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Covid-19 Special Series Ep 4: Leadership 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 four is an invitation to look at how can be in this crisis and what is necessary in a time of great uncertainty.

Show Notes

Podcast episode summary: I spoke with Dr. Ruth Wageman, Dr. Simon Western and Conor Brennan to hear their perspectives on the ask of Leadership in the face of Covid-19. I have interviewed each of my guests separately on the Game of Teams Podcast  and you are welcome to check out their backgrounds and views on teams in those episodes. This conversation proved to be a very rich and varied conversation covering emotions, behaviours, perspectives, the opportunities to rethink and reimagine the future as well as the very real and positive opportunity for sustained interest in Climate Change, The distribution of wealth and ways of working that may prove fortuitous for many. There is also a clear and present danger that we as a society build walls and boundaries when what is required is greater social cohesion & collaboration.

 

Points made through the episode:

  • The mood is mixed. There exists a determination to be of service along with a real concern regarding the viability of enterprises and employment. Really hard to see the future with the current level of uncertainty. Mood also takes different phases with many at the start in denial and extreme activism-many are for example in Zoom mania. The variability of moods and emotions is considerable daily. Not enough to check-in on people once, sometimes it requires repeated calls.
  • We may be moving into a period of a quest for understanding and acceptance and yet for some are drowning in emotional overwhelm.
  • Important for Leaders to provide containment. To allow people to express their many emotions so that they get the space to then think.
  • It also critical that leaders think about systems thinking to be placed paced to serve in an eco-system. Covid-19 is a pure example of an eco-system in operation
  • Tendency for leaders in uncertainty to contract and to try and control. The opposite is actually required. We are in a huge experiment of distributed leadership and it is helpful if leaders can think in term of allowing for roles to be handled by others, to share Leadership or the function of coaching where necessary and to lead at the edge.
  • Leadership Presence is a quality that is necessary for Leaders to possess in order to help people be with the enormous fluctuations in moods and reactions to the crisis. Their needs are now at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy Pyramid. People and employees need security, some level of assuredness if leaders are able to give it and the presence of their Leaders
  • Leaders have an opportunity, a greater opportunity than perhaps existed before to be present and to resist taking the reins that could be assumed by others.
  • Presence can also show up in other ways like more informal ways of communicating. WhatsApp etc.
  • The crisis is helping people re-evaluate and appreciate the quality and use of time. There is a real opportunity to reconsider the use of time as we consider re-entering the workplace.
  • The crisis has thrown people into isolation and a real sense of dislocation. It is imperative that Leaders think about social cohesion
  • Critical that leaders work out how to motivate and engage as well as bring people together virtually.
  • Making meaning and connecting to a higher purpose is still a relevant conversation and maybe even more so today. The pause is allowing people to re-evaluate and re-imagine what is meaningful and values laden.
  • It means that leaders need to create the space for people to have these important conversations
  • For some it might sound indecent to consider having these conversations when there is so much suffering and it could look non-empathetic. There is a real tension between the energy for creation and the energy of people who are withdrawn and uncertain
  • Coaching is a necessary service for Leaders in this crisis. Often it is assumed Leaders have all of the answers and are sorted when often the opposite is true. Examples were shared of Leaders being torn and lost. Coaching provides a refuge and real place of containment
  • The Leader-follower dynamic is important to trust and remember. They are two side of the same coin.
  • Ruth and Simon shared their wisdom on the kinds of support they are providing for teams through Covid-19 examples include
  • Helping teams to rapidly form, even where team members have never met
  • Guidance to team leaders on how to cultivate team resilience and getting the mutual support required by both team members and Leader.
  • Practical tips about how to hold conversations for Purpose and tips about the necessary rhythm and cadence of various meetings
  • Helping Leaders distinguish between the desire for activism and re-activism. Helping leaders to be able to contain the vast array of team emotions and reactions and needs in this crisis.
  • Remembering that Leadership and followership is an interchangeable dynamic and both require an ability to sense, listen and respond productively.
  • Purpose and the question of purpose is a big ask and in order to do that people have to have time to think first. Space is required
  • There was a debate about the idea or timing of thinking about opportunity.
  • Major disruptions provide huge opportunity to re-think and change routines. Consider the drop in our reliance on fossil fuels, our commutes, working remotely and virtually.
  • The question becomes; What are we learning that will enable us to take a great leap forward?
  • The social inequity that is being amplified is a great challenge that a purpose conversation could solve.
  • Leaders are wonderfully placed to influence these debates and discussions
  • The conversation concluded by each panel member sharing their “knowing” and what emerged included the idea that we can all contribute to sustainability-it is not such an abstract idea. Zoom works-we don’t have to be egotistical and take planes to NYC for meetings we can have them virtually. This is a great reset.
  • We are however on a tightrope between building walls and fortresses nationally or grasping opportunity to build a good society. Out of the London plague a sewage system and infrastructure emerged.
  • All of our biggest challenges will only be solved by working collaboratively. We can mobilise to forge social cohesion and some of the planets other wicked problems.

 

 

 

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

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