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WFH Week 10 – What we’ve Learned

You can do a lot in ten weeks

Once we were all safely into WFH, we enjoyed anticipating how we were going to make the most of this apparent pause in BAU; what business books we were finally going to get round to reading and how we were going to use this time to find a bit more balance in our working lives. Equilibrium became our favourite word. We immediately signed up to the Down Dog Yoga App, secretly enjoyed seeing folk in their homes spiced up by the occasional random family members inadvertently moving into shot along with wondering who the hand and arm belonged to as a cup of tea arrived on some lucky person’s desk/table. Then after about a week or so of such novelties they seemed to quickly become the norm – did you notice how many people were so pleased to discover the ‘fake’ beach or loft apartment backgrounds offered by Zoom or MS Teams and then just as quickly couldn’t be bothered with them? You can see me in the spare bedroom with the dove wallpaper, it’s ok, I don’t care anymore.

But like us all we very quickly found ourselves thinking; ‘OK, how do we continue to offer support and development and insight (at a time when teams are going to need it most) without being able to be with them? How do we make Maier digital? And that was pretty much the last time our feet touched the floor/Yoga mat. Pause, what pause? This is intense.

We’ve embraced our inner geek

We’ve impressed and surprised ourselves with just how techy we’ve become and how quickly we’ve been able to move from novice to ‘self-designated expert’. This is definitely something we have in common with most of our clients too – and the IT Director who told us 6 months ago how we should all be using Microsoft Teams and was ignored has been gracious enough not to say – ‘I told you so’! This is something we will not be letting go of and intend to continue building into new ways of operating over the coming months/years. Mind you, we do miss our Post-It Notes.

Being apart has drawn us closer together

At Maier we have always cultivated a culture of team and family and because of this we’re genuinely missing hanging out together. But we’ve continued to share, celebrate, laugh, challenge, chat, create and plan. And like all families we constantly talk about the day when we’ll all be back together, in the same room (possibly still 2 metres apart – but hey, we’ll take it). We obviously miss clients too. We work so closely with our clients it’s sometimes hard to see where they stop, and we begin. Being part of their journeys through COVID has only galvanized those relationships and made us even more determined in our purpose. When has it ever been more important than now to ‘set leaders free’ – coupled with our new caveat of ‘safely’ of course.

The world might have turned upside down, but some things haven’t changed

What’s always mattered to us, still matters, but even more so now. Before COVID struck we did a piece of work with our amazing friends at Borne. We revisited what was important to us at Maier and why what we do and how we do it is so unique. As part of the process we redrafted our values but the one value that has always been at the core of who we are at Maier remains unchanged. Generosity of spirit has been our beacon throughout the twenty five plus years we’ve been around, but it’s perhaps never been more relevant than it is now. For the time being Maier might be solely digital, but that hasn’t changed who we are or what we believe in. Generosity of spirit is still our North star.

We still look forward to the weekend

In a conversation the other day with one of the Directors at a large Housing Group they mentioned that even though they haven’t been able to go out at weekends, they still loved it when the weekend arrived. It struck us that until very recently, even though the highlight for most of us has been queuing patiently outside a supermarket, we still looked forward to the weekend arriving. Miraculously on a Friday afternoon our houses revert back to homes having been offices all week, the final ‘home-school’ bell signals the end of what has been a productive, challenging, fraught, messy (if you’ve been doing art) five days and having whipped through the house and garden with the vigour and ruthlessness of Marie Kondo in those early weeks, all that’s left to do (in our imagination at least) is to kick back and enjoy the weather. Bring on the weekend we say.

WFH Week 6; What We’ve Heard

As we come to the end of our sixth week of lockdown at Maier, we’re definitely feeling the hit of ‘COVID-19 fatigue’. WFH is great for reflection and perhaps a bit of contemplation and learning but we’ve also, thankfully, been super busy coaching Exec teams and senior leaders – virtually of course. It’s pretty intense though, there’s a lot more focus needed working in the digital medium don’t you think? One of our clients summed it up perfectly, ‘the digital world makes it much easier…but it’s not easy.’

So this week we thought we’d just be a bit random and share some interesting snippets from our many conversations.

Things that made us laugh (very welcome);

  • A CEO working from the spare bedroom, arrived late for our MS Teams call and was very apologetic. He’d broken a glass but was keen to assure us it wasn’t his fault! He fessed up to being a bit of ‘a dishwasher fascist’ at the best of times but in lockdown he’s becomes obsessed with how it’s loaded and someone in the house (no names were shared) had got it wrong.
  • Having just kicking off a group Zoom call with the usual pleasantries someone’s teenage son came bounding into her room, saw she was in conference and turned on his heel to leave, flashing his bare bottom for all to see in the process!!! What followed was silence and then absolute hysteria.
  • A friend was relaying her tale of going to her local London park for her daily exercise slot. Being a warm day there were a few folk sunbathing although socially distanced. Without warning the police arrive and to her astonishment (and amusement) as one all the bodies came to life – hands and legs in the air ‘exercising’ like mad.

Things to reflect on;

  • A global CEO we work with saw his company shift from 20% of staff working from home to 80% within the first week of lockdown. That is a HUGE change and in sharing his thoughts he emphasised how aware leaders need to be of the different rates at which people are adapting to the shift; people can become very sensitive, much more so than they normally are and small things can be blown out of all proportion. In his words, ‘you need very good judgement in how, when and what you’re communicating.’
  • A great message received after an evening Zoom session, ‘Thank you all for that – I feel nourished by your company.’
  • Having referenced a particular model of Old Power/New Power in our Exec team work, it was very gratifying to be told by another CEO how it has become even more relevant in this crisis and how they are utilising it on a daily basis. She’s looking forward to working with us in using it as the foundation for the ‘new normal’ they will be seeking, which links brilliant with a favourite quite of ours at the moment, ‘It may not feel like it at the moment but the foundation for your recovery from this emergency is already being laid.’

Things to think about in the coming week;

  • At a conference late last year, before COVID had really hit, Michelle Obama was already talking about the importance of ‘planning in joy’. ‘You might think you should not feel joy when other people are suffering, but you need to find joy or else risk burning out.’ Her advice is to ‘think about what you are going to do this week that is going to make you selfishly smile’. Now even more relevant than ever.
  • As we begin to think and plan for a return from lockdown – however tentative and far away that seems, remember that for some this will surface very real anxieties while for others it will represent some much needed hope and energy. Remember to check in with team members individually to gauge where their heads (and hearts) are at.
  • Coming together as a team for no reason, is a reason. As we fall into our lockdown routines, working through an ever growing and shifting list of actions and tasks don’t overlook the importance of sometimes just hanging out together.

WFH Week 5; J’s and P’s in a VUCA world

VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) – yes, we know it can get a bit over used – but this definition of the post-Cold War era has definitely found new resonance in the current climate. For those of you less familiar with it, VUCA focuses on the unpredictability of events and conditions outside of the normal controls of the organisation But, the impact of VUCA doesn’t just affect leaders – it can be felt keenly throughout the business potentially impeding decision making something which is certainly affecting everyone throughout organisations at present.

In coaching sessions this week it’s become clear that as teams move out of ‘scramble mode’ and begin some first tentative steps into thinking ahead, the usual constructs for planning are having to be reworked and ‘VUCA rules’ applied. The conditions that seem most unmanageable though are also the very same that often generate the most creative and inspired solutions. As a client of our quote only today, ‘Well, it is a challenging time, but adversity also breeds innovation and some great things have been happening too.’ So, in this time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity how are MBTI Judgers and Perceivers (the planners and the experiencers) doing?

For J’s this, in many ways, can feel like familiar territory. Devising plans and schedules is an obvious preference of theirs and so to work through what the stages of release from lockdown and recovery might look like is a task they’re more than capable of and one most will relish. Where it becomes less appealing is the constant revision necessary or the multiple solutions needed in our present VUCA state. To the outside world J’s appear decisive, they like to have things settled and not in limbo but, as with all MBTI dichotomies there’s more at play than what we might first assume. Internally J’s may feel very able (and willing) to flex and adapt to new information amidst the flow and flux of data and opinion swamping our daily lives at the moment. Part of their challenge will be their innate desire to make sure processes align to plans and are adhered to in the bubble of WFH.

For P’s in search of alternative options and other ideas, there’s a wealth of material to go at and they may actually feel energised by the need to ‘avoid taking a hard line’ too quickly, keeping several routes open. This after all is their domain. Rather than being corralled into position, P’s may well be enjoying this period of exploration and speculation, utilising their preference to best effect. It’s important not to misread this as being indecisive or sitting on the fence though – P’s are every bit as capable as J’s in coming to a conclusion and considering the scale of upheaval at present, may even be craving closure on some levels.

Tips for P’s:

  • Influence the business to see the value of collecting additional data in order to make decisions – but keep testing and questioning the validity and rigour of the information. And know when to stop!
  • Recognise that acting with pace in the current climate can be an advantage and as such some deadlines, however short, are necessary
  • Inform the team, don’t surprise them! Think about how you keep information flowing and communication channels open. Make sure people know where your thinking is at and where your focus is. Teams we’re working with are finding the short, regular ‘virtual’ sessions much more effective and efficient than the old lengthy weekly meetings

Tips for J’s:

  • Pay attention to and enjoy investigating the ideas coming in and being shared rather than focusing on the decision or deadline
  • Inject into the tasks and projects definitive milestones and closure and use these to keep your J fed and engaged
  • IJ’s in particular who tend to favour gradual change based on accurate and adequate information may find inspiration in partnering with an EJ who will be more likely to want to move quickly, but will still enjoy seeking out the practical value of any ideas suggested