role of your mind that is capable of logical, rational thought, doing what it needs to do to keep you alive, something it has had millions of years to perfect.

Like most of us, you have hunkered down, and so has your company and many of your b2b sales clients. Your priorities have shifted, and what was most important was lost to something even more critical at the moment. Getting back to work means establishing your new priorities and what’s essential in what some are calling the “new normal,” a phrase I find to be lacking, as it massively underestimates both our resourcefulness and our resilience.

To put things right, you are going to have to start by determining what’s most important now. There is sure to be more than one thing that needs your time, your attention, and your energy, which will require you not only to determine what is important but also in what sequence. Getting back to work starts with establishing your most important outcomes, so you can begin to make plans.

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Build an Extraordinary Time Action Plan

We are still in the middle chapters of two crises, a health crisis that threatens all of us, but particularly the most vulnerable, as well as an economic crisis decimating specific industries, all of which are important. Now is no ordinary time, and it would be wrong to pretend otherwise. It is more challenging to navigate than past crises. The Great Recession was severe, and it was purely economic, one that wasn’t accompanied by a global pandemic.

You are going to find people who need more help. They are going to need help working through the stress, the fear, and the real losses they have incurred. They may be personal, maybe business, and perhaps both. If there was ever a time for exercising emotional intelligence and compassion, it is now. Your plan of action needs to take into account the fact that when people are afraid, they often freeze. It will take some people more time to make decisions, more time to feel safe.

Over the last few weeks, there has been an ongoing dialogue on the social sites over whether salespeople should continue to sell or put everything on pause. The very question suggests that many—including people who pretend to salespeople—don’t recognize that sales is about helping people produce better results, not about fleecing or taking advantage of them.

Your plans need to start with helping the people and companies you work with to rebuild their lives and their businesses. The only way for you to rebuild your business is to help others rebuild theirs. The work you do never has been more important and needed than it is now.

The reason I close every newsletter with “do good work” is that I believe you and I have a responsibility to make a difference for others.

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Reestablish Your Routines

It’s likely you have lost your routines over the last month or so. If you’re working from home, you may have found yourself distracted instead of focused, unsure of what you might do instead of confidently doing what you would typically do. You might have also found yourself working in sweatpants and a t-shirt, except for your video conferences, where you might have put on a real shirt.

Your routines may have been lost because of the tremendous uncertainty and the stress that comes with difficult circumstances and trying times. Your habits around sleep, diet, and exercise might have been lost. The changes in your work routines may also have dissipated as you have navigated the current environment. Part of getting back to work requires reestablishing your routines, getting back into the rhythm of your life, including your work life.

If you blocked time for what’s essential before, go back to blocking time for those things now. If you held meetings previously, start having those same meetings, even if the goals you might have talked about before are something less than they were. The client meetings you would have had face-to-face might require you to downgrade to video conferences. Hold those meetings, and make sure you are taking care of the people you serve.

None of this requires you to pretend that we are not smack in the middle of the eye of the hurricane—quite the contrary. You need to be especially aware that people are suffering, which means you need to be exceptionally patient, exercising your emotional intelligence and even greater compassion. You may not be able to provide ventilators or masks, and you may not be ready to leave your house, but if you can make a difference for people, do what you can to help.

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