There is more than enough in the media currently, about vaccines, their respective qualities, efficacy and delivery mechanisms to occupy many fine minds and learned libraries.

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This comment focuses on a different aspect but is well illustrated by the successes and challenges of the Oxford Coronavirus vaccine.

Somewhat unhelpfully, a few comments in relation to the dosages, subsequent to the announcement of its success, have revealed themselves for what they are. Does knocking copy from competitor geographies really add to the sum of knowledge for mankind in addressing this global scourge?

Imagine the scene in a laboratory, office, factory or research centre or anywhere from within your supply chain where there is seeming bad news on its way or is announced. But in this case, imagine being told that the good news is better than expected but we are not sure why. How do you react when your supplier lets you down badly and yet it …. …

No longer can we say that lockdowns are unprecedented. Whilst these events may be beyond the experience of many of us (though pandemics are not uncommon), the passage of time may well reveal this to be a discontinuity rather than a change to a complete new normal. The evolution of the high jump represents a process that is essentially the same in its objective but varied in its execution. This has been due to innovation.

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The 19th century scissors jump was succeeded by the western roll in 1912 and the straddle in the inter war years. Each was a discontinuity from previous practice which enabled a massive step change in performance. But the latest and biggest step change was by Dick Fosbury in 1968 with his eponymous “flop”. …

What can leaders do for themselves and their teams to help overcome feelings of fatigue as we face a pandemic winter? One idea is to make time to re-connect with one another by doing a ‘resilience check’. At Praesta we draw on decades of evidence to help focus on the areas that need attention for the challenges ahead.

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Here are three of my favourite insights from a cross-section of that evidence:

In ‘How Resilience Works’ Diane Coutu draws on psychological research and testimonials of people who have gone through difficult experiences. In essence, she found the main practices or mindsets that helped people to thrive were:

  • A staunch acceptance of reality, not avoiding or hiding from difficulty but really fronting up to it
  • An ability to improvise, to use creativity and imagination to find ‘work arounds’
  • A deep belief that life is meaningful; finding meaning and purpose even in hardship helps to build a bridge from the present-day challenge to a better…

If you want a lesson on effective and ineffective leadership, then look no further than how some nations leaders have tackled the pandemic…

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New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern described Covid as “Our problem.” She set levels of alert that everybody understood and could easily articulate to each other. She took personal responsibility for the tough decisions that she made but brought to life her promises if people delivered. “I will get you back your coffee.” The population bought into the process so much that they policed each other. There was a real sense of ‘we are all in this together.’ Even when the country was virtually Covid free she remained very honest. “We are nowhere near the end.” …

I have recently been working with a leadership team who have had to manage themselves through a torrid Covid experience. All businesses have had to confront difficulty, even if their income streams have continued to flow. However, this group have experienced Covid related death in service and total income evaporation whilst having to maintain their extensive services to the public.

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They, like the most of us, have been confined to home to operate from the kitchen, bedroom, or garage by way of Zoom or Microsoft teams. They also found themselves switching the laptops on at 07.00am and starting work whereas normally they would have been heading for the train or getting in the car. …

As restrictions lift locally and around the world, how do we move forwards and create new ways of operating? Although restrictions are being lifted, the behaviours that we have adopted over the last few months have become habits that may slow us down as we aim to shape our future and move forwards.

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We have become accustomed to small social bubbles and operating in our local neighbourhoods. Whilst still respecting social distancing how do we begin to expand our horizons and behaviours to support the changes? We may feel safe in our bubbles, a fear of expanding our circles and resistance to doing things differently. …

On my early morning cycle before work, which is now part of my daily routine, I cycle through Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park and often notice new things as I take in more of my surroundings and notice new things. This ritual has been a great way to start my day, get me out of the house and have some exercise before going to home office.

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Today I cycled into Richmond Park through Robin Hood gate and noticed an old metal sign giving the distance in yards to the other gates in the park. I must have been through this gate 50 times but only today noticed the old sign, admittedly surrounded by flourishing wisteria. This seems to be a great image and metaphor for noticing new things and making wise choices for behaviours to take us forwards into our new norm.

During lockdown we have all been forced to do things differently, slow down and had the opportunity to notice new things in our neighbourhoods, get closer to those dearest to us and interact with our colleagues in different ways. …

“One day an American scholar said to me, ‘Don’t waste your time gardening and growing lettuce. You should write more poems instead, anyone can grow lettuce.’ That is not my way of thinking. I know very well that if I do not grow lettuce, I cannot write poems.” Thich Nhat Hanh

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The value of unstructured thinking time is sometimes not appreciated until it has gone. Not many people mourn the loss of crowded trains and traffic jams of the daily commute, for example. The extra free time has been celebrated as one of the benefits of working from home and reallocated within the shifting patterns of work. …

First came the chaos with everyone scrabbling to move from the office to home, with an extra effort all round to keep things going or, for some, accepting that they would be out of the loop for a while as they were furloughed. Then came the routine, a kind of rhythm that developed as people juggled the demands of their new context. Now as businesses are beginning to open up a new phase is beginning, the start of a possible future and with that additional anxieties are surfacing.

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At its heart this anxiety comes from concerns about how decisions will be made about who is in or out of the future organisation, or what place people will occupy. At Praesta we hear stories about people who have really stepped up in this crisis period and others who have disappointed in some way. …

“How are you?” has become a real question that gets a real answer. Everyone has a story to tell and there has been a real need to be able to tell it, sometimes repeatedly, sharing the emotional ups and downs that have taken over our lives. The need for connection and relationship is fundamental to being human and the unnatural lockdown conditions are magnifying that need in the struggle against isolation.

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The boundaries around professional relationships have shifted and are unlikely to return to what they were as changing working practices will continue to blur the work and home personal. We are all getting used to seeing our colleagues and clients in their home environments, often accompanied by young heads and random pets. We hear from our clients that they are spending much more time just talking to their teams, individually and collectively. The tension between time invested “just talking” and getting on with task is one that some are struggling to reconcile, particularly those who prefer more transactional professional relationships.

Relationship has often been undervalued as a support for productive working and this is a real opportunity for leaders and colleagues alike to understand people in their broader context. …

About

Praesta Partners LLP

Praesta Partners LLP is a team of experienced senior executives offering bespoke executive coaching & consulting services to boards and professionals worldwide.

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