We work AND we have feelings

Welcome to Quarantine 15: a spot of joy in your inbox on work, life, and navigating the start of 2021. In case we haven’t met, I’m Nikki Gusz, a co-founder of Lloyd, a career GPS for young professionals. You can follow me on Twitter @nkgusz or subscribe to this email newsletter here.


Today, around here you’ll find:

(1) A little reflection on the week

(2) A conversation with Liz Fosslien, the co-author and illustrator of the Wall Street Journal best-seller No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work

(3) An activity to help with good news

(4) A treat from me

(1) A little reflection on the week

The last year (including last week) has been filled with experiences sparking deep emotions. Some of us use work to distract us from events going on around us (and affiliated emotions), while others find work full of distractions because of these events and emotions. Wherever you're at, it's important to understand how emotions at work impact us and our colleagues.

(2) A conversation

This week, I’m chatting with Liz Fosslien (FYI, we chatted before this past week’s events). In addition to her best selling book, Liz is an expert on how to make work better. As the Head of Content at Humu, she helps teams and leaders develop the skills and habits that allow them to unlock their full potential. She is an expert in how to build resilience, help remote workers avoid burnout, and effectively harness emotion as a leader. Her work has been featured by TED, Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, The Economist, and NPR.

In your book and TED talk, you’re a lovely advocate for the importance of expressing emotions at work. How do you recommend people do this well, especially while working remotely--or wearing face masks?

When I first started researching emotions at work, I found a lot of the advice too vague to be helpful. It’s hard to figure out exactly what you’re supposed to do with “be vulnerable” or “bring your full self to work” at 9:01 on Tuesday morning when you’ve just joined your weekly team meeting.

So here are two very specific pieces of advice (that work even if you’re remote or wearing a face mask!): Start each meeting with a quick check-in. Ask everyone to share how they’re feeling in a word, or to describe a recent personal win. The second is to make time for lunch time. It’s easiest to start expressing emotion as part of a casual catch-up conversation. The informal, personal connections you build will make the rest of your workday a lot nicer.

Who as a leader expresses their emotions well as part of their style? (a.k.a, who would you give a gold star to and why?)

I had a boss who was really good about flagging her emotions. One day she walked into our 1:1 meeting and was visibly frustrated. The moment she sat down, she told me, “I’ve had a day. If I seem curt, I want you to know it has nothing to do with you.” She didn’t go into details, but she shared enough to prevent me from spending the rest of the day anxiously (and unnecessarily) trying to figure out what I had done to make her so irritated. Gold star.

I heard you predicted Action Management would be key in your crystal ball for 2021 career trends. What is Action Management, and why do you think it will be so important? 

Action planning is about assessing how your organization is doing, creating a detailed plan based on that information, and then spending the next year forcing everyone to execute your plan. It’s very backwards-looking. Action management on the other hand focuses on helping people build the habits that will help them succeed in the moment—no matter what that moment looks like. 

2020 showed us just how quickly everything can shift—and how fast a meticulous plan can become useless. When COVID hit, an unprecedented work-from-home economy popped up almost overnight (the percentage of Americans clocking in remotely shot up from 2.9% to 42%). The pace of change will only continue to accelerate, and it’s becoming more important than ever to know how to help your people quickly adapt and experiment.

Is it more fun to write a book about work or draw images about work? 

Right now I’m stuck in the pits of the creative process, so neither seem very fun at the moment! What a downer answer! But in the spirit of expressing emotions, I do think it’s important to share that everyone goes through periods when they spend hours moving sentences around only to make the whole thing worse and so at the end of they day they realize they’ve developed a mild case of carpal tunnel for absolutely nothing and that everything they’ve ever created is crap and it’s time to go to bed. The joy of creating!

Forced to choose, I’d pick images. I like pictures a little bit more than words.

If you had to pick a visual of any medium to help people through this unique time in human history (no pressure!)--what would you pick?

This holiday season I got a lot of joy out of following the Tree Twins (@treetwins) on Instagram  (I recommend starting with the photo below).

By spreading cheer during the darkest month of a dark year, they reminded me that creativity and cheer shine on!

Since you’re a writer and artist--what topic is covered in your writing or images I didn’t ask about, but should have?

If you’re a high-achiever, you should probably spend more time doing “unproductive” things, maybe even to the point where it starts to feel uncomfortable. 

I have a really hard time taking breaks. I spent all of December looking forward to my two week vacation at the end of the month, and when it finally arrived, I promptly fell into a great depression because I had no idea what to do with myself. But after a few days of binging The Great British Baking Show and scrolling Pinterest and feeling like a loaf, I suddenly had a million ideas for illustrations. And after a few days more of reconnecting with friends, I realized I had also gathered a bunch of funny and heartwarming stories to bring concepts I’m writing about to life.

It’s a cliche, but you need to take breaks.

(3) An activity

A quick 15 minute activity to create a good news nook—a place you can go to add a little joy when you need it and also to make your case in reviews.

0-3 min: Identify a place for your good news nook. It could be digital (an email folder) or physical (a notebook or container).

3-11 min: Think about the “good news” that you’ve received—that compliment from a client, the appreciation from a colleague when you went the extra mile, or the sales results where you shined for the quarter. Especially save the good news other people might not see or you might forget. Document it in the good news nook. Try to find at least 2-3 new items for you nook, but the more the merrier!

11-15 min: Think about how you can continue to put your good news nook into practice—set a calendar reminder once a month to add to it for 15 minutes, or commit you’ll put your news there right away after it happens. This is a place you can also go when you need to prepare for a review—or if you just need a pick-me-up.

Bonus: an image by Liz Fosslien below on “smile files,” a similar concept! Follow her Instagram account (@lizandmollie) for more inspiring images on work and beyond.

(4) A treat

Sign up for office hours with me this week to discuss whatever career moment—or emotion!—is top of mind.