Don’t cave into inevitability, things can be better

July 22, 2020

The phrase ‘when this is all over’ has become one word, neatly inserted in the beginning or the end of a sentence.  It’s like a comforter, keeping out the anarchy of what we’re all going through.    Well, what about ‘when this is all over’, what’s next, where will change initiatives be then, how relevant, how wanted, how useful?

The phrase ‘when this is all over’ has become one word, neatly inserted in the beginning or the end of a sentence.  It’s like a comforter, keeping out the anarchy of what we’re all going through.    Well, what about ‘when this is all over’, what’s next, where will change initiatives be then, how relevant, how wanted, how useful?

Even before Covid 19, there were rumbling signs that all is not well in the people change industry.  The promises of leadership development results in organisations were falling flat, participants getting change programme fatigue and, as coaches, we’re hearing the same issues year in year out and it’s getting groundhog-y.   The sums of money being spent by companies on development to make their leaders ‘better’ are eye watering, and, in the stories I’ve heard, genuinely failing to deliver.   Where’s the evolution, where’s the fresh thinking, where are the ideas?

These innovation and idea generation is something I suspect is being even more buried now.  Stories of longer days, meetings all the same on-line video connection, people feeling deeply exhausted by trying to feel connected.  We might be talking about our kids more, our home office, the weight we’re putting on and even our mental health but is that it?  The sum total of the fruit from this time? What’s really going on in the business, how we could innovate deeply from this, what rule books do we want to throw out, rather than reiterate the same-old same-old does not seem to be finding the space.

I feel like I could write the current chancellor’s speech for him and my grasp of fiscal economics is a little slim.   ‘Prepare for it to be as bad as you can imagine and then prepare to double that bad’, that’s effectively what he said.  I even heard a stat that says we’re due for a recession not experienced since 1709!!!  I mean, how can anyone relate to that (The Great Frost since you ask), how is that useful?

In a recent Drum session the leaders on the call held a discussion to think about how can they engage and connect with their teams in this new world of some office, lots of virtual.  They were wary of reiteration, they wanted to see what they could innovate.  They understand this is a chance to be and do different.   They are not phased that they don’t know how, they are up for input from their people, they want to explore possibilities.  It was inspiring to witness it.

Those of you who have tried to creak open the door of doing things differently have found it flung open.  One leader was telling me he’s been trying to get homeworking and virtual connection into their business for 2 years – it was all done within a week for Covid and there have been hardly any teething problems.

We like knowing, leaders get paid to know, but we could just stop all the (understandable) posturing, admit we don’t know and have some useful conversations about it.  It’s really OK not to know, we’ve not been here before – like we haven’t been in 1709 – it’s not inevitable that we have to scramble back to the way it was before.  Lots of it didn’t work, much of the people change industry is invested in fixing that and doing that from the outside can have limited impact.   It’s time to consider what’s possible, to gather with your peers, trade mad ideas, and build the courage to make it properly better.   Look back on this time and go ‘bloody hell, look what we built from that, look what changed and how much better it is’.