A head-turning moment in the midst of Covid-19

If you’ve attended a peer-to-peer coaching session you’ll know that at a certain point, someone will present a challenge he or she is experiencing to the others in the room (these days a virtual room!). These others take on the role of coaches and the ‘presenter’ suddenly has at his or her disposal the wisdom and experience of all of them. It’s quite an extraordinary thing to experience.

The challenge I’m going to tell you about (with the participant’s permission) is one you might recognise: the impossibility of forecasting or planning because his major customers cannot commit to projects that were previously in the pipeline. It’s a coronavirus special. Frightening and all-consuming.

As he outlined his challenge to the group, he described other difficulties in running a business in times of Covid. Again, you might be in a position to empathise:

· Younger members of staff not having the opportunity to learn from more experienced colleagues when working from home

· Some employees struggling with the lack of social interactions that they usually get from meeting others at work

· Management not knowing if employees were putting in the time and effort when not in the office

· The inability to meet potential new customers face to face

The upsides of the lockdown

Eventually, as the peer-to-peer process took its course and his peers asked questions or made observations, he started to delve into some of the positives he and his fellow directors noticed were emerging (hopefully you will also recognise some of these!):

· Directors were gradually evaluating performance more on results than on the hours that staff were working. They were finding that many employees were happier to work to deadlines rather than clock in so many hours, as this allowed them more flexibility with family and other commitments.

· Most employees appreciated the extra time they were saving not having to travel to work and in many cases this led to extra work being completed and projects finished earlier than expected.

· Virtual meetings were proving more efficient as many staff had already communicated with each other before the meeting by sharing technical information in advance. In some cases, these meeting took less than half the time a similar face-to-face meeting would have taken.

· Not having regular in-house management meetings seemed to lead to many of the staff taking responsibility for contacting each other online to make decisions and ensure projects progressed.

As usual, our leader (the presenter of the challenge) summarised his insights after being ‘in the spotlight’. He concluded that the owners now had a template for how they could get the best of both worlds when they returned to the office after the lockdown. He knew that eventually customers would have greater visibility on their own future progress and that it was more a matter of keeping their nerve during the current restrictions.

Overall, he believed that these changes would enhance the business. Management had been well aware of what did and did not work in their culture and systems prior to the Covid restrictions, but they now had an opportunity to test alternatives in a ‘live’ environment, which they would not have done without being forced to do so.

It was quite a turnaround. From only seeing the negatives, he had somehow, through the interventions of his peers, found another way of looking at what was happening. It reminds me of something my physio once said to me. I was attending for pain down one side of my neck and he mentioned that it could be a metaphor for only seeing things from one perspective. You know how I love metaphors, so I put that one in my pocket, and there it has been all this time just waiting for me to use it!

Change brings progress when your mind is open to look for the benefits

As I reflected on this session it became apparent to me that many times in my life I was so caught up in the downside of changes that I failed to look around for positives. Of course, this is totally understandable, particularly when the future of the business is in doubt. Managing to turn my head to the other side allowed me to take in a different view. Opening my eyes to the positives of a change somehow made me more open to adjusting to the new situation.

So, Is it time to see all sides of a problem or issue? Have you only been looking in one direction? Perhaps there is a vista that you have been depriving yourself of, a vista that could inspire you to build a more sustainable business and life for yourself and your employees.

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