In truth, we had no idea at first exactly how our clients would be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, no more than many of them knew themselves. In these unchartered waters, one thing was clear, however. We would all need to embrace change.
As a starting point, we were sure we’d need to learn a new way of working as a team so we could continue to do our best for our clients. Here’s what the experience has taught us so far:
Practice Bounded Optimism
There was no point being fatalistic about the weeks and months ahead. This paralyses effort and drains energy. We needed positivity to keep our spirits up and to help the team to continue to make progress. Conversely, unchecked optimism can be risky too, so we engaged in what is often called “Bounded optimism”, namely confidence combined with realism. We encouraged clients to practice the same.
At a time like this, nobody has the luxury of doing only the work they enjoy. Each team member needs to step forward and take on fresh responsibilities. It requires courage to try something new, especially when your team is counting on everyone to step up and do their share. New responsibilities can be uncomfortable or dull, but when there’s a hole in the boat, everyone must bail out water. Trust in one another grows when everyone is willing to do what’s asked of them.
We exist to serve our clients and our focus had to remain on our clients. In a crisis, what we can’t do is often more obvious than what we can. Many clients approached us seeking advice, guidance, or reassurance. We worked hard to help them to identify their best options so that they could keep making progress during constrained times. Some clients wanted to act right away, while others needed time to process what was happening. We were ready to assist, to talk about their unique situations and challenges, when the time was right for each client.
Strengthen Team Spirit
When regular scheduled work stopped, we needed to find a way to remain active and connected to one another. Regular video team gatherings were important at the start to check in on one another and make sure nobody was disconnected or feeling abandoned. Over time, these gatherings were used to explore ideas, uncover hidden individual capabilities, and to plot new ways in which we could be of service to our clients. Covid-19 has made us grow closer as a team.
Learn New and Learn Fast
When the old way doesn’t work anymore, you need to find a new way and you need to start straight away. For example, clients were using diverse technologies and needed reassurance that we could work with their systems. We were happy to provide that reassurance. Some clients had systems that could do everything online, but most did not. Identifying ways to reshape learning and bring it to participants across all these differing environments, while maintaining our highly-engaging approach, became our key focus. We combined the resources that each client had with our own ideas and resources, creating impactful and engaging learning that clients were excited to offer to their employees.
Lockdown altered many familiar routines. In our team, it inspired us to become more flexible, more imaginative, and more selective. Crisis can be an obstacle or a catalyst, depending on how you choose to frame it. We chose the latter and as a result, it catalysed new sources of energy and ideas that we harnessed for both our clients and our own team’s development.
Justin Kinnear is Head of Research at HPC
Justin is a highly experienced facilitator and coach who advises HPC’s clients on their most pressing development issues. As well as his extensive research and facilitation experience, he was formerly Head of L&D at IBM and Britvic.