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"Raising the Sails: The Monkey See, Monkey Do Principle"

Is it just me, or does everyone seem to have a shorter fuse this week? 

There was an initial surge of energy and adrenaline fuelled us into action, as we were thrust into the recent, uncharted waters of the COVID-19 situation. We quickly reacted to the immediate needs at work and at home. Next, we were busy managing the daily challenges that seemed to come at us, in quick succession. 

Now that we have all been at this for a few weeks, we no longer have that adrenaline to fuel us. We’re all growing a little (or a lot) weary of our co-working household, and it can be a challenge to keep the team engaged and motivated.  

To make things more interesting, we have a real need to control our day-to-day reality, as so much of that control has recently been taken from us. Suddenly, there is resistance to new ideas and people are as possessive of their resources at work as they were about toilet paper last week!

And by the way, now is probably a good time to admit that those tasks at home, you know the ones we said that we would get to, if only we had more time at home? Well, it’s obvious that we just didn’t want to do those things! 

In a recent discussion on this topic, my teenaged co-worker, Katherine shared that everybody loves to sail on an ideal summer day. When she teaches sailing to children, there are plenty of days when the conditions are sub-optimal. High winds, rain and cold are just a few. On those days, she knows that when she greets her students, she needs to exude exponentially greater enthusiasm and a positive mindset. She calls it the, “monkey see, monkey do” principle. 

Whether at home or at work, leaders need to recognize when the team is struggling and respond by raising the energy level within ourselves. This is a tough ask, especially when we may not feel it. One thing is clear, others will mirror our energy level and approach. So this means if we start the conference call with an enthusiastic and high energy approach, we will get more of that in response. 

Setting the tone is critical. Now more than ever, our teams need us to set the pace. We can do this by focusing on the next waypoint or milestone. 

Milestones are going to look different at each level of the organization, but the same principle applies. Front line managers can set the pace for the team by looking at their operational metrics and establishing new, daily and weekly goals. 

We also have to be mindful of the next potential pitfall, which is the need for good news and the wish for all of this to be over. The “normal” of the future will never be the normal of the past. After struggling with a corporate dress code for years, I don’t know if we will ever manage to convince people to put proper pants on again!

No matter how we may wish for everything to be as it was, we must focus on forward momentum. There may be a few more shifts in the winds, choppy waters and rainy days ahead. So until then, raise those sails and head to your next waypoint. The energy level and productivity will follow. 

Wishing you well,



Jennifer J. Toal