Every cloud has a silver lining

Learnings from lockdown

Note: When I first thought about writing this article for Goodwill Collective, things were not as optimistic as they are now in Victoria. With a sharp drop in new cases, my fingers are crossed that we have turned a corner and that we are fast converging on that light at the end of the tunnel.

This pandemic has been tough. Its impacted everyone in a uniquely personal way. And I am one of the lucky ones. For those fortunate enough to have not been directly impacted by this virus, we have been stripped of our personal freedoms along with dealing with a myriad of other challenges from concern about friends/family who may be first responders, isolation, job security, anxiety, the fear of uncertainty and not having a clearly defined end in sight. 

In this lockdown, it is safe to say we are surviving and certainly not thriving. As we are halfway through our second lockdown under the most stringent Stage 4 rules, the mental health of Victorians has been collateral damage as we wrestle with this virus and our new normal.  For Goodwill Collective, an organisation that relies on the goodwill of friends and strangers to operate, this time has presented a unique set of challenges. From all accounts, including my own, it is easier to give of yourself when things are going well, when things get tough we seem to want to withdraw and go into a self-preservation mode. 

So what have I learnt about people, leading and organisations during these troubled times?

Working from home

Not all that it cracked up to be. For as long as I can remember, I used to think the dream was to be able to work from home without even as much as changing out of my pyjamas. After six months of it, no longer the case. I’ve missed the banter, the coffee runs, group problem solving and face to face interaction. And I am not much of an extrovert! This new online world of business and interaction feels more mechanical and less human to me. Every interaction seems to require something of someone and eventually you start to resent the continual barrage of video meetings.

During lockdown, we miss the incidental conversations – the catch ups over nothing, the moments that build relationships. It is something that shouldn’t be lost during this time. My advice – make the time to catch up with others over nothing. It will help to recapture that human connection we are all missing and I am sure it will be remembered long after normality resumes. You do have the time, you are just choosing to use it differently. 

Being Kind

It’s easy to get caught up in the drag of the current situation. With no variety and what seems like stagnation in our personal and professional lives, frustration and irritability inevitably creep in. In the binds of the current situation, I found my fuse shortening and  realised that I was not alone with these feelings. After reading an article about mass onset of irritability as a result of the stress of sudden uncertainty, understanding this helped my awareness of the situation and appreciate that everyone is struggling in their own way. Armed with this knowledge, I realised that it is OK to not be at my best during this time and to instead, focus on being kind to both myself and others. I started to be less demanding of myself and others and bit by bit, my inner hulk calmed.

I also subscribe to the philosophy that progress equals satisfaction. With achieving progress harder to come by in the current environment, I recently sent the following picture to the Goodwill Collective team. Not philosophies I usually advocate, but in tough times, it is better to be kind than perfect.

Balancing progress

Personally, I am an “all or nothing” guy. I am either all in or push begrudgingly until inevitably petering out. Similarly, I learnt early during my time with Goodwill Collective that momentum is a big factor in progress. In our earliest days when it was hard to see the exact impact of our actions, it was vital to keep momentum up otherwise the dream would be over.  I remember sharing the below diagram with the team noting that as a team, we were either spiralling up (getting better) or spiralling downwards (deteriorating).

In lockdown, I have realised that we cannot pursue progress blindly. During these tough times, it is not so much about how fast we progress or even how we progress, but about connection. I appreciate that it may sound cliched, but let’s face it, no one is really getting ahead right now and nothing good can come from pressurising people in an already difficult situation. By focusing on connecting with people in a time of unprecedented isolation, you will help them feel connected and perhaps help them to recapture a sense of belonging – something that will surely pay dividends when normality takes hold. It also rings true to one Goodwill Collective’s core principles, look after our members and they will look after the organisations we serve.   

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