Isolation has lifted…is lifting…might soon be lifted. A global reverse-Mexican wave of lockdown being lightened. During this time there have been millions…billions of different experiences and lessons. Here I’d like to offer you a moment to pause and consider the ONE SINGLE THING that has been at the heart of it all. Know this and normal life will never be the same again.
We can do this at a practical level, considering what’s worked and what hasn’t, lifting and dropping what’s worked into the world as we re-enter it.
These could be things like ‘we had this kind of meeting, at this frequency and it worked’ or ‘we travelled less and it improved productivity’. All good. these might keep being successful back in normal land. And they might not. We can’t know because the circumstances will have changed.
So instead I’d like to invite you to a deeper level of realisation about what’s made your working from home experiences so successful at this time. When you know this it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, you’ll be aligned with your innate brilliance which is perfectly designed for the now — whatever that now entails.
Let’s start from the practical content of what’s been experienced. These are the kinds of things my clients have realised:
- We can make decisions well and quickly when we are in the here and now and just getting on with it.
- We feel more connected with colleagues despite being remote: there’s been an understanding of limitations of circumstances, laughter about cats knocking over tea during meetings, wearing-daft-head-gear-day for the video call, taking time to understand how people are doing beyond the task list, fundamentally being real and human with each other.
- Our teams are capable and trustworthy and don’t need to be watched or monitored
- We can work remotely, removing the need for the vast majority of business travel. And many who thought they could never do a video call are now using tech creatively to keep in touch
- When we’re not concerned about doing it ‘right’ (because this is, of course, unprecedented — no rule book) we find life is alive and fulfilling and we do it brilliantly
Behind, beneath, before each of these experiences is the ONE thing which either gets in the way or which disappears and sets us free.
The one thing — an idea of me
Let me elaborate using one of those examples: a meeting.
In normal life, in a meeting, we’ve donned our ‘work me’ cap. There’s a ‘me’ I want to show in this world because it seems like it’s a competition. I need to fight for my place. It’s dog-eat-dog don’t you know, winners never quit and all that. Performance ratings, salary bands, promotions above others. I need to show I’m capable and on it and professional and can answer all the hard questions and can ask hard questions too.
Plus we’re in the office — the place the mind has correlated to all those attitudes — and we’ve got our properly-studious-looking notebook. We’ve just dashed from the last meeting to this (extra ‘me’ kudos points) and we make it clear at the start ‘I’m back to back today, can we make sure we finish on time’ — yes I am that important.
But now, we’ve just got up from the sofa to make a cuppa and have rolled into our favourite zoom-call seat, chosen because it has an alright background or because it’s the best for wifi, or it’s quite away from the kids or dogs, or…no reason, just this seat.
Maybe we’ve put on a smarter top for the call — maybe — but comfy trousers or even pj’s are still holding us in that relaxed space.
And now, given work can’t happen in the normal way, the normal rules have been forgotten. Performance reviews seem less important, there’s not the chest-puffing competition that comes with being in the office (and I’m not just talking about men here) and — in the absence of anyone really knowing what’s happening or what will happen next — we’re feeling enlivened by the ‘cliff hanger’ state. A mixture of excitement and trepidation. Edge of the seat stuff. Curious about what the next curveball will be.
In this ‘now’ experience, the ‘me’ isn’t getting much of a look-in. Maybe it’s popping up here and there when it considers what to wear or how the hair looks on screen but, unlike in the office, it’s not now the predominant position being taken. And so now, in the absence of an idea of me, the team get a real you and you get a real them and more effective conversations happen and more productive work gets done and more timely decisions get made based on ‘what we know now’ — because really, what else have we ever known?
It’s not been about homeworking or less commuting or unprecedented circumstances — not really. The ONE THING at the heart of it all is whether there’s an idea of me present or not.
So what’s made the idea of me disappear?
Although it could look like the ‘me’ has gone because we’re not in the office, or because we’re travelling less, or because we’re at home feeling more relaxed, or because we’re working in unprecedented territory, these experiences are not causal to having a more fulfilling, connected, productive or easier time.
There will be plenty of people who are missing their commute and feeling stroppy with their family. There will be plenty of people for whom home is not relaxing and they’ll be living on edge. Including for you — your experience of home, or travel, or meetings, is not causal to how you feel. If they were causal you’d feel the same about them all the time, every single time. Or at least pretty similar. And you don’t. (And you must tell me if you do because you’d be the first person on the planet and we’d need to get you in the Guinness Book of Records!!)