Death By Zoom?

Courtesy of Pixabay

Before COVID-19, I was getting pretty down on technology in context to our loss of human connection in the workplace and at home. The family life disrupted as Instagram and WhatsApp took center stage over ‘Honey, How was your day?’ and ‘Let’s share three things we are all grateful for.’ “Wha??? What did you say, Mom?” click.. click..click- fingers on the tablet.

I felt like I was becoming a pioneer against technology even though I would choose personally the latest Apple products a million times over Sapphire earrings, a spa visit or the latest designer handbag. Do we see each other at work and at home enough? And our youngest workforce (according to Cigna’s groundbreaking America’s Loneliness Epidemic Study- see chart below from TIME) is the most isolated of any demographic group with well over 71 – 79% feeling lonely, that they do not have someone they can speak with.

BUT MAYBE I WAS WRONG ABOUT TECHNOLOGY… Problem or the solution I have pondered daily in this new unusual lockdown life. Maybe technology was going to help us all distance but not isolate. Work remotely but connect. Transport us into the homes of the elderly parents and the homes of our childhood friends’ free geographic barriers. It has been all that for me and more.

Maybe it is in our hands literally to eyeball each other with meaning or to tune out and distance to the numbing and dopamine- inducing- stimuli of the internet 24/7.

“I have kids to take care of. I have a staff that I need to support and hold up, and I can barely keep it together, It’s all on me,” said Irene a dynamic emerging leader from a major company you all would recognize well. “I have never been so busy and I am not getting what I need from Zoom calls. They are all day long now “I can’t take this.”

I remember in the early 2000s being in conferences for days in NYC for an amazing charity. One PowerPoint presentation after another, sometimes for 8-hours straight with a Reuben boxed lunch with potato chips, a pickle, and a stale chocolate chip cookie. + The option to sneak a joke, a laugh, or overhear some meaningless gossip in the ladies’ room on 10 minute ‘liquid breaks.’

We called it ‘Death by PowerPoint’ as there were diminishing returns after the 3rd ‘talking head’ presentation. Your head would just feel dizzy and you needed to doodle or do something to stay in the sandbox with others.

Irene was feeling those diminishing returns. She needed to feel a more human connection on these calls and so do we all. To get the clarity that she was not alone with her C-19 experience. She needed to brainstorm solutions, feel a kinship, or as a brilliant mind posted anonymously on Facebook and I paraphrase, grasp how we are “Not all on the same boat with each other, but we are in the same storm.”

When we swallow anxious feelings, we feel depressed. When we hurl our emotions at others we feel anger. When we take those feelings and put them to purposeful action, connect with others… we feel better and march forward.

Does Irene’s experience show us we are moving into “Death By Zoom? WebEx? Microsoft Teams? Adobe Connects?” and other video platforms. I hope not. Because we need them to transport us in-lockdown together.

I need them for Thursday night Zoom dinners with my in-laws by candlelight and Sunday nights with Mom and my brothers, nieces, and nephews. I see them more than I have in years now. and I get dressed up for the occasion.

I am going to share with you a big A-Ha moment. I was working with a major financial company and asked them to let me use 50 breakout rooms and trust me. GULP. Well, they did and I saw that when leaders were speaking, participant engagement rates (on Adobe Connects) were 42-60%. When we created the space for people to 1:1 directly help each other – mentor each other in the breakout rooms, discuss COVID- (aka pandemic non grata) engagement rates went up to 94-97%.

People like Irene shared after the session “I can let my hair down now. I can breathe. I can share in confidence my worries, my concerns, how other people are dealing, the costs.” I can feel and learn that at this moment in time, we sit together on Zoom, arm to arm when we need each other the most.

We might not be in the same boat but we can be joined in the voyage, together side by side evolving as stronger seaworthy vessels than we were before.

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Julie Kantor is the CEO of Twomentor Managed Mentoring Solutions. Since the start of COVID-19, her company has been running dozens of “Remote, Not Isolated” Flash (speed) Mentoring experiences for executives and their teams. She can be reached directly at julie@twomentor.com

I am sorry you are going through this…

A few years ago it became a big recommendation for women to stop apologizing so much, that we lose credibility or grounding by being sorry- but today as I look at how COVID is impacting your life, no other words feel truer: I am really sorry you are going through this time in history. I have dedicated my life to helping people help each other. The first and most important step in helping another person is to authentically and openly see them. When I look around and observe the people around me, from my 17-year old daughter, my fellow entrepreneurs who are not ‘open for business,’ to my mentee whose five roommates were all furloughed, parents juggling childcare and work from home, and corporate executives who pivoted and lead through the chaos. I see pain, insecurities, stress, broken dreams, arguing nights, loneliness, frozen fears, confusion, and, importantly, special moments of warrior spirits, love, enlightenment, and support in the midst of everything else. Nobody deserves this, and truly, I am sorry you are going through this.

But I also have some wishes for you.

I wish you compassion for yourself in particular. I wish you self compassion over self-criticism, Hope over hunger. Vision over broken dreams. Faith over fear… and love.

I wish you compassion for others around you, regardless of whether people are home for 60, 85 days and counting, or racing out to hit the gym that just opened or sharp-tongued with their siblings. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been profoundly impacted by COVID (I call it COVID non-grata). Cut yourself some slack, there is no way that 3-months ago you or they would have known or understood our hair would be turning greyer, our hospitals would be fuller, in some ways Costco + Zoom would be winners, and The Cheesecake Factory, Southwest Airlines, Uber and hundreds of thousands of others are on the losing side of this battle. Nobody could have predicted that our friends would be furloughed and loved ones lost.

I wish you learning and growth because this is something we all must learn something from: it doesn’t matter whether that comes from the inner recesses of your brain or Youtube, Coursera, a mentoring conversation on FaceTime or Google Chat. They all have value. I hope you find the words and concepts that comfort you and give you the strength to push through another day and another week. I think we grow the most when we are in pain, not when things are easy in life. The great moment of building our resiliency muscle has arrived.

My brother once told me that if I am standing strong, then others can lean on me. If I am not okay and others lean on me, well, we will both fall and tumble over. For many of us, it is in our nature to support others through a crisis, to lose precious sleep, and let our own needs fall on the back burner. This is natural, but let’s ask ourselves: how can we support others if we aren’t okay? I hope you care for yourself without guilt. I hope you make a new relationship with you and find incredible human connection with others cause this too shall pass and you will find yourself and how you grasped these moments on the other side of this pandemic.

(photos courtesy of Pixabay)

I was speaking to a client and she said ‘G-d wants us to reboot’- that really got me thinking and gave me a new perspective. What will our reboot look like? Self-compassion? New learning on what we need to have serenity and stand strong? A new hobby or career? And, hopefully, the ability to truly see one another and the unique hardships we each endure. To help ourselves and each other. Now, for my own personal daily recharge. I’m off to Amy Appel’s amazing online Yoga class—to strengthen my spine and spiritual grounding as she discusses this week the word impermanence.

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We believe in people helping people. Employees helping employees.

Julie Kantor is the CEO of Twomentor Managed Mentoring Solutions. Since the start of COVID-19, her company has been running dozens of “Remote, Not Isolated” Flash (speed) Mentoring experiences for executives and their corporate teams to foster human connections and resilience. She can be reached directly at julie@twomentor.com. Very special thanks to MacKenzie Moore, leader and valued team member at Twomentor for weighing in and edits.