What to Do on a Snow Day (or whatever your version of one is)

Posted 02.10.2010

Capitolsnow As I write this in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, it is snowing steadily and the winds are blowing. We’re on our way to another 20 inches on top of the two feet or so of crusty five day old snow that we already have. Federal government offices in the region are shut down for a third day in a row and probably will be tomorrow as well. It’s looking like school will be cancelled through April and I think the sound I hear in the distance is that of the calendars of busy people being blown into smithereens.

If you live in the Midwest or Northeast United States, you are learning to deal with the question of, “What do I do on a snow day (or days)?”  As a public service for immobile leaders, I offer some suggestions below and encourage you to add yours. (After all, are you so busy today that you don’t have time to leave a comment?)  If you are among the group of leaders elsewhere in the world who can literally get where you need to go today, I encourage you to read along anyway. Perhaps you can learn from or offer some encouragement to those of us who are stuck.

Herewith, some suggestions for what to do on a snow day:

Accept It:  Remember the Serenity Prayer? I’m paraphrasing here but it goes something like, “Grant me the courage to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference.” Embrace your snow days as an opportunity to practice radical acceptance. One thing’s for sure. You ain’t changing the weather.

Get to the Important Things that Have Been Crowded Out by the Urgent:  This one is inspired by the model from Stephen Covey that shows how we spend our time can be categorized into four buckets: Not Urgent and Not Important, Urgent but Not Important, Urgent and Important and Not Urgent but Important.  That last bucket is the one that many leaders never get to and it usually involves activities around building and strengthening relationships or building capacity for the future. Now that your calendar has blown up for a few days, what Important but Not Urgent activities can you get done? There may be some thank you notes you’ve been meaning to write or a catching up phone call with someone important to you. Maybe it’s time to dip into that book you’ve been wanting to read. Use some of your snow day time to do something that’s important but not urgent.

Practice Your Virtual Leadership Skills:  For those things that just can’t wait until the roads are cleared, a snow day presents an opportunity to practice your virtual leadership skills. Your organization probably already has technology in place that lets you conduct conference calls, web enabled meetings and other ways to collaborate online. My observation is that while the technology is available, a lot of people haven’t really figured out yet how to project the presence that they have in a physical location into a virtual setting. Play around with that during your online snow day meetings. In particular, focus on your energy level and tone of voice (you need more juice in a virtual setting to compensate for the lack of physical presence), keeping others engaged through asking open ended questions of specific people (e.g.  Bob, what do you think we should do next?) and sending out an agenda in advance so everyone can stay on track.

Make the Most of Being Stuck:  Chances are, you’re stuck in the same place for several days with those other human beings known as your family. Take some time to enjoy each other during the snow days. The work will still be there when you get back. If you’ve reached your capacity on family time, remember that most of the people you work with back at the office have families too. Lighten up a bit on your expectations over the next several days. Everyone is dealing with competing commitments at times like this. Give them support and space to do so. While you’re at it, do the same thing for yourself.

OK, that’s my quick list. What advice do you have for your housebound compadres? And, let’s be sure to give a big shout out to the folks on the road crews, power crews and first responders who are working their tails off in incredibly tough conditions to keep the rest of us safe. Let’s all be sure to say thanks when we have the chance.