Getting through and getting from, everyday being Groundhog Day

If 1992 was annus horribilis then who knows how we will look back on 2020

It will certainly be a year that is defined by what will be momentous change and a widening gulf between what we did, how we did it, what was important and how we behaved pre and post COVID-19.

The title of Marshall Goldsmith’s book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” will certainly be true as we all navigate our path to the ’next’ normal and establish new routines, new ways of working and transitions back to being able to do and enjoy what will continue to be important to us. On a personal level, this will undoubtedly bring about challenges that we will need to overcome and opportunities that we will want to embrace. Some of these things will be within our control and influence whilst others will inevitably be governed by the seismic changes and unprecedented new reality that essential economic and social change will bring about. Even if the game looks very similar, the rules of the game will have changed.

From a personal perspective, I have missed not standing by the side of a football, hockey or rugby pitch watching the boys on a Saturday and Sunday (rain or shine). At the time, there was often somewhere else that I would rather be but I have had a taste of ‘you only really miss it when it’s gone’ and it’s definitely true. What I would give today to see the boys running around as part of a team playing a sport they love...

One thing I won’t miss is the interrogation of Google as I learn about the Black Death (somewhat ironically) or algebraic equations so that I can be the teacher in the room. That said, I won’t forget the memories that learning together can create, the discussions it provokes and the most fractious of interactions when physics is competing with Fortnite.

The first-hand experience of understanding how dependent on technology children are has been enlightening. There have been times when I haven’t known whether I am coming or going as the consequence of removing mobile phones and iPads has drawn parallels with the falling out of North Korea and the USA around weapons testing and nuclear weapon capability. The making up after falling out has brought me closer to Josh (14 going on 18) and reminded me at times that our best teachers as parents are often our children. One particular lesson being that overparenting when our children have had their idea of normal not just turned on its head but blown to smithereens (without notice) isn’t a great starting point.

I can’t even remember how this one particular incident started but it descended into a very emotional state quite quickly and Josh shouting through tears running down his face, “I just want you to be my friend”. OMG! How everything stopped instantaneously and what must have only been a minute or two passed in ultra slow motion. Removing his only means of connection with others for someone who thrives through connection and for something relatively insignificant was not proportionate or properly considered. A good learn nonetheless.

From a work perspective, I have learned that people come together during periods of crisis and uncertainty - 'we have come together by being told to stay apart'.

As a leader, the significance of communication, over-communicating during periods of uncertainty and sharing perspectives and ideas as they form is important and appreciated by colleagues. What we are going through is unprecedented for everyone and people do not expect us to have all of the answers so let’s not pretend that we do. I have found that when you bring people into the challenge with you and share the facts, options, risks and potential consequences, the response is both positive and supportive. None of us like surprises and no one will expect us to get everything right all of the time but if we are being open, transparent and coming from the right place then people will row hard with you and even if the ultimate destination isn’t clear.

I am sure that I am not alone in having struggled a little with the significant benefit and ease of technology enabling connection (MS Teams, Zoom etc.) completely taking over my diary. Getting the right balance is work in progress and I look forward to getting this right. That said, the benefits have most definitely outweighed the frustrations and being able to see and speak to people as if you were in the same room has been important.

I have found that it has helped to build better relationships as conversations haven’t been limited to just a list of things that we need to cover off from a work perspective and the opening questions of “how are you?” and “how is your family?” have been great levellers in being able to talk about the things that are front of mind for people. It has certainly reinforced how important compassion is over performance during times like this - getting the balance right between driving for results and keeping your eye on connection and relationships is key. Performance follows if people genuinely trust us to act in their best interests; care about them; and, are committed to doing the right thing, in the right way and for the right reason.

Whether or not we are at the peak of the pandemic, we have some way to go and many a Groundhog Day ahead.

Take care, stay safe and keep well.  

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Richard Goold Managing Partner