HR Snapshot #18: Lessons in Leadership - The Value of Being, Not Doing, in Times of Crisis
Posted on 27th March 2020 at 14:08
By Helen Roberts, Associate Leadership Consultant
In business, especially in challenging times, we often focus on what we need to “do”, but often how we are “being” can move mountains too….
I started this week along with 890,000 other people doing an online PE lesson with the fitness guru that is Joe Wicks. Now if you had told me a few weeks ago I’d be doing a PE lesson in my front room with both of my kids, never mind at 9am on a school day, never mind with 890,000 other people – I would never have believed it. Three short weeks ago, I did a leadership presentation recently entitled “leading in a world that’s constantly changing”. At that point we were still in a world where catching up face to face at a breakfast meeting was the norm….it seems a lifetime away now.
Would I have said anything different then if I knew what I know now?
What words of advice would I have for that audience today?
There are lots of posts and inspiration out there about how we could maximise the unique gift of time that this current situation is giving us. Interestingly, the Chinese have the same word for “crisis” as “opportunity” – and maybe with some different perspectives and different thinking there could be opportunities out there for all of us. Joe Wicks himself told us on Monday in between fitness moves that he always wanted to be a PE teacher when he was younger. He is now teaching PE to the nation – even the globe. Amazing.
But right now, I’m in my second week of isolation (my youngest germ monster developed a persistent cough last week (she is a lot better thanks). Inbetween sterilising everything that moves, working out when exactly we’ll run out of toilet rolls, checking in with the people that I can’t now check in with in person, home schooling a 5 year old, trying to instil the joy of learning in a 12 year old, dealing with the chaos of my kitchen table, now commandeered by my other half as he tries to run his design house from home….
So right now, I’ve decided my “opportunity” is to resist the lure of great goals – and simply “be”.
I will resist that curse of perfection – the kryptonite of the leadership world. I won’t have 2 child protegees at the end of my home schooling endeavours: the cleanest house and the tidiest garden, written a bestseller or be making nutritious meals, organising craft activities and simultaneously creating life-changing leadership programmes. No.
Instead I’m simply going to think about the human being I want to be – and as importantly don’t want to be – and just try to make sure it’s that version, the best version of Helen, that shows up. There have been so many random acts of kindness (a big shout out to my friend who knowing we were in self-isolation on mother’s day dropped a bag of Sunday Lunch ingredients and some flowers off on my doorstep, and then dropped an identical bag and flowers off on my Mum and Dad’s doorstep so we could at least share the same mother’s day virtual meal together). Performing these random acts of kindness have a positive impact on our immune system, so what better reason to be doing all these wonderful things. Be kind to your people. They, as well as you, need it now more than ever.
In a more “normal” world I like to think my best self helps leaders and teams find and reach their true potential.
So how do you find and reach your true potential (aka your best self) in this crazy world?
Firstly, you need to start by trying to calve out some time to simply think – even just a few minutes, to centre yourself. You don’t need to move mountains here – just pause and re-connect with yourself and nature, and simply think who do I want to be as a human being and a leader?
For those of us in leadership roles it’s easy to lead in good times – the real challenge, as Martin Luther King so accurately put it, is when things get tough. So forgive yourself if things are hard, and you’re not achieving what you want to, or you’re being someone you don’t recognise.
Instead think about the human being and leader you want to be – keep that centred – and keep practising it. You won’t be perfect – but if you keep trying – you will be amazed at what you can do. And when you bring the best version of yourself - you’ll be amazed at how inspiring that can be to others too. You will be giving the best possible energy in the most challenging of times. Strive to be a master of practise.
And in terms of practising – here are my personal top tips for keeping that energy fuelled:
Some structure is good - but equally don’t expect the normal rules to apply (think about what really matters, pick your battles wisely)
Try to laugh - humour goes a long way! As Mary Poppins says “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun, find the fun and snap the job’s a game….”
Commit to both your own success and each other’s in equal measure – we are in this together (perhaps for the first time ever). How you treat others now will be reversed and magnified tenfold when we are all through this. And we will get through it. What do you want your leadership to be known for then? Check in not just with your people – but understand their people too. Who in your team is supporting others – what can you do to support them?
Forgive yourself and each other. We will get as much wrong as right – that goes for ourselves, our teams and our families. None of us have worked, or indeed lived, this way before.
Finally – I think it was Peter Drucker who said, “Management is doing things right – Leadership is doing the right things”. So, today above all days, focus on the right things. Harness that best version of you and keep practicing. And maybe it might give you the inspiration to find that opportunity in the crisis after all. So, forget the bestseller for the moment, instead, “Be” something today that your future self would be proud of.
In the meantime, take care, stay safe and look out for yourselves and each other.
Tagged as: #Leadershiplessons #humberhrpeople
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