Today has been an amazing day in making a difference. For 6 months I have worked with a client to establish a forum for BAME staff to be supported and to share their concerns and challenges around shielding during the Pandemic. This conversation brought us to today where they launched a BAME café for everyone in the organisation regardless of race, gender, background or role. The Champions worked hard; they showed courage at not only telling their stories, they told them to actors who were able to help them share their stories. And then they were also videoed saying “This happened to me”. And too an even braver step to add in more context, to bring the story right off the page and into people hearts and minds. A reminder that stories of racial prejudice are not something that happens only on the TV or in the papers it happens to real people, perhaps the person sitting next to you right now.
This is important work. We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to create places and societies in which everyone feels included and has a sense of belonging. What can you do in your life to enable this to happen? If something is in your circle of control then Just Do It.
I am increasingly drawn to this phrase of Common Humanity. It’s something that I have as a figure when working with teams. It’s part of what connects us, if nothing else seems to in a moment of disagreement or lack of team cohesion. It’s a go to place to find a safe haven from which to set sail towards a collective purpose.
Having just come off a session that is being run by The Association for Coaching on “Coaching Through Bereavement” my interest in Common Humanity has been piqued and deepened in the context of our world today. To be human is to suffer, it’s one of those universal laws and I could wax lyrical about that for ages. Suffice it to say that we cannot know highs unless we have experienced lows. One does not exist without the other. Right now, suffering is at an all time high in most of our lifetimes and we are all experiencing collective trauma. Pain, grief, and suffering will come to coaching in some format in the coming months and years as more people will need and want a more practical help than may be found in counselling. And I am not diminishing counselling at all in that comment.
There have been few times of collective trauma for most of us: 9/11; Princess Diana’s death; Trumps inauguration, some may say. Now the sense of loss is huge, broad and deep. Death; loss of marriage; loss of dating for young people (and not so young); loss of freedom, jobs, security, certainty, education, friendships, partying, education; friendships at school; travel and much much more. So many losses.
As leaders the way in which we lead will need to change to embrace all of this. Our understanding of connections, relationships, common humanity, needs to be figure, front of mind as we move forward. So, all of us coaches out there, we must be ready to help people be more aware and take responsibility in different ways then perhaps is our norm. What do you need to do more of? Less of? Its time to start.
I can see the winds of change, at last. There is something remarkable about what we have been through in this past year. More than twelve months of something that none of us thought would last more than a month! Words were introduced into our vocabulary, some new, some in new contexts. Words like “Covid”, “lockdown”, “bubbles”, “ social distancing”, “R rates”, “furlough” “travel corridors,” “lateral flow kits”, “ tiers” and now “Hybrid Working”. Our photographs featured a whole new look as smiles, albeit few and far between, were concealed behind face masks. Landmarks everywhere had additional adornments of yellow and black health and safety tape to keep us away, and/or markers on the floor reminding us to keep a distance of 2 metres apart. And all of this our brains assimilated into a new norm.
That well known change curve of emotions that Elizabeth Kubler Ross identified is so apt for our Covid Roller Coaster experience. The denial at the beginning that this was happening. We told ourselves that in 3 weeks or so the restrictions would be lifted. We went through anger and frustration as the lockdown restrictions became tighter, and even amid the soaring deaths there was talk of conspiracy theories, 5G theories, an over reaction by the government, blame and more blame. Until we fell into a low point as we understood that the winter would bring a second wave, tighter restrictions, more deaths, job losses, uncertainty and fear. And then, the vaccine bringing with it hope that we can live with Covid as we move forwards, planning to see loved ones, returning to new ways of working flexibly, blending virtual with return to offices, travelling and holidays becoming possible and economies resurging.
I wonder what would have been different if we had known a year ago, that a year later, we would be in a total lockdown? And I wonder in a year hence how much we will remember and what the lessons will be for us as a human race?
As a coach I honestly believe that we are creative, whole and resourceful. During the pandemic I have been privileged to work with a fantastic team of coaches providing Resilience and Wellbeing Coaching to NHS Primary Care staff. As I listened to the impact that this pandemic has had on peoples believes and their mental and physical health, I am struck by three things.
- Our capacity to be compassionate. To put someone else’s wellbeing before our own. We all wash our hands, wear face masks, social distance, to protect others. We have been amazing at our capacity for looking after each other selflessly. Now though many are feeling compassion fatigue. We need to remind those key workers, and all of us really, that It’s ok to be a little selfish and to take care of ourselves first so that we can be there for others.
- Our Hope. A belief that we will get through this. That good will come out of tragedy. As humans meaning making is what helps us to move forwards. As Maya Angelo, a wonderful woman, writer and speaker, where there are clouds there are always rainbows. We just need to look for those rainbows.
- Our resilience. How we can adjust the way that we think and live in order to survive and then to thrive. We all have unconscious coping strategies. At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us turned to walking, running, mindfulness, healthy eating and new hobbies. Some people are now finding that they need more, something additional. A common realisation is a need to slow down, not fill every working space with stuff. A need to nurture to balance a sense of depletion.
We still have a long way to go and along the way there will be many lessons. We need to pay heed to these, to create the space in ourselves to be present, to notice. The winds will keep on blowing, we will stay agile. Interesting times indeed.
How do you navigate this strange new business world when dynamics such as hybrid working and the need to embrace diversity have shifted the leadership landscape? : Adapting to this new world requires enormous changes in personal thinking and sometimes drawing upon your past wisdom or at least that of others.
Change is not a stranger to many of us. We have acquired strategies for change since the day we were born after all! For me I learnt to adapt to change before I was in double digits. Born into a mixed marriage I and my siblings were visible reminders that change was happening. Of course not everyone embraced this and their responses added to my armoury of change agility. Coupled with living in several different countries as my Father was in the Armed Forces, I grew up loving change. At one point in my life my pattern was to move every two or three years. A pattern that followed into my adult life for quite some time. Now, I do not need to change my environment quite so much and find changing my internal landscape more.
When I coach leaders, I am interested in what resources they have acquired in their lives. We forget that we already have most of the answers, often we don’t have the means to access them. What resources do you have that will aid a successful hybrid revolution in working?
It helps to break down the component parts of a challenge to see the whole as a sum of its parts. We talk about Four Forces impacting on Hybrid Working
- The Ecosystem
- The Organisation
- The Team
- The Individual
Take each of these forces and reflect on what is working well and what is needed.
Step one may look like a check list that you could be tempted to cascade to your managers. Before you do that ask yourself do your managers have the skills to address each of those points. Knowing “how” to effectively manage behavioural change is different form being instructed on “what “ to do, The Hybrid Revolution requires huge behavioural change. It requires putting the person in the centre of what we do.
If you are interested in finding out more about our approach and ideas listen to our interview on Voice of America where we explore the leadership challenge of the hybrid revolution.