These are new times and new ways of working. Below are some articles with practical tips to help you in your leadership role.
This too will end. Set goals for when life returns to normal.
When i wrote the the articles on this page about this new 'Virus' that was affecting the whole World none of us were to know that more than a year later we are only now seeing signs of some sort of normality returning to our lives.
What is normality though? In the May 2020 update I looked at restrictions starting to relax! Who would have known that this was only temporary and the hard bit was still to come!
So whilst some of these accounts are from almost a year ago they are particulary relevant at this particular time again!
A Time for Reflection
One of the greatest reported benefits of coaching is that it provides space to reflect, opportunities to review how we do things, to identify our patterns or habits, and to start to assess what worked and why.
Reflection helps us to recognise that we tend to do things the same way, expecting a different result. If we want a different outcome, we need to critically evaluate what we are doing and find a different way to do it: when overcoming challenges, we have to be prepared to recognise our part in the equation. If we change, everything else starts to change.
During the management of Covid19 we have coped with change on a scale like never before.
Most people have demonstrated incredible resilience and adaptability.
We have redefined the concept of the workspace and the working day
We have mastered (albeit at different levels) the technology of digital communication
We have learned new ways of organising offices and centres to provide for social distancing
We have analysed and reduced risk in situations that required face to face contact
Now all of us are considering the pathways ’back’ to ‘normal’ working. Perhaps it is time to reframe our thinking and plan for moving forward. There can be no going back. Life as we know it will never be the same again. Our entire philosophy has changed. We have a new respect for the simple things in life. We understand the value of family and friends. We will forever be more attentive to health and safety and respecting the boundaries that keep everyone safe. We have identified the situations that need to be handled in person, the meetings and conferences for which people need to be in the same room and we are concerned about handling the backlog. We know that while many are looking forward to working with colleagues in offices and centres, others are anxious about the prospect.
So, let’s take time now to reflect on what’s important to us as individuals and to all the staff that we lead. What have we learned about ourselves during this period? Where did we succeed? Where have we been most challenged? What do we have to do to get stronger? How can we educate our emotions as well as our intellect?
Creating opportunity for everyone to reflect during telephone and video team meetings allows us to listen to understand, to help staff come up with their own solutions and, for those who have been ‘in the field’ during Covid, to share their experiences and support their more home-based colleagues. Take time to reflect on the learning that we will bring forward with us – how can we continue to save travelling time with conference calls? which reviews can be done remotely? how can we mix online with face to face training opportunities? How do we support individual circumstances?
Life will never be the same – take time to reflect on how we can work together to embrace the changes and make it even better!
After the Rain, Comes the Rainbow
On a recent walk I saw this amazing rainbow – I timed the walk badly, ignoring the dark clouds and had just got soaked. Suddenly as the sky cleared, I found myself smiling and celebrating the rainbow, oblivious to everything but the miracle above me.
It made me think about the importance of all the little rainbow gestures that children all over the world have been making. All the little hand drawn rainbows hanging from trees, the ones in children’s bedroom windows and the beautiful little painted rainbow stones, spotted on walks through country lanes. These small gestures made us smile and helped us to feel better about lockdown and all the things we missed.
The rainbow is a symbol of hope, a symbol of wonder and of a miracle beyond our reach. It made me think of this other quote.
"One of the miracles of life is that things can turn out
so much better than we ever imagined"
As we plan for further relaxation of social restrictions, let’s take some time to be hopeful for the future and to consider how we can best integrate the learning of the past few months.
The feedback I hear most commonly includes:
I adjusted better than I ever thought I would
Life has been more relaxed
People have been so good
We managed to get everything fitted in
I actually feel more productive working from home
There have been fewer distractions
So while we are looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues and to getting out and about a bit more, let’s remember that, after a while, there were so many things that we were able to live without – the drama, the commute, the traffic, the running around, the noise and the distractions.
Take a minute to reflect at a personal level.
What has been your learning? and how are you going to integrate it into your new way of being as we move forward together to the next phase.
RETURNING TO WORK – ARE WE READY?
As restrictions start to relax everyone’s thoughts are focussed on supporting the ‘return to work’, albeit not yet ‘normal’ work, for staff at all levels in organisations.
Having coached more than 40 leaders at all levels in different agencies during the pandemic, I am aware of how differently people have responded to the circumstances of home working and the juggling of responsibilities for family.
I know folks who have split parenting duties to a timetable, single parents who have had to literally manage everything themselves, others who either moved in with older relatives to provide care and support, or moved vulnerable people into their own already overcrowded home, and partners who have been physically separated in different parts of the country and even different countries since lockdown. Those in identified vulnerable groups have been in self-isolation to limit their vulnerability to Covid 19.
Adaptation to home working has varied from those who still feel they can only effectively work in the office to those who are so productive at home they are reluctant to go back to working in an office setting. Everyone has had to become more technically proficient and the pandemic has been a game changer for service delivery, with many agencies offering remote assessments, remote interviews and moving increasingly to paperless systems where everyone can access shared servers.
There are those who have loved the relative isolation and those who have struggled to motivate themselves and to maintain their mood, in the absence of being able to physically meet family friends and colleagues.
Generally though, there is a sense that the situation for most people is getting a bit frayed and there are genuine signs of fatigue.
While most of us welcome the potential for getting back to more office based or centre based work, this will not all be plain sailing. In fact, returning is likely to engender a similarly varied range of responses and we as leaders have to be sensitive and non-judgmental in our approaches.
The goal is to gradually increase service provision with more and more direct contact with vulnerable clients, while at the same time being sensitive to the needs of staff and being fair and equitable in decision making. Here are some guiding principles:-
Decide what is needed to deliver an effective service, based on identified risks in both the short and longer term. Keep developments under review.
Be flexible in ways of achieving service delivery – just as we have been in recent weeks
Listen to understand anxieties and fears
Allow people to come up with plans that suit both their work and their personal circumstances
Balance individual needs with team needs so everyone feels they are being treated fairly
Strong focussed leadership at all levels in organisation is key to managing our continually changing circumstances. Let’s review the benefits and challenges as we make the transition.
Motivating Others is a Key Role for Team Leaders
The capacity to motivate others is a long-accepted quality of leadership but how do we achieve it in practice? This is a particular challenge in today’s environment when staff are trying to manage working remotely and balance the needs of children or older family members and concerns for their own safety.
Why are some staff more motivated that others? More productive than their colleagues? More resilient and overall, just happier? And why are some teams more integrated, purposeful and successful than others?
The reality is that teams are made up of individuals who have differing personalities, different values, different tolerance levels and different capacity for work. So how as a Team Leader can you motivate all of the individuals, and maximise each of their outcomes, and those of the team?
Here are three important tips for motivating team members in the current climate.
Clarify the higher purpose of the organisation and the importance of each individual’s contribution.
Sometimes staff are unable to see the relevance of organisational targets or are disconnected from the overall mission of the agency and are not motivated to complete paperwork and comply with standards and audits. It is the leader’s role to connect the dots, to help staff see how their everyday work contributes, not just to the individual service user, but to the overall mission of the organisation and to the team.
Set the team culture
Staff are motivated by example and by team culture. As leaders, we motivate others by our own passion for the service, by our energy on conference calls, by role modelling behaviours and attitudes, by being enthusiastic and compelling, even when times are difficult. By treating everyone with respect, by listening carefully to understand what the issues and challenges are and by collaborating with the team towards an agreed outcome, that is fair and equitable. We motivate people by setting clear expectations of them as team players and by expecting them to give of their best and to play their part. Team meetings provide an opportunity to agree the value base for the team and the ground rules for working together. Trust is based on integrity, competence and track record and has to be earned. Building a high trust team is an essential aspect of leadership.
Set and get buy in for individual goals.
Give everyone something to aim for, whether dealing with a brand new staff member or a long-term team member who is “coasting”. We need to work with individuals to set goals and targets. The need for creativity and flexibility has never been greater and celebrating achievements at personal and team level is essential. Leader boards and other competitive mechanisms can encourage both individuals and teams towards greater results.
Stick with it! - We will make it!!
As we all continue to adapt to new and more creative way of working, I am so inspired on our mentoring calls, at all the ways individuals and teams have stepped up as leaders. It is absolutely amazing how resilient folks have been and how much you have learned in what has become our ‘new normality’.
You are all developing wisdom and insights and, most importantly, growing in awareness of who you are as a leader, what your values are, how you show up for your teams and for the families you serve. Kindness and understanding are high on your agenda as well as a determination to succeed.
“Tough times do not last, tough people do”…. stick with it!!
I am reminded of a quote I saw recently on the motivational wall of a CAMHS unit. Young people are asked to leave a comment to inspire others when they leave the unit. This one is so true.
‘Life is tough AND so are you’
It got me thinking of the timeless wisdom from some of the greatest teachers of all time. Here are some thoughts to keep you going. Reflect on one each day, share them with your teams, make them the subject of team meetings, reflect and be inspired and continue to inspire each other. Take care and stay safe.
BE A GREAT EXAMPLE FOR YOUR CHILDREN
Children do not follow your advice – they follow your example!
This is a difficult time for everyone and particularly so for those with children, who are trying to balance working from home, managing their children’s education and keeping some semblance of family life. What example are you setting for your children?
Are you disciplined about your work patterns and about their educational arrangements?
Are your actions in integrity with your words? Are you walking the talk? Are you modelling what you expect from them?
Do you create space for them to raise their anxieties and concerns? Are you listening to better understand your children`s feelings.
Make sure that you set a great example so that your children feel confident and competent to cope with these challenging and unusual times.
This is a perfect time to ensure you meet what Tony Robbins calls, ‘the six human needs’.
Certainty – create a routine and be disciplined about following it. Explain what Covid -19 is and why we are having to take such extensive precautions. Let them know that you and they are going to be fine.
Uncertainty – while everyone is confined to the home, break up the day, create as much variety as possible and try and identify some small surprises.
Love and connection –Be available to them for reassurance and to support their study. Help them stay connected to their friends on facetime and skype. Set appropriate limits though and be sure you know how they are spending their online time and who with.
Significance - Pay attention to your children. Make time for them and let them know you are there for them. Recognise the importance of connecting as a family and try to ensure one mealtime where mobiles and tv are not allowed and everyone is encouraged to talk about their day.
Growth – This is an opportunity to learn new things, individually and as a family.
Contribution -how can you support friends, family and neighbours? For those of you on the front line, explain to your children what your work entails and how you are helping the national effort to resolve the impact of the virus. Let them know how they can play their part.
Above all ensure that you give children hope that this too will end.
Working from home and staying sane
Managing the impact of Covid-19 has radically changed working practices and for most of you, working from home will be a totally new experience. For some people it will seem attractive initially and for others, it’s going to be a bit scary, especially now that restrictions on travel and social contact have dramatically increased.
Most professionals who need to maintain front lines services, are working on a rota basis, with some days in the office and other days at home. Everyone is experiencing massive uncertainty about how extensive social distancing measures will become and the impact of that on vulnerable clients.
Here are some tips to help
ROUTINE: Set a good routine and stick to it.
SPACE: Establish an appropriate area which allows for concentration and privacy in handling confidential situations
ME TIME: Find space and time for yourself at some point during the day. Read the paper, meditate or just be alone, for a few minutes
EAT REGULARLY: Plan lunch breaks and schedule dinner at the usual time. you will cope better overall if your blood sugar levels are maintained.
EXERCISE: Take 20 -30 minutes exercise each day. The internet has lots of fun ideas for 10 minute workouts. Go out for a walk when it is safe to do so.
CONNECT: Keep in touch with your colleagues/team members and don’t get isolated.
PERSPECTIVE: Keep things in perspective. Tell it like it is – but not worse than it is. See the opportunities. Practice gratitude.
REVIEW: At the end of each week take 10 minutes to formally review and evaluate with your team and with your family. How can arrangements be strengthened?