New York Fashion Week was just not the same online, but brands get points for creativity

New York Fashion Week was just not the same online, but brands get points for creativity

New York Fashion Week, which went mostly virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, lacked some magic. But some designers tried to get creative. From a life-sized sculpture of a steer to earrings and jewelry, artist Amy Haid uses the color and brilliance of glass along with materials such as copper and leather to bring her work to life. Your typical morning routine has changed. You find yourself at home getting ready to sit behind a screen all day. Part of your new daily routine is checking emails as frequently as you check social media. Milwaukee mom Beth Wisniewski wishes her son, Henry, could be at school in-person, but they’re making the best of virtual for now. We’re working from home and putting in more hours since Covid-19, but are we getting more done? 3 evidence-based insights for leading high-performing virtual teams Small neighborhood retailers used to compete with Amazon by catering to local shoppers who enjoy browsing in person. Now, they’re venturing onto Amazon’s turf.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many things have been forced to go virtual, from happy hours to weddings and recently, New York Fashion Week – and things just weren’t the same.

I was in New York earlier this year in February, pre-COVID, covering NYFW. And this week, as the shows ran through Sept. 16, I covered it again, but it’s sobering to think about how much has changed in just a few months.

Instead of in-person runway shows to present the latest collections, designers showcased their latest looks online via the “Runway 360” platform in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. As you can imagine, just like attending a live concert compared to watching a YouTube video of a performance, the energy and excitement just wasn’t there.

The buzz of anticipation you feel as an in-person attendee, sitting in your seat along the runway before a show begins, was replaced with an online countdown timer on the designers’ profiles.

Designers were able to include a statement about their collection on their online profiles, just as they often do in handouts at an in-person show, but they weren’t able to bring that story to life as much through a screen, especially since not every designer opted to use video to showcase their collections.

Marchesa, for example, didn’t include any video footage on the Runway 360 website for their collection, only a video slideshow of images. Tom Ford simply included a lengthy statement and photos on the website.

Others, however, tried to use video in creative ways.

Anna Sui was able to create one of her whimsical worlds of design via video that played up the themes she discussed in her statement, where she touched on the pandemic and what home means to her: “comfort, security, the smells of delectable meals and desserts being made with care”

“The Heartland collection is full of what we need now – comfortable, locally made, versatile pieces without a lot of fuss,” Sui writes.

In the video, she incorporated a small group of models (with some donning masks as part of their looks!), music and a colorful set to act out a picnic story, culminating at the end with the models all serving up pieces of pie.

Anne Klein’s video, which began with the designer’s granddaughter speaking, acted like a mini-documentary on the brand’s history and where it is today, with a large focus on empowerment and inclusivity. 

Badgley Mischka utilized a gorgeous, massive estate to capture video footage of their designs in gardens, on balconies and beyond – spanning past where chairs would have been set up for an in-person runway.

Although they were among the shortest videos, Alice + Olivia and Cynthia Rowley added some fun by incorporating dance into their NYC-based clips.

But still, the videos couldn’t quite capture the magic of seeing the designs live.

Naeem Khan’s designs, whose sparkling, show-stopping looks filled me with more joy and amazement with each model who strutted out into the Zaha Hadid Building in New York in February, just didn’t translate online.

Although the brand utilized multiple angles to try and showcase the looks, the details, including all the texture and sequins, weren’t as brilliant on my laptop screen compared with how these elements caught my eye in person.

As perhaps was to be expected, there were also a couple of technical difficulties throughout the week.

Often press kit buttons didn’t work and error messages such as “Bad Gateway” and “This page isn’t working” kept popping up while I tried to navigate the site on Monday.

With all that being said, there were some perks to things being virtual: no rushing from show to show (which means you’re able to attend more), not getting caught in bad weather while waiting in line to get in, no squishing together elbow-to-elbow next to someone on bleacher-like benches.

And most obviously, especially with that last point in mind, the decision to go virtual was important. No matter how much I would have loved to be at Spring Studios watching these designs glittering down the runway before my eyes, it was definitely not worth the risk of spreading the coronavirus and worsening this already tragic pandemic.

So cheers to the designers for giving it their best shot, especially those who put in the effort to try and deliver on some of the magic. But I look forward to seeing your next collections in person – only if it’s safe again to do so.

More:Jason Wu puts on live New York Fashion Week show in front of tiny audience

More:The CFDA Fashion Awards unveil ‘most diverse’ group of winners in 39-year history


Beauty in pieces: Artist brings mosaic work to life

Beauty in pieces: Artist brings mosaic work to life

From a life-sized sculpture of a steer to earrings and jewelry, artist Amy Haid uses the color and brilliance of glass along with materials such as copper and leather to bring her work to life.

Her mosaic sculptures have been exhibited at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas, for four years in a row, and she has made custom logo pieces for country musicians such as Neal McCoy and Wade Bowen.

Haid has opened a studio in downtown Siloam Springs where she will create and exhibit her art. She will be debuting her new jewelry line, “Wild at Heart by Amy Haid.”

Haid recently moved to Siloam Springs to be closer to her mother, Ann Haid, and sister, Michelle Eudy. She grew up in Texas but has deep roots in Siloam Springs, where she often came to visit her grandparents, Tom and Grace Whiteside, when she was a youngster. Her grandfather was a banker, but he expressed his creativity through the written word and poetry, eventually publishing several books, she says.

Like her grandfather, Haid has a creative streak, but she explored several careers and mediums before she found her passion.

“As a little 8-year-old girl, I sketched all the time,” she says. “I just loved art, and it wasn’t really around me. Then I didn’t really have any aspirations of glass, but I was around New Mexico and I saw all the beautiful jewelry — turquoise jewelry — and color. Then I went and I sang overseas for a month in Europe, and I saw all those beautiful fine art mosaics, from the top of the ceiling to the floor, but I don’t know that I thought I ever could do that.”

She decided to make a six-foot glass table, her first glass project, 20 years ago when her son was 6 months old and fell in love with the shimmer and reflection.

“I am a Texas girl and love the bling, and so I already like shiny things… The raw medium is just beautiful,” she says.

Haid taught English as a second language and worked as a financial adviser in the banking industry before she became a professional artist. Prior to opening her first studio in 2012, Haid was working in a bank and staying up until 2 or 3 a.m. to work on her art. She was so passionate about art that it was painful not to do it, she says.

Then one day Haid answered a random call the receptionist would usually pick up. It was a woman who had been told a mosaic artist worked at the bank and was looking for her. Two weeks later, Haid quit her job to open her studio.

“It was really a total God moment for me,” she says. “It definitely upped my faith, and it just showed me when you are the lowest feeling, you can be so close to something, because I was really sad about not being able to do art and I was just so close. That is why I want to always encourage people that are going after their dreams, so that they realize that it can feel so far removed from where they want to be at, but it’s just right around the corner.”

Haid describes herself as “high-wired,” but she can sit for hours and lose herself in creating a mosaic. When she creates a large piece, Haid starts with a large block of polystyrene, which she carves and sculpts down to the shape she wants. She covers it with a thin layer of fiberglass, concrete or epoxy, then places the hand-cut glass piece by piece.

Her largest piece, titled “Maverick,” depicts the life-size head and shoulders of a steer. It has more than 15,000 individual pieces of hand-cut glass and took about 500 hours to create, she says. “Maverick” was the first piece of art chosen for the Gaylord Texan exhibit, where more than 300,000 people get a chance to see the art each summer, she says.

Another large piece, a zebra named “Mistari Maridadi,” which means beautiful stripes in Swahili, has 9,715 pieces of hand-cut stained class and took more than 300 hours to create for a private collector. Some of the pieces of glass were so tiny and the curves of the zebra’s neck were so tight that Haid had to place the pieces with tweezers.

Haid has a line of smaller abstract pony sculptures with real horse hair manes. They are inspired by her late father’s love of horses. John Haid was a horse breeder, and she grew up going to the barn and the race track with him, she says.

“I told my dad, ‘We are really the same person, you love horses and I love glass,'” she says.

Haid has also used glass and mixed media, such as cow skulls, to turn logos into custom pieces of art that the owner can display in their home.

Haid has long had a “Paisley Spur” line of jewelry, and she recently added a more boho eclectic line called “Wild at Heart,” she says. She uses the heat of the flame from a torch to manipulate metal and layers of glass to bring out colors and textures in her jewelry.

Haid says Siloam Springs has been very welcoming and supportive of her studio. She hopes to have an interactive space in her window where people on the street can watch her work and to develop a children’s art program similar to the one she taught in Texas.

“I do believe that God had a purpose because it’s just been in me all my life,” Haid says of her creative work. “Anybody that’s been around me knows that art is breath for me.”

More News

Artist Amy Haid

Amy Haid Studio Facebook and Instagram pages

Paisley Spur Instagram page

Amy Haid Studio

117-B S. Broadway St.

Siloam Springs

Janelle Jessen writes for the Siloam Springs Herald-Leader. Email her at


Author: Janelle Jessen

Online learning: The 'new normal'

Online learning: The ‘new normal’

Sun, Apr 26th 2020 08:05 pm

By Brianna Male

Special to Niagara Frontier Publications

It is a weekday morning. You hear your alarm go off and you reluctantly get out of bed.

Your typical morning routine has changed. You find yourself at home getting ready to sit behind a screen all day. Part of your new daily routine is checking emails as frequently as you check social media.

Seeing a new notification on a school app like Canvas previously caused some annoyance for students, but now it has become overwhelming. This is all unchartered territory, regardless of your status at a school. With this dramatic switch to online learning, many may find their stress levels rising as more things change. This is now something students across the United States have to come to terms with. It is the “new normal,” and many are adjusting to it in different ways.

It certainly is a change from having to wake up, get ready, and drive to campus or walk to class. Now students can attend school in their pajamas; not like that was stopping some of them before the pandemic. Regardless, the setting for learning has without a doubt changed. Instead of being in a full classroom, now it is just you and your laptop against the world, sitting in your bedroom listening to your professor talk through the speaker.

Prior to this conversion to online learning, I would have to take all the books I needed for the day with me since I commute. This meant stuffing my backpack until it looked like it was ready to burst at the seams on days I had more than three classes. Now I can conveniently grab my textbooks and notebooks off my bookshelf, as necessary. Before I just packed all my textbooks for the day, because I was not sure if they would be needed. Most of the time I noticed that the books were not used in classroom instruction but, with my luck, that one day I would not pack them, they would actually be useful. Fortunately, now I will always be prepared for an online lecture, because my books are just three steps away (my back is pretty happy about it, too).

In a normal classroom setting there are always going to be distractions like the person in front of you taking a selfie on Snapchat and momentarily blinding you because they accidentally left the flash on. Now students have to worry about the occasional family member yelling in the background or your dog barking at the UPS man delivering toilet paper, because there was none left at the store. That student is probably sitting there in fear, hoping that the mic did not pick up those noises for the rest of the class to hear.

By that student, I meant me; this has happened to me on more than occasion, unfortunately. I am sure many of my fellow students have fallen victim to a similar situation like this. This whole scenario in itself is unsettling, but universities are trying to make it manageable.

Students are trying to deal with this as best as they can, but many students who dorm feel like they have been uprooted. Many went away to school to get the college experience and develop as an adult away from home. Now, countless dormers are finding themselves being back at home, doing their work there like it is high school all over again.

“I honestly don’t think I am truly learning a lot. I feel like I am just going through the motions to get a grade. I think that it’s one thing when you decide to take a class online that is designed to be online, but all of my classes were meant to be delivered in person,” said Alyssa Gara, a college dormer.

This change in learning was abrupt and clearly not ideal for some students and professors across the nation. COVID-19 currently is a curveball that left many feeling underprepared and overwhelmed.

Some professors are familiar with teaching courses online, while others are not as lucky. 

One professor at Niagara University who has taught classes online before is Dr. James Kling, associate professor of management. Now he, along with countless other professors, have transitioned their in-class lectures to online. 

“In general, I am not a big fan of online education. I think it has to be the right student; somebody who is self-disciplined. You have to have a professor who is working with the tools correctly and is organized in a way that makes online education work. I think some topics are better than others for distance education. I think, if those three things don’t come together, it’s often a much less valuable experience for a student,” Kling said. 

Professors all across the U.S. are trying to make this transition to online learning as effective as possible despite little to no time to plan. Both professors and students are trying to recreate some semblance of the college learning style they had prior to the virus. It may be difficult at times, but many are trying to make the best of the scenario.

“I have found right now, in this situation, that at least in my classes it’s working pretty well. I may be fortunate to be teaching business and classes in supply chain, and the topics are very relevant to things that are happening, so my students seem very engaged. I am very engaged. I am working long hours, but everything I am doing is kind of interesting,” Kling said.

Many students are coming to the realization that, for some of their classes, this new learning model is not conducive to an effective learning atmosphere. For some of their other classes, it is not too big of an adjustment.

“I would say I enjoy it more than normal school, but it’s also challenging to keep yourself accountable and do everything. I try to keep up to the best of my ability and find time for the work,” said Emily Milleville, a college sophomore.

Being a college student already comes with its own challenges. Students are now facing additional challenges with most, if not all of their classes being put online. Taking multiple classes can have a hefty workload and keeping track of all the assignments and due dates can be tasking. Having classes physically on campus can be a nice reminder of when work is due, but now it is easy to lose track of what is due when. This can be especially difficult if professors are making changes to the syllabus to accommodate this new learning style.

Before the pandemic, I would say I checked my emails at least twice a day. Now I find myself checking them every time I pick up my phone, not to mention the increase in Canvas notifications that I have been receiving. I do not think one day has gone by where I have not gotten a notification on Canvas that said something along the lines of “Assignment Created,” “Assignment Due Date Changed,” “New Files Added for the Course” or “Course Announcement.”

Prior to online learning, I typically knew if there was going to be some sort of change in a particular course, because the professor would say it in person. Now, it is starting to feel like a game of dodgeball where you are the only one left for your team, and the other team has all the balls.

This online learning certainly is not favorable to some majors that require more hands-on learning, especially for students in the science department who need lab time.

Nursing student Paige West is all too familiar with this new reality.

Everyone’s learning is being impacted in different ways, but this is certainly not an easy adjustment for everyone. Some do not mind this change in learning, while others are feeling like it has been hindered.

“Clinical is supposed to be the most hands-on portion of learning and we can’t even do that. I feel like that has had the most impact on my learning.” West said.

Many students’ lives are changing during this crisis.

It is highly important to try and stay organized, even if students are starting to feel discouraged. They need to be confident that they are not in this alone, because there are countless others feeling the same way. Many schools are trying to make their students feel supported throughout this whole process.

Each day during the school week, Niagara University’s Academic Success Center sends online learning tips via email.

One of the first tips was “Develop a routine. This is key! When you were on campus and attending classes, your routine revolved around going to classes in person. Now that you’re studying from home, it’s vital to establish a new routine – and stick to it. Continue to structure your life around your coursework.”

Before the transition to online learning, there was a separation between a student’s school life and home life. The two worlds are now colliding and, despite all efforts to have a new, productive routine, many students still find themselves struggling.

“It’s very hard to focus on schoolwork and class while at home all the time,” said Jessica Robertson, a sophomore in college.

“I set up my desk in my room like how my desk at college was. I make myself a daily checklist with the most important tasks I have to accomplish for the day. I do find it a lot harder to focus, though, and tasks that would take me no time at all take me hours now,” Gara said.

In all honesty, I feel like I have had to retrain my brain during this whole process. For 16 years of my life, I was so used to going to school, learning there, and having extracurricular activities and even work as I got older afterward. Now, countless other students and I learn and teach ourselves new material at home.

If you have ever seen “SpongeBob” before, right now I feel like SpongeBob in that one episode where his brain is so overloaded that the “office” in his brain starts on fire.

Normally, I am an organized person, but I feel like someone just threw a wrench into years of good habits I had practiced.

There is no question that things are different now. Students and professors can try to recreate the previous learning environment, but that does not change the fact that essentially nothing is the same. Online video conferences or PowerPoints with audio are the new in-class lectures.

Despite this, many universities are encouraging students that the spring semester is going to carry on as normal as possible.

“As we navigate through this complicated situation, we are committed to doing what is necessary to ensure that every Niagara student – both at the undergraduate and the graduate level – receives the support they’re counting on and the opportunities to pursue and achieve their spring 2020 academic objectives.” said Dr. Tim Ireland, the academic vice president and provost at Niagara University, in an email to students.

This spring semester has been a whirlwind to say the least, and it is not over yet. Final exams and final papers are all approaching quickly. Students will not have to worry about arriving at the exam room early, or having a sharp No. 2 pencil, but that does not take away the importance of the tests.

None of this has been overly easy, but it just has to be taken one step at a time.


Niagara Frontier Publications works with the Niagara University communication studies department to publish the capstone work of students in CMS 120A-B.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of NFP, NU or the communication studies department. Moreover, efforts have been made to encourage the proper use of sources, and discourage anything that would constitute plagiarism.

Comments or concerns can be sent to the NFP editorial department, care of the managing editor.


Milwaukee mom: virtual school is better than expected, but teachers and parents have to work too hard.

Milwaukee mom: virtual school is better than expected, but teachers and parents have to work too hard.

Milwaukee mom Beth Wisniewski and I recently chatted about pandemic schooling last spring vs. this fall.

For me, the differences are night and day since my kids are going to school in-person again. There are quite a few differences for Wisniewski as well. But her son’s location is the same — in front of a screen, in their house.

Henry Wisniewski had a hard time with virtual school in spring.

The third-grader has Down syndrome and had to do not just school, but also speech, physical and occupational therapies from home, virtually, with a lot of help from his parents.

Henry also missed out on social interactions that are important for his development.

“We’ve worked for a very long time to get him up to peer level with socialization and he was there,” said Beth Wisniewski. “Now he doesn’t have those social opportunities, and he’s lonely and sad.”

That loneliness made Henry resent virtual school in spring, when he told his teachers and his parents that he missed real school.

As it became clear throughout the summer that Henry’s school would be virtual in fall, Wisniewski worried that Henry would be resentful again.

At first, those fears seemed justified when, for the first few days of school, Henry woke up in the mornings to tell his parents he was in the “red zone.”

“Every morning the teachers ask the kids what zone they’re in,” Wisniewski explained. “Green is happy and ready to learn, yellow is like, eh, whatever, red is you’re just miserable.”

But, by the time Henry’s virtual classes start each day, and he sees his classmates and teachers on his screen, he’s excited — and solidly in the “green zone.”

The teachers have put a lot of effort into making sure Henry and his classmates are engaged, learning and getting what they need in an unprecedented situation.

And, for Wisniewski, that degree of effort is both the good and the bad of the situation.

On the one hand, Wisniewski said teachers have done a fabulous job to prepare resources, standardize their virtual learning platforms and plan daily schedules. That effort has made the virtual school atmosphere more productive and more authentic than what they were able to scramble to put together in spring.

On the other hand, the effort from both teachers and parents seems like too much work to Wisniewski.

“I feel really bad because teachers aren’t paid enough as it is and now I feel like they’re always working,” said Wisniewski. “They’ve studied for years in how to educate students, and now they’re also spending hours a day with us parents trying to get all this technology up and running.”

Wisniewski feels lucky that she can work from home and her husband is a retired stay-at-home dad because someone needs to sit with Henry all day to make sure he’s engaged with his lessons.

Those lessons include a morning meeting for everyone in the school, followed by more individualized lessons with a smaller group of children. Then Henry has time to work on those lessons on an app which allows him to answer his teachers’ questions by video, with a picture or in written form. After lunch, students are told to go outside to explore their world, and the day ends with another full-school Zoom session.

Henry’s therapies and one-on-one time with his special education teacher will be added to the mix soon as well.

“We want him to get all his therapies and have his one-on-one learning time, and have time with his classmates to giggle,” said Wisniewski. “All the components are so critical, but my husband or I have to be sitting next to him to get him to stay focused for that amount of time. It’s a lot.”

Complicating matters is that nobody has a time frame for how long school will be virtual.

Wisniewski feels her family can continue as they have been if they have to remain virtual for September. If it’s longer, or even the whole school year, their mind set and their approach will have to change.

One reason is mom guilt. Even though she’s confident Henry’s in good hands with his father during the school day, and even though she sets aside an hour after her work days to spend one-on-one time with Henry, and even though she sometimes gets up early to get an hour of work in so she can supervise the first part of Henry’s days, she feels guilty.

“I feel like I’m failing Henry,” said Wisnewski. “I feel a huge amount of guilt for leaving my husband to do most of the sessions with him. If this isn’t just temporary, I’ll have to work with my manager to do a compressed work day so I can work with my son more.”

Throughout our conversation, Wisnewski struggled to label her conflicted feelings. She repeatedly emphasized how happy she is with Henry’s school, and how impressed she is with the teachers’ efforts to replicate his experience at home.

But she also expressed her frustration that effective processes were already in place at school, and that no matter how great the teachers are, Henry can’t get effective therapy or socialization at home.

She’s upset because she feels safe enough to have Henry attend school with fewer people and proper mitigation measures.

“If we could get Henry in person with his teachers or therapists for a few hours a week, that would be gold,” Wisniewski said.

But she respects that some people are higher risk, and she would never want a teacher to feel pressured to go to school when they don’t feel safe.

“It’s complicated, and it’s so hard to find the words to describe my feelings because I want to reiterate a hundred thousand million times that Henry’s school has been fantastic,” Wisniewski said. “Our problem is actually that there’s an overwhelming feeling of so much support that is just too much work for everyone.”

Wisniewski isn’t alone. I think most parents are feeling conflicted right now.

For me, the conflict is between being happy that my kids can see their friends again and get in-person instruction from talented teachers. And, like Wisniewski, I’m impressed by the school’s efforts in taking needed precautions. But I’m not confident the measures will be enough to keep everyone safe.

Regardless of whether children are in school in-person right now or learning virtually, the teachers are working way beyond overtime. And parents are struggling to be — as Wisniewski put it — teaching assistants. Add to that the emotional toll of the pandemic, and everybody is just working really hard.

How is school during the pandemic going for your family? If you’d like to talk about it, email me at

More:After a week of hybrid school, this Oconomowoc mom is hopeful. But not optimistic. Because 2020.

More:Milwaukee parents, how do you feel as your kids start school during the pandemic? This dad feels uncertain.

Contact Amy Schwabe at (262) 875-9488 or Follow her on Twitter at @WisFamilyJS, Instagram at @wisfamilyjs or Facebook at WisconsinFamily.


Remote Work Is Here To Stay. Three Keys To Building High-Performing Virtual Teams.

Remote Work Is Here To Stay. Three Keys To Building High-Performing Virtual Teams.

We’re working from home and putting in more hours since Covid-19, but do we feel connected to our … [+] colleagues? Research offers three tips for creating engagement and high-performance on virtual teams.

Five in 10 remote workers say they don’t want to go back to the office after COVID-19. Perhaps you don’t want to go back either. No matter how you feel, smart leaders know it’s time to stop thinking of working from home as a short-term solution to a temporary pandemic.

Remote work is here to stay, so now is the time to get really good at it. To help, we turned to science to find answers about what makes for high performing virtual teams. Thankfully, researchers were digging deeply into this topic for decades before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The research shows that successful virtual teams have mastered three areas of focus:

1.    Trust

2.    Connection

3.    Performance standards

Trust: Before the coronavirus forced us to go virtual, we often heard leaders say they were concerned about trust. How will I know people are doing their work if I can’t see them at their desks?

While there’s always an outlier, research says your worries about trusting team members are unfounded. Gallup agrees, telling leaders to ditch their trust issues. Their advice aligns with ours: study past performance, and trust that. If someone has always been a good performer, they’ll continue to be, whether working from home or at the office.

Where you do need to think about trust, however, is the trust your team has for its leader and the organization. Institutional trust is important in virtual teams. Research suggests that teams perform better when they trust the organization. We can build trust by sharing information freely and fairly and by resourcing teams and individuals equitably.  

Also important is relational trust in virtual teams, especially when a team is new. One way to do this is to make space for non-work talk on your teams. Dedicate the first few minutes of every meeting to checking in as human beings, rather than co-workers. Share appropriate information about your personal life and affirm the personal lives of your colleagues. Making space for social interaction help develop trust and high-quality relationships.

Trust, connection, and performance: the three areas of focus leaders need for creating and … [+] sustaining great virtual team performance.

Want more info on trust? Check out our new eBook, Leading High-Performing, High-Engagement Virtual Teams.

Connection: Virtual teams start to feel disconnected when there’s a communication breakdown. One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to assess how knowledge is shared in your team: is it reaching the team members who are most at the periphery? Is it timely? Is it efficient, with the right medium (email vs. video conference, for example) for the task? If so, you’re establishing strong connections.

Researchers say another type of connection is also important for high-performing teams: high quality connections (HQCs). HQCs happen when we have regular, short, positive interactions at work, no matter if those interactions happen over Slack, email, or Zoom. HQCs give us a sense of positive energy in the moment, especially when we can tell the feeling is mutual. Researchers believe HQCs lead to higher performance because high quality relationships and the resulting psychological safety allow for greater learning in organizations and may contribute to innovation.

How can you create more HQCs? There are lots of ideas in our new eBook for virtual team leaders. But to get started, think about the colleague you work with most. Now think about something he or she has done this week that made your work easier or better. Drop him or her a note, something like, “This may seem small, but I was just thinking about how much I appreciated …”

Performance standards: Finally, virtual team leaders need to put their focus on performance standards. Leading management scholar Edgar Schein says extraordinary teams have a sense of distinctiveness that is often driven by high performance standards.

That probably seems obvious to you. But we actually find it’s an area in which most teams struggle because they get complacent. Once we figure out something that works, we just keep doing it over and over again, ignoring the fact that what worked efficiently in person is clunky online, or that the market is changing, competitors are developing, and what was fresh a decade ago now looks stale. High-performing teams push themselves to take it up a notch, over and over again.

How do you set high standards for your virtual team? First, make sure every team member knows why they are there and how their work connects to the organization’s mission and the project’s purpose. Being clear on that helps the team understand why their work matters.

Then connect each person to clear goals that are a stretch to deliver. If your goals can be reached just by working a little harder, you haven’t really stretched. Challenge your team to set goals that require thinking differently in order to succeed. That will push you and your team to innovate.

Find more resources on virtual team leadership: For the rest of this month, we’ll focus this column how to build a connected and engaged virtual team. We’ll ask what a future of remote work means for consultants, like those at Accenture, who have always spent most of their time onsite at client offices. We’ll talk tech with Bank of America’s Chief Operations and Technology Officer. And we’ll consider how remote work helps or hinders your efforts to build an inclusive organization. Check back here for more content and be sure to download our eBook on virtual team leadership or join us on September 24 for a webinar with more great content on leading high-performing virtual teams.


Author: Jim Ludema and Amber Johnson

COVID-19 is forcing small stores across Chicago to try online retail, but ‘we’re not Amazon’

COVID-19 is forcing small stores across Chicago to try online retail, but ‘we’re not Amazon’

Two years ago, Esther Fishman shut down her Lincoln Park-area clothing and gifts shop’s online store.

Art Effect’s bricks-and-mortar business was strong, and selling online seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

It seemed like the right call until this spring.

When the coronavirus pandemic forced all but essential retail stores to close, Art Effect rushed to get its online store back in business. Fishman has since hired a company to build a new, easier-to-use site.

Small neighborhood retailers used to compete with Amazon by catering to local shoppers who enjoy browsing in person. That’s still true — but in the six months since the pandemic began, a growing number are venturing onto Amazon’s turf.

Most say online sales are a long way from making up for sluggish in-store sales, and some struggled to shift businesses built for in-person shoppers online. Others say it’s a service they can no longer afford to avoid, especially if a surge in cases forces stores to shut down again.

“The old world doesn’t exist anymore. … We’re training people now how easy it is to shop online. There are people who are not comfortable with that, but there are a lot of people with busy lives finding out it’s a good alternative,” Fishman said. “I think it’s only going to grow.”

Ruff Haus Pets employees Crystal Nelson, left, and Michelle Fares talk about the store's new online ordering system Sept. 15, 2020, in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood.

Ruff Haus Pets employees Crystal Nelson, left, and Michelle Fares talk about the store’s new online ordering system Sept. 15, 2020, in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

Online shopping has boomed during the pandemic: Estimated U.S. e-commerce sales in the second quarter rose 44.5% compared with the same period last year, while overall retail sales fell 3.6%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Analysts say consumers are likely to shift some spending back to stores as concerns about shopping in person and capacity limits on stores ease.

“It’s a mistake to assume everyone getting online is happy about it,” said Brendan Witcher, e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research.

Still, the pandemic showed that even small shops can’t afford to ignore online retail, said Diana Smith, associate director at market research firm Mintel.

Big chains like Target and Best Buy reported triple-digit growth in online sales during the second quarter. Target reported especially fast growth in services that let shoppers get online orders the same day they’re placed, including a 700% increase in drive-up orders, where shoppers can have purchases delivered to their car, and a 350% increase in same-day home delivery orders with Shipt.

Other major retailers that let customers shop online but lacked curbside pickup rushed to roll it out, including Ulta, Gap and Paper Source. So did Hawthorn Mall and Fox Valley Mall, and this fall, customers will be able to shop any mall store from the shopping centers’ websites, said mall owner Centennial.

Meanwhile, ShopRunner, a Chicago-based service that gives members free two-day delivery when shopping at stores in its network, has added more retailers this year than any year since 2015 and plans to introduce same-day delivery at certain retailers in Chicago this month, said CEO Sam Yagan.

Smaller retailers that traditionally relied on bricks-and-mortar sales, meanwhile, were left scrambling.

“They’re going to be struggling the most because they’re the most behind and have the most challenges to get up and running and catch up with everybody else,” Smith said.

At Milk Handmade, which sells locally made women’s apparel and accessories in the Uptown neighborhood, owner Hallie Borden spent the early days of the pandemic “panic-adding” items to the online version of her store. Before the pandemic, only about 10% of its merchandise was listed.

The online store brought in business from out-of-town customers who would likely never have visited in person, and web sales now account for about half of Milk Handmade’s business, Borden said.

Still, “we’re not Amazon,” she said.

Borden packs up all online orders on days the shop is closed, something that worries her headed into the holiday season. Shoppers concerned about crowds or whether local shops will struggle to get last-minute orders delivered on time might decide it’s easier to stick with Amazon.

“It’s frustrating big-box stores can get products to customers really fast and I can’t. We’re just trying to prepare customers and set expectations for how long something might take to arrive,” she said.

Some local business groups have launched directories to promote businesses’ low-contact shopping options. The La Grange Delivers website lets specialty retailers outline ways to place orders for curbside pickup or delivery and has lists of restaurants offering outdoor seating, pickup or delivery.

“A lot had an online presence, but it wasn’t a priority for them,” said Nancy Cummings, executive director of the La Grange Business Association. “That’s completely shifted.”

Still, some stores are easier to recreate online than others.

Bras Galore, a Lakeview shop selling bras, intimate apparel and swimwear, has always emphasized the importance of getting an expert fit, said owner Kathy Bonifas. Even selling to existing customers who had previously been fitted would have been hard, because many gained or lost weight during the pandemic and were no longer sure what size they needed.

“That’s always been our adage: Don’t buy online or you’ll buy the wrong size,” she said.

Being limited to bricks-and-mortar sales makes the city’s 25% capacity limit especially challenging, she said. “How are you supposed to be at 25% of your sales and 100% of your rent, and no one is helping you out financially?”

AlleyCat Comics owner Selene Idell explains the store's new online ordering system Sept. 15, 2020, at the store in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago.

AlleyCat Comics owner Selene Idell explains the store’s new online ordering system Sept. 15, 2020, at the store in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

The AlleyCat Comics store is seen Sept. 15, 2020, in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood.

The AlleyCat Comics store is seen Sept. 15, 2020, in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

Andersonville’s AlleyCat Comics built an online store but most customers avoiding shopping in person still seem to prefer calling the store and having an employee serve as a personal shopper, said Selene Idell, who owns the shop with her husband, Nicholas.

People rarely come in search of a specific title, which makes buying online tougher, she said.

“They want to browse and look at the pictures and see if they like the art. Comic book shoppers are particular about the book’s condition. It’s a very hands-on kind of business,” she said.

AlleyCat plans to hold online-only sales during the holidays to encourage shoppers to check out the online store.

“I think it’s beneficial for us for running the business, but it’s not making any money right now,” she said.

Selling online is also extra work, especially for stores with inventory that changes frequently.

“It’s a tricky balance. It takes time to take photos, edit them, write the copy, and put it online,” said Merl Kinzie, who owns The Shudio, a shop selling plants, vintage apparel and gifts in the Pilsen neighborhood.

A big chain that will sell dozens, if not hundreds, of a particular shirt only needs to put that effort in once. Vintage or resale clothing is usually one of a kind.

The Shudio had an online store before the pandemic but it wasn’t a priority because customers drawn to its focus on sustainability seemed to prefer shopping in person.

Lincoln Park-area kids’ resale shop The Second Child is more optimistic about online sales even though it has the same challenges with one-of-a-kind merchandise.

Before the pandemic, The Second Child only sold its highest-end pieces — about 3% of the roughly 5,000 items in its bricks-and-mortar store — online. Now, owner Amy Helgren estimates shoppers can find 90% online.

Even before the pandemic, Helgren worried about competition from Amazon, a one-stop shop that lets busy parents buy whenever they have time, even if that’s the middle of the night, when her bricks-and-mortar store is closed.

“The first thing I do now when I wake up is check my phone for online orders,” Helgren said. “It has to be at their convenience. They want what they need, and they want it now,” she said.

Collars and leashes are displayed for sale at Ruff Haus Pets on Sept. 15, 2020, in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood.

Collars and leashes are displayed for sale at Ruff Haus Pets on Sept. 15, 2020, in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

Richard Forsythe, who owns Lincoln Square pet supply shop Ruff Haus Pets, said online sales have been growing since it launched an online store about a month into the pandemic, though the bricks-and-mortar store still generates most of the business.

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He just hopes the online growth doesn’t come at the expense of sales at the store, which moved to a larger location last fall. When people come to the shop, they might pick up an extra treat or toy for their pet.

“When you’re online, it’s ‘What do I need?’” he said.

Jewelry and accessories boutique Embellish saw online sales slow once the North Center shop reopened to customers, said owner Carrie Bowers.

She still thinks the days of getting up at 6 a.m. and working until 1 a.m. to get the online store in business were worth it.

“We’ve had a lot of new customers, and I think that’s being able to see what we’re about before you walk in,” she said. “And who knows if we’ll have to close down again? It’s something we have to have.”


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