Inclusion matters more than ever

Somewhere close to you now,

There will be people feeling crippling anxiety that they cannot or do not want to show.

There will be people hiding conditions or vulnerabilities that they carry silently each day.

There will be people who are carers, not wanting to let this get in the way.

There will be people who wish they were carers, who don’t need reminding they’re not.

There will be people with deep held views about medical treatments and procedures.

There will be people looking for answers in their faith.

There will be people who fear that their difference makes them a target.

There will be people who struggle with addiction and dependency.

There will be people who suffer at the hands of another.

There will be people who worry constantly about someone they love,

And there will be people grieving in loss.

These people are our colleagues, our friends, our neighbours and our family. As they were last week, last month and last year. When we aren’t together, inclusion matters more than ever.



The best way out

I’ve had a paperweight on my desk for about the last 30 years. It contains a quote, I believe, from Robert Frost, “The best way out is always through”. The idea of having a paperweight in this day and age may seem somewhat superfluous, but the wisdom is something that endures beyond its physical home.

When things change, when we are under pressure, anxious, when we struggle to understand which way is up and which is down, we can understandably lose momentum. Many of us in organisations undergoing physical or economic turmoil will be tempted to think, “what’s the point?”. At the same time there are students all over the country who have had their lives thrown up in the air and been served a mixed diet of uncertainty and confusion.

In these circumstances, in these moments. It is tempting to stop.  Inaction, unless a conscious and considered choice, is rarely the answer. It seldom makes us feel better nor does it help others around us. Our psyche, our health and wellbeing requires us to feel that we are progressing, even when it feels almost impossible to do so.

The best way out, is alway through. It starts with small steps, slow, steady steps. Placing one foot in front of the other and starting to move. We cannot predict the future, we cannot control the uncontrollables, that was the case six months ago, a year ago, five years ago. It is the same today.

Whatever challenge you’re facing into, whatever uncertainty has been thrown in your way. There is only one direction that you can travel. Forward. And I promise that when you do, it will see you out and through.



When leadership calls

Throughout our careers, there will occasions when we are asked, more than ever, to demonstrate our worth as leaders. Whether through a change, a significant challenge, or indeed a crisis. Any of us that manage people will be asked to step up, to step into the light and to do the thing that we talk and theorise about so often. To lead.

In these circumstances, great leaders put their own concerns aside. They may be worried, concerned or unhappy, but they understand that their role requires them to put this aside. They are there in the service of their people.

They understand that they need to be calm and reassure, that it is only normal that in uncertain times people worry and they look to those in positions of authority to tell them it will be ok. They don’t rush around creating drama, no matter what they may feel inside.

Great leaders understand the importance of simple, clear communications and the need to repeat it more than ever. When we are worried, stressed or concerned we can find it hard to take in multiple complex measures, simple and clear messages make it easier for us to digest and process.

They also know that it is important to play by the rules that they set. That it doesn’t matter how clear and simple the messages are, by contradicting them with behaviours we send out complex messages that confuse. Actions need to match and reinforce messages.

And they recognise the human at the heart of each decision, seeing the impact that each and every choice we make has on people, thinking about how it feels for them and being clear of the why as well as the what. Which means sometimes we can do the right thing and be unpopular.

Finally, great leaders know sometimes they get things wrong in the heat of battle and they are humble and recognise fault. People will forgive you for getting things wrong, they rarely do for denying it or apportioning blame.

When leadership calls, we need to show up as the best version of ourselves. Remain mindful of how we are feeling, what we are thinking and ultimately why we are there. Every day is a chance to practice, sometimes you’re called on to perform.

COVID- 19 provides us with a moral leadership question

I’m genuinely loathed to write anything that might be seen to be riding on a sensationalist wave. At the same time, it is almost impossible to pass a day without stories relating to the spread of COVID-19 and the impact that is already having, and could have further on society and the workforce. Wherever we are in the world, whatever continent or time zone, this is a dominating event.

I was dismayed and a little flabbergasted ¬†last week to hear a number of organisations suggesting they didn’t have an obligation to pay sick pay to people who were self isolating, to the point that the Government has stepped in to change the UK rules on statutory sick pay to ensure people who feel ill can stay off work. I know, from talking to others from around the world, the same debate is playing out in other countries too.

I’m not going to comment on the legalities, there are people better placed to do that, but I do want to talk about moral compass. Particularly those of the people who will choose to hide behind legislation rather than face into a moral obligation. In fact, the whole unfortunate situation shines a very firm light on the way in which organisations perceive their employees and their responsibility towards them. This isn’t so much about statute, it is about leadership.

If we believe that given the chance our colleagues will use this as an opportunity to get one over on the company, that they will be slackers, malingerers and wastrels then that says more about us than it does them. If our employees see this as a chance to not come into work, to avoid the workplace, then it says more about our culture and organisation, than it does about them.

Most of us will not have experienced an event of this kind before, this is unchartered water. We have a choice about how we look at the impact it will have on our workforces and that choice will pretty much define how we are as an organisation. We can see it as our responsibility to protect, to reassure and to look after our workforces, to work together to see this through. Or we can look at our ability to protect ourselves from the impact this will have on our workforce, to minimise their risk to our organisations and to only do what we are legally obliged to do.

Whilst we are in the eye of the storm, it will feel as if this will go on forever. But it won’t, time will move on and we will come out the other side, one way or another. And when we do, people will look at their employer, their organisation and they will judge them on how they behaved. We talk so much about social responsibility and doing the right thing and here and now we have an opportunity to demonstrate this is more than words. Good organisations with strong leaders will do so, those that view their employees simply as disposable resource will not.

Which side do you want to be on?