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THE IMPACT OF WORKING FROM HOME

 

The third big insight that arose from my New Year reflections relates to work-home boundaries and their impact on team culture, employee resilience, and spillover effects on work engagement.

 

The concept of boundaries took me quite a few years to get my mind around. Then one day when I was staying down at our historic Stone House Cottage in Arrowtown, the penny finally dropped. I noticed how overseas tourists would often wander in from the footpath and walk around the cottage taking photos and selfies, just as if the cottage was a public museum. So then I decided to install a small historic gate — which to my amazement did the trick. Interestingly, it’s easy to slip around the side of the gate, or even open the gate, but no one does. Just signaling there is a clear boundary is all that is needed.

 

Looking at the boundary concept through a wider metaphorical lens, the gate separates the public-private domain. The front door separates the private-personal domain. The bedroom door separates the personal-intimate domain. Without these boundaries, we would be complicit in aiding and abetting boundary breaches. Not only do “good fences make good neighbours”, as Robert Frost, the poet, once put it, but “clear boundaries create constructive relationships and compelling team cultures”.

The Unintended Consequences Arising From Covid-19

 

During the Covid period, everyone around the world was forced to stay at home and work from their lounge, study, or bedroom. Communications at an interpersonal and group level have been achieved through the deployment of video conferencing tools such as Zoom and the likes.

 

As a consequence employees enjoyed the personal benefits of cutting out lengthy commuting time and not having to get dressed up for work. Some employees have even shifted their homes to small towns out in the countryside and now operate as if they are freelancers. As a consequence, many employers have decided to save on office rental and many CBD buildings are now half-empty (much to the chagrin of property owners, cafes, city retailers, and Uber drivers).

 

This new way of working works perfectly well for those conducting independent work such as software coding which can be outsourced cost-effectively from the global freelancer talent pool. However, where teamwork is required, working remotely over Zoom ultimately zaps Mojo, interpersonal relationships, team dynamics, and co-creative innovation.

 

In the short term, the productivity of engaged employees can rise significantly, but over time the risk of burnout is amplified. Those who mask their ambivalence or disengagement can now hide behind their privacy photo and spend much of their time doing private activities. One person I know spends at least fifty percent of their work-paid time project managing their private property development initiatives.

The Impact of Working From Home

 

 

  • Leadership  – It has always been relatively easy to manage a group of people and get projects completed, but very challenging to build and lead a high-performing team. Now leading remotely will make it infinitely more complex. That’s because the leader and team members can’t engage with one another on a personal level and read each others’ emotions, intentions, and behaviours.

 

  • Spillover Effects – Pre-Covid, people put on their make-up, got dressed up for work, and went off to work. Although this involves energy and time, it provided an opportunity to fire-up, get moving, leave behind, and put a clear boundary between home life and work life. For many, a chance to get away from some tough life challenges. Conversely, going home provided a chance to wind-down during the commute and be ‘present’ and ‘available to family’ when arriving home. As the boundaries between work and home have been blurred or completely removed, the spillover effects on work performance, and wellness & wellbeing are likely to be compromised. For those with low mood or depression, it will be all too easy to spend too much time cooped up or under the duvet during the day.

 

  • Work Experience – Not many young people who spent three or four years at university will cherish the opportunity to work from home, especially if it’s a small crowded shared flat. At least not the extraverted ones. Most young people love being with others and learning with and from each other. Humans are social beings and isolation is the ultimate punishment. We give and get energy from one another and provide support, safety nets, and safe harbours to those in need. Meeting new people face-to-face (employees, suppliers, and customers) can be very engaging and provides an opportunity to see and be seen. A chance for us to establish our professional persona and personal brand.

 

  • Economic Multiplier Effects – We will all soon learn that living in our own little world will ultimately impact on the public good. Cafe owners and their staff, retailers, and the gig economy will be significantly disrupted with economic and well-being consequences. The unemployment bill will balloon, yet the tax revenue will decline. A sure way for the economy to become dependent on printing money.

 

  • A Hybrid Model – How the breaking of boundaries and new ways of work will pan out, remains to be seen. I suspect that those who lead the field in innovation and global expansion will take a contrarian view to those dedicated followers of fashion who opt for the virtual approach. Most likely a hybrid approach will evolve. Of course, many organisations around the world have no option at this time. But for those that do, I sense that the smart successful companies will recognise that huddle & scrum is the way to go.

 

Over time, there will be many lessons learned and insights gained from the ongoing lockdowns. One being the importance of having a Plan B and being prepared for operating virtually at a moment’s notice if or when further lockdown periods arise.

Top 5 Priorities For Leaders In 2021

Over the holidays as I reflected on the leadership lessons that I learned over the years, I jotted down the five big insights I gained and what they mean in the current Covid-19 context. The one I put at the top of my list is ANXIETY.

 

What I’ve noticed is that human beings are often affected more by anxiety over what might happen, than dealing with what actually happens. Paradoxically, it’s often the small things that, like termites, are the most disruptive to the psyche.

 

Some people have personality traits that give rise to a greater propensity for anxiety than others. These people are more likely to experience sensations of fear which can distract and debilitate. In more certain times, these employees functioned very well. Now during the current global uncertainty, the risks to self, career, family, and friends may become overwhelming.

 

As we have another exciting and challenging year ahead of us, this is a pivotal moment for leaders. Over the next week or two, it might be smart to action the following to kick start the new year in a positive and empowering way:

 

  1. Purpose

    Refresh and re-present the real purpose and meaning of our organisation and team. Why we are here and why it matters? What contribution are we making to our community and our society?

  2. Vision

    Narrate the journey we are going over the year ahead, and what that means for the organisation, team(s), and individuals. Likewise, ask employees to record their own purpose, vision and personal plan in a way that aligns with the organisation and their team

  3. Certainty

    Create a sense of positivity and assurance that “we will survive and thrive no matter what.” Be bold. Be positive. Be assuring.

  4. Trust

    Create a high sense of trust in the CEO, senior leadership and all leaders throughout the organisation. Remove silos and politics. Encourage people to open up, show vulnerability and ask for support.

  5. Safety

    Point out that leadership will create safe harbours, safety nets, and leaning posts. Make it explicit how to go about safely getting help when needed without putting reputation and career at risk.

CONSEQUENTIAL BENEFITS

These five steps will create the context for wellness & wellbeing, headspace and focus, innovation, productivity, and being the best we can be.

Easter Musing during Lockdown

Easter symbolises new light and new life.

 

This Easter will give new meaning to what has been in the past, for many, little more than a long weekend at the beach.

 

No one knows what the new way will be but most would agree it will, more than ever, put people before profit, and family before all else. One thing is for sure — we will always remember the importance of the basics of human existence and be grateful for our abundance.

 

It’s been so interesting to observe the amazing talent, humour, giving and goodness of so many during the global lockdown. Particularly the nurses, doctors, police and all those in the essential services, who serve us so graciously, and that we mostly overlook acknowledging.

 

The speed of change and agility of leaders and their teams is also beyond comprehension. We have all had to spin-on-a-dime, learn new skills overnight, and fully embrace the digital world in order to communicate with our team members, our customers, and deliver our products and services. It’s incumbent on us all to reinvent our organisations and ourselves, and to redefine our purpose and mission – asking ourselves WHY we do what we do and how it contributes to the wider community.

 

The real challenge for leaders will be to maintain the high levels of engagement and productivity, ignited by the adrenalin rush during week one of the lockdown. This will require attention to taking the steps necessary to maintain good Team Mojo as the video conferencing and long hours start to take their toll.

 

Easter will assist in this regard — being a time of peace and quiet all over the world. Our streets will be empty, the skies clear and still, and the whole world will be huddled in their bubbles with those near and dear.

 

I wish you and yours a blessed Easter — a time for reflection and gratitude. And a great start to what is all new and all good.

 

Kind wishes to you and your family,

 

Geoff

The Impact of COVID-19 on each Personality Type

In business-as-usual (BAU), leaders and followers use their natural, instinctive approach to gather information, make decisions and live in the world. When stressed, however, they start to display characteristics that are at-odds with the person we have become accustomed to.

 

In crises situations, where stress and anxiety are amplified, both at work and at home, all of us can become a tad ‘weird’. The extraverts can hide in their closets. Introverts will typically go deep into their caves.  Positive upbeat people, whom are usually warm and compassionate can hide under the duvet, catastrophising about all those in the world who are being affected, imagining the worst possible scenarios, and feeling incredible sadness and pain.

With income and family at risk, it’s natural for people to put self and family before all else and queue jump through to the front of the line.

In terms of the 4CHARACTERSTM

 

It’s the compassionate Yellow and Green characters who will typically be most affected and out-of-sorts. At the extreme, they could present as overly emotional and with an uncharacteristically low mood.

Greens will be seeking structure and a sense of purpose. Particularly the extraverted ones who will go very flat when they can’t get out and about to help others and connect with people in a high touch way.

 

Yellows may become distraught when they change from their normal big picture intuitive processes to using their underdeveloped analytical functions – looking for facts to validate and justify their doom scenarios.

 

The Red and Blue Characters will typically overplay their gifts in the early stages of the crises – potentially taking an overly directional approach as they seek to take control of the situation.

The Reds naturally innovate and spin on a dime, so they will be focusing on reinventing the business model and most likely cracking the whip while setting an unrealistic pace. After sustained stress, they may unconsciously slip into the ‘shadow-side’ and become overly emotional and tearful.

 

The Blues will initially focus on structure, data gathering and adding process and logic in their attempt to bring law and order to the situation. Along with their Green colleagues, they will focus on improving the situation and will be stressed by the fast pivots of their Red and Yellow counterparts. If they unconsciously go ‘shadow-side’ after the sustained stress and anxiety, they too may become overly emotional and show up erratically – the complete opposite to their normal ‘true blue’ characteristics.

The Complexity of ‘Shadow-Side’ Behaviours

 

Each person will be affected by the pandemic in different ways, depending not only on their ‘character type’, but also on their individual personal and family situations, which may amplify the impact. Someone who is normally kind, compassionate and measured, could become explosive within seconds, surprising their colleagues or family members by their outburst. Most likely the explosion will be ignited, not by what was said, but by what the person in the ‘shadow-side’ thought was said.

How each of the 4CHARACATERS will respond to stress and anxiety in a crisis cannot be reliably determined by their character colour. Shadow-side analysis requires an expanded 8 Shadow types (incorporating Introversion and Extraversion, Jump Start and Pressure Prompted dynamics) – too much complexity to understand unless you are a personality type guru.

To support our alumni and clients through this crises period, we have expanded the Executive Profile (in the Leader Dashboard) and Team Dynamics (in the Team Dashboard) to include a section on ‘What others will notice about you if you go into the shadow-side’

How to get out from Under the Shadow and back into the Bright-Side

 

Regardless of which character colour leaders and followers are; the CHEERFUL approach is a great start:


C         stay Connected

H         Help those in need

E         Eat healthy 

        Exercise in the sun 

R         Respect yourself and others

         Fun amps up immunity

U         keep it simple and Uncomplicated 

         let Love be your true north

 

Tools for Applying these Concepts in an Interpersonal and Team Context

 

ISL’s sister company, SmartLeader Apps TM  has developed a suite of digital tools to support leaders. These have been used effectively by many clients during BAU – and will be even more impactful as we navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.

These tools include:

  1. Team dashboard: 4CHARACTERSTM function – understanding the mix of team personalities; dominant characters and those types which are underrepresented. A drill down function that explains how each team member is Wired-UpTM, each person’s gifts, blind spots and communication preferences. A new “what you will notice about them in the shadow-side”
  2. IOS app: CLICK-WITHTM – an app that enables team members to understand their points of compatibility and potential flash points when working with others in their team.
  3. MY TEAM PULSETM: 4CHARACTERSTM tile – sets out the team composition and provides a DIY FIXIT Toolkit, with resources enabling leaders to understand more about personality and how to interpret dysfunctional behaviours.

 

For information about accessing these apps and obtaining online ‘one-on-one’ and ‘team coaching’ contact us at info@leadership.ac.nz

Leadership is Personal

 

Chris Nassenstein (SLP 24), shared his experience of Millbrook, the impact and insights it gave him and what he is up to now. Chris has kindly given me permission to share his story… 

 

“I have very good memories of that week, not only the individual courses and certainly the environment was awesome, but the sharing of experiences, the connections with other people, yes and the ceremonial parts as well. One of the many things I took away from there and something I shared with many of my people afterwards would perhaps be a surprise to you (or maybe not). There were people of all walks of life at the course, some young and up and coming managers, some older people like me (I was 60 at that time) and some very senior people, very high up the ladder of hierarchy. But you know what? At Millbrook we were all the same: I saw some of these young managers do better and acting more mature than some of the more senior people there, I saw a very senior person, who had achieved much in his career, absolutely in tears at one emotional stage of the program (which was not a negative thing, he showed his humanity and his courage to expose himself as a human being). What it showed is that no matter where we are in life, rich, poor, labourers, government ministers, military generals, senior managers, junior managers: in the end we are all the same: you don’t have to have superior intelligence or a lot of money or other superior capabilities that are given us from birth: we can all get “up there” as leaders.

 

After Millbrook, I spent three more years at Air New Zealand and was then approached by Qantas to “clean up” their Engineering Division. Which we did, but that’s a whole other story. I retired July last year. I think that I can safely say that I learned more in the past 10 years until my retirement than in all my career before that. But again, another story.

 

I’m now involved with something quite different; I’m helping an old priest, fr. Joseph Maier, who has done some amazing things in his lifetime, reorganise an orphanage in Bangkok, Thailand. It involves setting up a new Board of Directors, a new management team and finding him a successor. His Mercy Centre has educated more than 72,000 kids living in poverty in the slums of Bangkok, it now operates 30+ schools and cares for more than a hundred orphans and children living with AIDS. And guess what their biggest problem is? Leadership. Why is it so difficult to find good leadership in NGO’s? I guess one problem is a lack of funds, so the salaries are low and nobody wants to work for peanuts. Finding good leaders is also a challenge. Another thing might be that very few people want to work in a crime-ridden slum, with drug gangs, prostitution and HIV/AIDS. But once you’re involved with some of the kids there (we sponsor 4) there is no going back, you’re hooked. So we’re going back on Thursday for a couple of months. Finding leaders, and trying to train them. Or just good people and making leaders out of them. I wish I could find the money to send at least one of them to Millbrook, but Mercy needs that money to feed the kids and Millbrook would be a luxury that it could ill afford.

 

But perhaps, one day. I do have a candidate, a lady who heads up our AIDS program at Mercy Centre. She’s a slum kid herself, but somebody discovered her, educated her in the UK and she is now one of our senior leaders, incredibly articulate and motivated, and with the right leadership training she could one day take over from Joe. She’s an amazing person.”