In a discussion with my teenage daughter this morning about now, the future, education and work, she looked at me, paused and said, ‘I know everyone keeps talking about the new ‘normal’ but isn’t there just the present moment? This is it, today, where we’re at, what we have adjusted to and will continue to do, as we learn along the way. ‘
A profound comment and observation about how we all know that change is constant, but despite this, we try to exert control over it, and maybe try to preserve something that perhaps is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ as the expression goes. We’re all working and living through a global health catastrophe that has disrupted our lives irrevocably, and it is different for everyone.
During a crisis or even not, some days are just about survival and getting through, whereas other days fill us with joy or make us feel so truly alive that we want to hang on to the moment, or the feeling, forever.
The world, and how we operate and work within it, has shifted beyond all recognition. For office-based workers, the daily commute all but vanished for a while and the kitchen table became work-station, factory floor, even board room, and for some the home school too.
The traditional way we used to work is almost unrecognisable, as is what employers and employees need and want from each other.
Employees are looking for decisions and behaviours that they can be proud of. How did their employers look after them and their customers at the beginning of the lockdown, irrespective of whether they have never been busier, or revenue literally stopped overnight. One client at the beginning of the lockdown, despite a very uncertain future and disquiet from the rest of the exec team, took a bold step and asked employees to ‘just’ check in daily in the first week and ensure that they had somewhere to work, were okay, and had the equipment needed to do so. If employees needed PC’s, desks or even a pot plant, the company provided it. He also suggested that everyone exercise, meditate or whatever worked for them and eat well. People came forward who taught yoga, ran pop up restaurants and dance classes, and the skills and know how was all shared weekly in virtual meetings and get togethers. Productivity plummeted temporarily and then soared exponentially.
As we look to embracing and adapting to a new future, many of us have taken the time to reflect and pause about who we are– our passions and the uniqueness that drives us, as opposed to what we are, or what we do, which for many has been rocked or stripped away. We have also really seen who our colleagues are from a different angle. Emotional health always was crucial but never more so. Companies and leaders that embodied a clear, unequivocal and positive stance for staff and customers, and embraced the often messy emotions and unknown complexities at the beginning of this crisis are emerging with more engaged staff. Truly seeing each other as human has been a catalyst. Some people are doing the best work that they have ever done alongside support and care for colleagues, family and friends who are going through devastating and difficult times.
As empathetic leaders and colleagues we can be honest, vulnerable and caring, but also firm, visionary and demanding, twas ever thus, but the mix of soft and strong is more powerful than ever, and those that will succeed are less afraid to show it. We can shift our perspective and look to making the best of it, or disappear into a vortex of doom or fear.
I don’t like snakes, despite having held a big python once in a controlled environment, so finding two loose in my back garden yesterday was shriek inducing, and I’m generally not prone to them either. I was leaving a message for a colleague when I encountered the first one and unfortunately decorated the message with rather colourful language. What was curious though, was the message that I received back, after snorts of laughter, ‘Snakes represent a creative and fertile life force, Kate, it’s good.’
A powerful shift of perspective on grass snakes, they never were scary or harmful, except in my head, but a creative life force, I am however now wearing wellies instead of flip flops, after all, success is where opportunity and preparation meet. As Brian Tracy said ‘You have within you right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.’