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Social Scientists say #EmbraceTheAwkward to Save Lives From Coronavirus

#EmbraceTheAwkward is a social science-based movement to save lives from coronavirus.

According to the World Health Organization, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has already sickened almost 209,000 and killed over 8,000 people worldwide — to stop its spread and flatten the curve, we need to change our behavior now.

With many people “sheltering in place” and working from home, many of us feel scared, uncertain, and are trying to navigate the awkwardness of our new reality. People want to stop the spread of the virus, but adjusting our lives and changing our routines is hard.

Is it safe to meet our friends in the park? What about going for a run? What should I do when I have to go to the grocery store? What if the toilet paper runs out? How do I work from home with family, pets, and distractions in the mix? Let’s face it, social distancing is awkward.

We say — #EmbraceTheAwkward.

“My friend went to the grocery store and someone stood close behind her and was coughing. She didn’t know what to say, so she didn’t say anything. Fighting coronavirus contagion is in many ways a psychological and cultural battle. Social norms need to change quickly or more people are going to get sick.” -Lauren Aguilar, PhD

Do we shame people? No. Do we stay silent? No.

We need a culture shift, and fast.

But how do we get there? Culture change happens when each person, one by one, practices a small behavioral change which influences others to adopt the change, until the movement gains momentum and it becomes strange to not do the new thing. Behavioral change science says we can lead by example to persuade others to follow. It’s peer pressure, but in a nice way.

So, what does embracing the awkward mean?

It’s doing your part to establish the new normal. It’s sharing the awkwardness so others feel less alone. It’s saying “let’s hang out alone, together.” It’s finding moments of humor and connection in these tough times.

JOIN THE #EmbraceTheAwkward MOVEMENT

It’s good ol’ show and tell time.

Post pictures, make videos, of how you are embracing the awkward of living/working/parenting in the time of coronavirus.

Or print out the image above and post a selfie or video with it. Say “embrace the awkward” in the pic/video while you hold the image.

Use the #EmbraceTheAwkward hashtag to join the movement.

The more people who post, the more this will make safe (and awkward) behaviors normative.


Building on what the doctors are saying, stay home. Our rally cry is – when you have to go out for essential supplies, stay 6 feet away from others.

The CDC recommends keeping a 6 foot responsible radius from other people to stop the spread of germs. Sound super socially awkward? Yes, yes it does. Until we embrace the awkward, more and more people are going to get sick. And millions of people are going to be riddled with fear, confusion, and maybe even a little anger when they need to leave their house. Let’s embrace the awkward together.

Embracing the awkward is proactively choosing to shelter in place and protect the vulnerable members of our communities. It’s social distancing to save someone else’s life, not just your own.

Wear the hashtags #EmbraceTheAwkward #6FeetSavesLives on a t-shirt, a hat, a bag. When you do have to go out, the message will speak for itself so you don’t have to.


Businesses that supply basic need items — think pharmacies, groceries, and gas — should come up with new behavior rules of shopping and ways of persuading people to use safe behavior while shopping.

Giving people a structure for their behavior change helps enormously. For example, in Denmark they put stickers on the floor in pharmacies that guided people to wait 6 feet apart while in line.

We know from the science of persuasion, that people will respond to particular types of peer pressure. A sign at the front of the store laying out the rules of shopping helps, but getting people to follow them is another story.

Businesses should set up new norms for behavior by posting signs around the store (near where the action may happen) conveying that most people are using safe shopper behavior. For example, in the produce aisle “95% of people only touch what they buy” or “90% of people wipe down the cart handle with disinfectant before and after using.”

“The science is clear that it lowers our stress to focus on what we can control. Keep a safe distance from one another, reframe our brain to what’s positive, and share hilarious awkward photos of this ‘new normal’ are all evidence-based behaviors that work!” -Sally Thornton

Let’s keep it safe, keep it socially awkward. #EmbraceTheAwkward

Blog Recruiting

How to Hire Fast?

(Hint: Try the Warby Parker Way)

Imagine you need to hire someone quickly. Perhaps your company’s hockey-stick growth isn’t exactly aligning with how many people you need to deliver or maybe your key marketing leader is moving to London?

The only clear part of a hiring story is that the wrong hire will take you even further away from a good night’s sleep.

We’ve seen how the speed of hiring can translate into irrational decisions. You have important projects to keep moving forward — and you don’t want to lose momentum. But this could be a good time to take a breath and slow down your hiring frenzy. Because there’s always more than one solution to a problem.

Consider taking a lesson from Warby Parker, the innovative eyewear company whose philosophy is ‘try before you buy.’

Warby Parker encourages their customers to try out up to five pairs of glasses at one time — decide which ones you like — then place your order. Brilliant! It turns out that with eyeglasses, what costs money are the lenses; the frames are more of a commodity.

Our experience at Forshay has taught us that there are three compelling reasons to ‘try before you buy’ when hiring:

Reason #1: Hiring a hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, get sh*t done consultant allows you to think well.

Progress happens while you search for the right person. You have room to see what’s possible in the open position. You avoid the tight feeling in your chest to act quickly, because you’ve bought yourself some oxygen.

Reason #2: Sometimes the consultant is open to joining the team, and is just as interested as you are in trying the team/company out to see if there is a fit.

Our consultants are keenly interested not in just solving interesting problems, but in working with teams where the cultural complement is aligned and everyone is playing to their highest and best use.

Twenty years ago, the only people available for interim basis were entry-level temps. In the last ten years, experienced professionals are choosing consulting as a career path for reasons that include autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Reason #3: Building relationships with new people is good for everyone

The future of work includes more fluidity of teams. Teams are always evolving. You may have a great core team, but how often are you bringing in new team members, and/or objective outsiders to add fresh thinking, and seeing other people move on? Old-school thinking was to avoid spending time on relationships that weren’t “long term.” Now leaders understand the fluidity of organizations, and embrace the benefits of growing a wider and more diverse network of people.

So next time you have a hiring crisis, consider leveraging an interim professional. They can evaluate whether it’s the right fit for them and you can see how well they work with the team. Your best-case scenario is that you find the perfect candidate who turns out to be a great fit. Your worst-case scenario is that you accomplish some of your company’s current needs while looking for the right person.

Let’s keep redesigning work in ways that benefit everyone.

Blog Recruiting

Building Your Career – What Matters?

We hear it so often: Follow your passions. Do what you love and the money will follow. But then we keep listening for more specific advice and, not surprisingly, it often conflicts.

Recently, Jeffrey Katzenberg surprised a crowd by suggesting that young people follow not their dreams, but their skills: “I believe every human being does something great. Follow that thing you’re actually really good at and that may become your passion.” In the parlance of the diagram above, he’s suggesting that the joy of doing something well, something you’re suited for, can turn a job into a career.

Meanwhile, in a speech to Stanford business school students, Oprah Winfrey suggests two keys to finding your “power base,” following your instincts and connecting your skills with your values: “Align your personality with your purpose, and no one can touch you.” In the language of the diagram above: when what you do well meets what the world needs, you turn a talent into a career.

I love Oprah more than I do Disney (although with Frozen maybe I can love both). But the thing Winfrey and Katzenberg have in common here is the assumption that both success and fulfillment require that we look consciously at our lives, taking into account both practical needs and less rational – but equally crucial – issues of fulfillment.

So how do we apply all this to our actual lives-in-progress?

When I talk with people about finding satisfying work, the conversation often turns to deeper issues – what they like and don’t like doing day-to-day, and how that syncs (or doesn’t) with the effect they want to have on the world. The question underlying these conversations is a big one: “Does what I’m working on really matter?”

I often advise people at crossroads in their careers. So many of them have succeeded by societal standards but, in the midst of that success, they feel something is missing – call it heart or impact. They’ve been heads down, working hard for so long, and finally, they realize some part of their diagram of “doing your best work” is missing. And sometimes they conclude that – to find passion or meaning in work, they must make an enormous change.

Give it all up. Do something entirely different.

For some people – the ones who should have been artists, activists, explorers all along – taking such a leap is a lifesaving move. But for many more, the changes they might want to make are more subtle, more of a recalibration. I ask these people to envision ways they could use their talents not to start anew but to expand what is possible.

Which of their current skills can they offer the world, and in what capacities might

exercising those skills bring them fulfillment? How can they use those skills in new ways? If the company where they work isn’t aligned with their values, can they find one that is or go freelance? What aspects of their current work take them away from what they value, and how can they shift their focus to give the world what they’re made to offer?

In short, for each of us, the diagram of “doing your best work” is a work in progress, one that continues to shift across our working lives. When we start to engage with the questions it represents, we move closer to work that we feel matters.

What does your diagram look like? What shifts do you need to make?