Updated: Apr 26
Have you recalibrated your expectations of performance during this time of lockdown or are you expecting yourself (and everyone else) to be at the same level as pre-COVID? How realistic is this?
I was chatting to a lovely, wise friend, Belinda Griffiths this week and she noted that we are getting to know a lot more about other people and their lives outside work than we ever have before - which we both thought was a good thing.
In our new on-line working environment (for those of us lucky to have jobs and who are able to work from home) we’re seeing people’s children, pets, home offices (some neater than others) and we’re seeing up some people’s nostrils a lot more! Note: for those who have not yet mastered the art of where to put their computer – please don’t make us look up your nostrils! Just take a few moments to put your computer on a pile of books so you’re more level with the camera!
I'm hoping that leaders and teams are acknowledging that everyone is in a different situation in this pandemic – for me it's like being in the same marathon but individually we're all running in different conditions. Some people have a severe headwind to contend with, some are running in rain, some have a tailwind and some have fine conditions. Some of us can keep going and some have been injured and can't keep running (eg the people whose industries have shut down and who have joined the queues at Centrelink).
I’m facilitating lots of team and industry check-ins on-line at the moment to help keep people connected during this time of physical isolation. People are needing to have some space to stop, reflect and talk honestly about how things are really going for them - to talk about the conditions they are running their marathon in. Some of the things I’ve been hearing people say are:
Working at home with two small toddlers is really hard
I'm struggling without routine
I'm finding it hard to draw a line between work and home
I can't see my grandchildren, I miss everyone, I miss the little things
I'm doing OK but my partner has been made redundant and I don't know how to help her
My teenage son is struggling with his mental health in lockdown and it's hard to know what to do
It’s the unknown that getting to me, I feel really overwhelmed
It’s been a real roller coaster, it’s OK and then it’s not OK
I have good days & bad days, I'm a hugger so I'm missing physical contact
My child has special needs and she is finding the lack of routine hard. I’m working early in the morning and late at night so that I can be with her during the day
For me working from home is easy. Working from home with kids and not having the odd relief that grandparents offer… that is hard
I’m actually doing OK, just a bit over zoom meetings but proud of how our team is handling things
I also saw this tweet thread from a colleague, Adam Voigt, who is super high-performing which I thought reflected what’s going on for many of us::
I think the above conversations reflect the need to think about individual and team performance.
I’ve developed a model to help explain how to do this.
I think we have to Review our expectations of performance for individuals in our teams depending on the conditions they're running this marathon in. What are different people contending with? For example one team I’ve worked with has some staff who are flat out because they are transitioning services to the virtual environment. Others, who are customer service staff, don’t have a lot they can do from home through no fault of their own. There has been some resentment and tension in the team because of the differing workloads. As a leader or team mate how would you deal with this?
We need to acknowledge the Reality of this situation and talk about it within our teams. Be honest. Help people feel safe. A leadership team I worked with today has told all their staff that family comes first during this crisis so that people feel reassured and have permission to do the basics. Have you had these conversations with your people?
Finally we need to Recalibrate our expectations of individual and team performance. What does high performance look like right now? What can we realistically expect? What’s acceptable and what’s not? How do we acknowledge the human element during this time and factor that into our expectations for work performance?
It might also be time to start putting some thought into post-lockdown. A rural leadership team I was working with was talking about how they didn’t want to lose some of the good things that have happened during this time. Less travel time, more time with family, more flexibility. Hence I've added a fourth part to my model - Renewing our definition of high-performance post- lockdown.
This is a very dynamic operating environment. I think the ability to recalibrate, renew and redefine is going to be a very important skill set for leaders to have. It's actually probably an ability as individuals we will all need to develop to navigate our lives.
So start thinking - what have you loved about lockdown? What has helped your performance? what has added to your quality of life? What lessons or habits or techniques could you bring from lockdown into whatever our new normal will be?
I hope you and your loved ones and colleagues are doing OK. Keep connecting. Keep talking. Keep asking for help when you need it. Reach out and offer support to others. Be kind (to yourself and others). Be human.
I’m here if you need me – send me an email or give me a call and let me know how you’re traveling. You don’t have to do all this on your own.