As Curium is a change management consultancy, we’re used to helping business successfully manage transitions.
But 2020 has been a year of upheaval like no other in living memory. Like others, we had to cope with a downturn in work while switching to home working with all the challenges this brought. And we were there for our clients as they wrestled with the same challenges.
As we welcome 2021, it’s traditional to look back on lessons learnt and it feels particularly vital this year that we take the positives where we can and put our experience to good use. So here are seven lessons we, and our clients, learnt.
Homeworking is productive
While flexible working practices have been around for the last decade, there was a tendency not to trust that homeworkers were productive. 2020 has proven that these fears are unfounded. This has been the biggest shift in working practices since the post-war period and we’re not going back.
That said, homeworking brought unique challenges. Our clients told us that keeping track of work and progress, while trying to keep the team focused became more difficult. We enabled them to overcome these barriers by helping them implement good operational practices such as visibility of work-load, shared up-to-date metrics and regular progress meetings.
Homeworking changed the nature as to how people and teams interact. Informal chats by the coffee machine were gone, along with the small, daily interactions that form the glue of successful teams. To make up for this, we found scheduling in times with each other just to have a virtual coffee and chat really helped to keep ourselves feeling connected.
Visible and compassionate leadership
Good leadership is of course vital but these times emphasised the importance of being a visible leader. Set against a background of uncertainty and anxiety, teams and organisations looked for reassurance and clear leadership. Successful organisations saw leaders stepping up and recognising that their team not only needed direction but also emotional support. By listening and by encouraging open and honest conversations about how people were feeling helped teams to cope with anxiety better.
Look after yourself and your people
Taking care of yourself is not a selfish act. This year has emphasised above all others the importance of looking after your physical, emotional and psychological health. As a leader, taking time to do this for yourself first, means you can be there for your team when they need you. It is difficult to motivate others when you don’t feel motivated yourself.
The power of trusted relationships
Trust became the currency of business continuity, in the face of reduced cash and revenues. This is the year where you found out, both personally and professionally, who you could rely on. For us, having a strong focus on trusted relationships paid off as clients turned to us to help them manage this difficult period. Just as we checked in with our teams over virtual coffees, we did the same with our clients and we focused on doing the right thing every day.
Mindset is critical
Optimism has been in short supply and cultivating the right mindset to keep going has been important. We found the Stockdale paradox useful to frame our thinking – that is planning for the worst but hoping for the best. By not worrying about what we couldn’t control, we were able to focus on proactive planning, working on our own strategy and future growth post the pandemic. This bred confidence in our team about the challenges ahead, but more importantly enabled us to identify the opportunities that others may have missed.
Being resilient AND resourceful
We heard a lot about resilience this year but the limitations of remote working demanded resourcefulness too. We found innovative ways to conduct on-line interactive workshops, help clients remotely to shape complex transformation programmes and even led a full ERP system implementation in Australia! It’s proven to us that creative ways can be found to overcome barriers and limitations.
Most of all, we’ve learnt that if you have a strong culture and capable team you can overcome difficult times and prosper. So here’s to a fulfilling and resourceful 2021.
Article featured in thebusinessdesk.com.