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Covid-19 Special Series Ep 1: Trauma & our collective need to Pause in response to Covid-19

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Covid-19 struck like a thunderbolt and has thrown the world upside down. Many are still reeling as we grapple to right side for a new order. All of us have been forced to wake to a new reality, to pause and immediately assume a virtual reality for most of the population. Teams have been beset too. Episode one is an invitation to look at how teams can use this big pause to be with what the environment and threat is forcing upon us and to rethink our ways of working.

Show Notes

I spoke with Krister Lowe, Melissa Hughes and Alexander Caillet to hear their thoughts and ideas to support teams through Covid-19. Essentially the panel echoed the sentiments expressed by so many in different systems .We are all experiencing extraordinary levels of uncertainty and anxiety, oscillating between polarities simultaneously. Teams are no different. The panel suggested that teams  need to take stock, to reform & re-norm to  delight in the fact that our current levels of kindness & humaneness is not impacting productivity. There was an  acknowledgement that it took something like Covid-19 to stop 8bln people on a runaway train of 80+ hours of work, an erosion of the planet and consumption and travel at unstainable levels.  The gift of Covid-19 is the opportunity to transform.


Points made through the episode:

  • It is normal to feel so discombobulated. There is huge variability in our state of minds, oscillating between despair and hope, action and rest, reflection and analysis. Mindfulness practices and centring practices can bring these polarities closer.
  • Melissa suggested the book title “Permission to feel” and instead of beating ourselves up or feeling guilty about lack or gaps in productivity to instead get creative about stuff that is good for us right now.
  • Remember from our evolutionary psychology that emotions are good for us. They serve, so it is important that we don’t resist what they are sharing as information hits & be with what is needed.
  • There is a huge creative force being unleashed -The world is poised and pregnant with possibility. Krister, reminded us of a quote from Laozi- “Our highest virtue does nothing, yet nothing needs to be done, the lowest virtue does everything and much remains to be done”
  • By doing nothing right now or very little by staying at home we are actually helping beat Covid-19 and similarly at work or virtually with our teams we can use this pause to think about what needs changing rather than trying to get into endless activity.
  • Alexander pointed out that Teams need to first get familiar with the technology of working virtually, then consider the security and viability of various options as well as the ergonomics for remote working. Then teams need to consider ways of working given virtual , the nature of teaming and for a new identity
  • There are silver linings to be had from this this extraordinary change, including our appreciation of humanity, the dynamic between task and relationships with a rebalancing of both- it is also challenging some previously unquestioned assumptions like working from home and what that can do for the planet, commercial real estate and a rebalancing of our personal needs
  • One norm that is being appreciated by the panel that they wish not to be lost is the idea of slow is fast. How do we relish more with less? Forever forgetting the runaway train of relentless productivity and consumerism to which we were all attached.
  • Danger that we will consume zoom like we used to consume meetings. Advice to be judicious with the forms of meetings we chose, to consider phone, email, IM along with zoom. To allow for a default for 15 minute meetings with an option to extend, or to consider ending zoom meetings at 25 mins or 50 to allow the brain to rest.
  • Consider Agile practices like Kan-ban and options like Mural for team meetings.
  • The panel shared some tips for teams including limiting number of things you attempt to get accomplished in a day, having four hours -worth of meetings in a day for example. Consider boundaries. Consider all the many informal ways people used to connect and approximate them in the virtual space.
  • Replicate the physical space in a virtual reality with some obvious adjustments. Balance task and relationship orientation and consider getting support with conversation facilitation.
  • Important to keep in mind the huge suffering happening in the world. Many of us with work are lucky.
  • We are experiencing a VUCA world on steroids.
  • The brain is less able to cope with uncertainty than it is with predicable threats. Aim to bring some structure and control into your daily rhythms
  • We are in-between two ports. We continue to need to get stuff done and we have the opportunity to reflect and change. Encourage your teams to get innovative.
  • The panel concluded by sharing some wisdom and hope for teams. We will emerge and we will figure this out. We are a creative species so allow for creativity. Teams are the unit of analysis so find a team. Get skilled in conversational facilitation, an imperative to navigate virtual teaming.


Quotable Quote: “the highest virtue does nothing, Yet nothing needs to be done. The Lowest virtue does everything. Yet much remains to be done” Laozi


Resources: the following include the resources I alluded to in this episode.

  1. “Why you should ignore all that Coronavirus inspired productivity pressure” Aisha Ahmad, Associate Professor Toronto University -The Chronicle of Higher Education March 27th 2020
  2. Permission to feel: The power of Emotional Intelligence to achieve well -being and success.

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