If it feels the right thing to do, it’s probably not far wrong
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.
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. It didn’t take them long to notice that they had replaced travel time with work time and the thinking and planning that went on during the daily commute wasn’t happening.
I recently spent half a day with this leadership group in which we explored their experience and learnings from April to September. I share some of the commentary.
What was it like when you were first confronted with Covid?
“We were not prepared for the tsunami of problems that arose day after day.”
“The strategic initiatives that we were working on, in fact much of the daily business routines were on hold.”
“Our teams were staring at us awaiting guidance.”
“It was a very strange time; we individually felt a bit lost but knew that we had to step up.”
“We all had to focus on two things; Our version of lock-down and providing core services. Nothing else mattered.”
What changed in the way you worked together?
“We found ourselves being much more concerned for each other. Each time we hooked up by zoom, we started with a personal check in. Real inequalities appeared that we had never realised about each other, ranging from sick parents to having children at home and nowhere to work. These issues never arose in the office.”
“Everybody became very supportive and stepped out of function to help get things done.”
“Having to focus on what seemed like emergencies brought this team together more.”
“We often discussed ‘The right thing to do’ and when we had made a decision, everybody got behind it.”
“There is an openness and honesty that we hadn’t had before. There is certainly greater trust within the group.”
“The team definitely listens better. You can hear it in the way that conversations develop. There is less finger pointing and yes buts.”
Where are you now and what’s next for this team?
“Our time together is hugely valuable. The growing respect that we have for each other seems to have made us more effective. We prepare for sessions, stay focused and behave more collaboratively.”
“We are all a bit exhausted.”
“Personal check-ins will remain a permanent feature at the start of all our team meetings.”
“Covid has been quite the disaster for us. But we have got through it and we are much stronger as a group. If there is a resurgence in the Autumn, we know that we can handle it. It can’t be any worse than what we have been through and as long as we put our energies into doing what is right, we will be fine.”
“We now need to encourage the same behaviours with our own teams as we switch them onto focusing on the future.”
This team, like many, have faced enormous business and personal challenges in the last six months. They have found that by caring for each other, listening more, and understanding each other’s personal circumstance, they have built strong levels of trust and have greater respect for each other.
Strategic initiatives became irrelevant as a huge influx of operational problems appeared. Politics and interdepartmental influencing disappeared as the group focused on their own discussions on “The right thing to do” and when they came to a decision, everybody got behind it.
They held each other accountable for delivery on initiatives but were readily on hand to support each other. Their working agenda switched focus to prioritise.
Shouldn’t this always be the right thing to do?