Survival Tips for March Madness 2020

 Guest Post by Donna Brighton

While NCAA basketball has been cancelled, we are all dealing with a different kind of madness, one that comes from uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Rather than teach you more about hand washing or virus transmission, here are survival tips for leading yourself, leading your team and staying connected with clients/customers:


You’ve probably heard the analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before focusing on others. In this time of crisis that advice is more important than ever.

  1. Create a routine – one of the greatest challenges in these uncertain times is that the routine we’ve had is completely disrupted. Each day, decide how you are going to invest your time.

ASK: What are the most important 1 – 3 things I need to get done today?

  1. Stay connected – while physical distancing may be important to slow the spread of the virus, that doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected with people. Setup a virtual coffee date or have a meal with a friend (we had virtual lunch with friends last Saturday). Schedule time with friends or family and use online technology like Zoom, Skype, HouseParty (an app) or Facetime (if everyone has an Apple product).

ASK: Who can I visit virtually?

  1. Mind your mind – rather than mindless viewing of news on social media or other channels, use this time to fill your head with good stuff, like a book or online class (check out Donna’s course on LinkedIn. There are 2 videos that could be helpful – change saturation and the FUD factor). Audit your time and evaluate where you are getting information from. Consider whether the information is helping or hurting your state of mind.

ASK: Where am I focusing your attention?

  1. A Gratitude Practice – This means regularly pausing to reflect on what you appreciate. Neuroscience shows that fear and thankfulness cannot co-exist. When you feel yourself moving toward a negative perspective.

Ask: What am I grateful for?

  1. MOVE – there are lots of benefits to exercise. If the weather cooperates, go outside. If it’s cold or rainy, find an online video or app that suits your style. For a workout you can do with limited space, no equipment, and minimal time, check out Bodyweight365 or the 7 minute workout.

ASK: What method will I use to make movement part of my day?

  1. Maintain healthy habits – it’s easy to revert to eating comfort food and weekend sleeping habits. During times of stress decide how you will maintain your habits and whether you need to make any adjustments to those habits.

ASK: How can I track the habits that are important to me so that I reinforce them?


Manage the dynamics of your team through empathy, clear communication and mutually set expectations to bridge the distance and connect your virtual team.

  1. Empathy over productivity – you are working with human beings not human resources (or human doings.) This is more important than ever. Pay attention to your team and what’s happening in their world before you talk about work. Acknowledge stress, listen to team members’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. Let your team know you’re there to help them address the challenges of working virtually. TIP: naming emotions helps to tame their impact and refocus the brain. 

ASK: How are you feeling, what is your experience right now? (then be quiet and listen deeply!)

  1. Set clear goals – It’s easy to lose focus and become misaligned during times of crisis. It’s like we’ve collectively hit a pothole, and nothing is the same. Review the work that needs to get done and prioritize it. Then make sure that everyone has the same understanding of who is doing what by when. When your team members are aligned on goals and expectations, they’ll be better equipped for virtual work success. Another important alignment point is clarity on what success looks like.

 ASK: What is most important to get done now and what does “done” mean?

  1. Create certainty – nothing is normal right now. which leads the brain to experience a continuous threat from the uncertainty. One way you can create certainty is to establish structured daily check-ins. This can be individually or as a group – whatever makes sense in your context. Set clear expectations or “rules of engagement” for communication. Define which tool (chat, email, video, etc.) gets used for what purpose, how quickly a response is expected and how frequently everyone should connect. 

ASK: What routines and expectations will you establish to create certainty? 

  1. Reset relational rhythms – when everyone is virtual, casual interactions don’t happen organically so designate time for informal communication. Schedule social connection between team members to support each other and build trust. Invite the team to virtual coffee chats or regular office hours, where you are available online for anyone to stop by and ask questions. Incorporate personal connection into all virtual meetings by beginning with a topic such as “introduce your pet” or “the beverage that begins your day.” 

ASK: what will I do to make sure that my team stays connected?


Three steps to success for connection – first, start with where they are and empathize. Second, take time to understand what they need. Finally, use this time to create, develop and prepare to meet those needs.

  1. Show that you care – lead with concern about their situation. Write a note or make a call to every current and former customer offering support and encouragement. Stay connected with your customers, but don’t get in their way. According to Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick, “85 percent of global consumers form reputational impressions about companies based on how companies react in times of crisis, thereby underscoring the importance of getting it right from the start.” 

ASK: how can I live my values and demonstrate care for my customers?

  1. Deliver value – This is your opportunity to distinguish yourself with your customers. You will be remembered for how you showed up in this crisis. When you talk with your customers, ask what they need. Don’t talk about fees or proposals or projects or anything other than, “How can I best help you?” For the first time ever, we are all sitting at home. Take advantage of the opportunity to find out what matters to your customers and then figure out how to make it happen. 

ASK: What value can I uniquely provide that will benefit my customers?

  1. Prepare to PIVOT – this too shall pass. Use this time to reinvent what you offer or deliver to your customers. Enhance your skills though online learning. Use the insight you gained in your conversations to develop new content, tools or resources that can benefit your customers. Up level your offerings and prepare for the future. 

ASK: How can my purpose and my professional expertise align with emerging needs in the market?

There are always multiple ways of looking at a situation. How can you use this time to stay healthy, connected and get more meaningful work done?

Whatever the future holds, one thing you can be certain of is that you’ll never get this moment back. Use it wisely, once it’s gone you’ve lost it forever!  Stay focused on what matters most.

Want a compilation of the best thinking on the six essential areas to evaluate and focus on as you increase your personal virtual work effectiveness? Go to and DOWNLOAD the FREE Virtual Work Success Checklist today.

Donna Brighton


Donna Brighton is a world class expert in organizational change, culture and leadership. Organizations like the CMMI Institute, Kraft Foods, TD Bank, and Lockheed Martin have benefitted from her expertise in their initiatives, from workplace transformation to culture change and strategy acceleration. Her focus is enabling leaders to lead from the exponential power that comes from the core of who they are, rather than trying to fit into a leadership mold. She is the author of The Rebel Leader’s Field Guide to Your Leadership Voice, and creator of the Catalyst Question Cards for Leaders. She enables leaders to create change more rapidly and successfully through the power of Culturally Intelligent Change. Connect with Donna on LinkedIn or email her at


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