Recently I’ve been having lots of conversations with our clients about how we can support them in these strange circumstances that we all find ourselves in.
I’m fortunate to have some great clients, and have the opportunity to support culture and leadership development across many sectors, and to be honest, I often use these chats and the stories we share to generate new ideas.
One of these chats really stood out though with a guy called John. John runs a service support business, he has around 200 staff who are normally based in one building. We were talking about how all of his team were currently working from home, how this was working and how he felt this experience would change how he operated in the future.
The language John used was stark, honest, heartfelt and brutally honest saying:
“When all this goes away, I don’t have the right to just ask people to come back to the office as if nothing’s happened”
I asked him to explain what he meant:
“in the past as an employer I’ve asked all my team to spend up to an hour each way travelling to come and sit in the office. I’ve asked them to spend a significant chunk of their wages on their travel arrangements, and because of that it’s also a negative impact on our environment. The past 6 weeks have shown me that I needn’t ask them to do that, we were all just doing it because that’s what we’ve always done…”
John said that about 80% of the work people were doing was just fine with them working at home. Not all of it was perfect, of course, but its early days he felt that with some adjustments to processes, and crucially to how he measured performance, and how he and his managers managed people, lots of this could be made to work in the long run.
John felt he had a choice now, commenting:
“My culture won’t change because of covid-19, it already has, it changed on March 23rd when we were all sent home, I can choose to ignore that fact or use it. If I ignore it and ask all my team to come back to the office as if nothing happened, it won’t be long before one of them will quite rightly asks ‘why’. To be honest I don’t have an answer for that, because there isn’t one. I need to not only admit that, but have a plan because of it.
I owe it to my team to have a plan that recognises that things have changed, that we can’t just do what we did before. If I don’t i’m damn sure someone else will, possibly one of my competitors, and if that in turn means that some of my great people become their great people then there’s no greater loss to my business”.
One of the things our conversation highlighted that had changed, because of the flexibility they were now working with, was that relationships across the business were now being conducted in different circumstances. People were working on projects without so much human contact, managers were managing at distance, the culture of the organisation was evolving through technology and communication routes had changed.
As part of our plan and one of the tools we're using to support the changes in John’s business, to embed the change in culture and define what John’s organisation needs to think through and prioritise in future, is FIRO. FIRO measures the building blocks of effective working relationships and reveals how individuals can shape and adapt their behaviour to build trust and influence. It’s a great tool for leadership teams to understand how during times of change they need to recognise different things in themselves and in others. FIRO accelerates the speed at which trust is built by increasing the teams' understanding of relationships and provides tactics for developing stronger bonds between individuals.
John’s team are learning a lot about how to accelerate the change their culture has already experienced, how to embed the change that has already taken place, and how to lead their organisation in its version of the ‘new norm’ that all organisations will need to find.
If you’d like to know more about how FIRO, or any of the other work, we do in culture and leadership development can support your organisation then drop us a line so that when one of your team asks…
‘how are we going to work in the future?’ you have a plan, because you will need one!
Get proactive, don’t wait until you have to react because you may find that your people have reacted before you…