Insight to Action?

Insights

These are interesting times. It seems to me that we are moving out of something of a “phoney war” represented by a combination of fear and novelty to something altogether more substantial.

As the reality of furloughs bite, redundancies become real, and the sheer boredom as we go into a fifth week of seemingly unending lockdown, many people are seeing their world differently.

Whether it’s the time to reflect, the forced change of habit, or the requirement to innovate their lives, insights worm their way into consciousness.

Maybe the commute that was part of the routine is seen for what it is – around 20% of or workday spent like a sardine practicing, and 12.5% of our waking hours.

Maybe the fact that working from home is much more feasible than we imagined.

Maybe the realisation that along with the banter in the office, there is also the politics and the unending meetings.

Perhaps the idea that there is a better way – as yet indeterminate, but a possibility making its presence felt.

Two futures?

These few weeks are important. We are in a liminal space – a time of “betwixt and between” between our previous routines, and a new set once this particular crisis passes its peak.

The easy route, to a future given to us by others is to go with the flow and accept what comes.

The alternative route, to give your insights room to grow. To nurture them and watch them grow like the nature outside your door right now. To explore possibility. To entertain the idea of a second future, driven by you.

To start becoming what you are capable of.

Riskier? – almost certainly.

Transformational? – very possibly.

Exploring

These few weeks are precious. They will come again, but almost certainly without warning and not when you’re ready.

There will be more events like Coronavirus. Maybe another pandemic, maybe an impact of climate change, perhaps the impact of technology. we can be generally certain that these events will happen, but not specifically when – which is why we ignore them.

Not a good idea.

I don’t this is a blip. It’s a rehearsal.

Action

Instead, we can learn from what is happening to us and prepare:

  • Make a list of what’s been bad about this crisis, and what you’ve valued in it.
  • Write down what you’ve learned about the importance of what you do. Is your job the coffee, or the capuccino froth?
  • Consider how you have been treated by your employer during this time. Some have been exceptional; more have not.
  • Write a letter to yourself from your future self five years from now, explaining why you made the decisions you are about to make, what happened next, and the surprises that took you to where you are.
  • Explore possibility with those you trust.
  • Give yourself options.

We cannot predict the future, because it hasn’t happened yet

Margaret Heffernan

We all have a choice of two futures. Use this time to compare them.

Honesty is not a Policy

What is happening right now is shining a huge spotlight on dishonest statements.

“Our people are our most important asset”

“We are totally dedicated to customer satisfaction”

“Beside you all the way”

Corporates who owe primary loyalty to shareholders can never make these sort of statements with any honesty. They owe their existence and prime loyalty to shareholders, and unless every employee, including the Board, have these statements engraved on their hearts, it won’t happen. It takes very few transgressions, by very few employees, to create enough exposure to make a lie of the statement.

Founder run organisations are often different. The soul of the founder runs through it, for good or bad, and there have been inspiring examples I have seen, from founders giving the business to employees as they retire, to those sticking by employees till the ship goes down. The lifeboat was not an option.

As individuals, we have nowhere to hide. We cannot have honesty as a policy.

We either are, or we’re not.

We may slip. Most of us do, more often than we like. But we know, and feel what we’ve slipped from. It’s visible to others, and they will forgive the slips when they know we’re trying.

The fragmentation that is being caused by Covid-19 will reposition many of us, by choice or accident.

If that happens, it doesn’t change who we are, and that is what matters. In the end, organisations of any sort are just assemblies of people around a set of assets.

We have a choice to regroup, to bring our real selves to the surface and brush off the compromises we may have had to make to survive in the organisations that are disappearing.

It will give us a challenge, but also an opportunity to choose again.

To be honest, to choose ourselves, and pay more attention to who we associate with and lend our talents to.

You’re on stage. Smile.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.

William Shakespeare

We’re all actors in our own play

Today, in a coronavirus, artificial intelligence, climate crisis driven environment we are all actors in an improvised play. We do not know what the next line to be spoken is, or where the play will end.

How then should we now behave?  Perhaps like an actor.

Few professions demand so much training and commitment and reward it with so little certainty, and so few prospects of security.

Most actors spend time between roles and they rarely just sit there waiting for work to turn up.

They know that there are others who can play the roles they want, even if they are convinced no-one else can play the part quite like them.

They spend the time, depending on where they are in their careers, doing everything from washing dishes to make ends meet, to immersing themselves in things from which they will learn. Sometimes they write. Sometimes they explore. At no time do those who last just cruise.

Most of us, me included, are operating at only a fraction of our capacity. We know we are capable of more, but experience huge resistance to developing our potential through a combination of fear of failure, to convincing ourselves our current comfortable life is something we deserve because of the work we have put in. 

What does your agent / employer think?

So how at any point should we rate our prospects? If investors had bought stock in our, how would that stock be valued? What would our price to earnings ration be?

Are they buying us for the prospect of growth, or for a safe, regular dividend on their investment in us?

If what we are doing represents real value, that value can be realised regardless of our current employer, our P/E would be high, and our shares in demand. 

If however all we are doing is providing dividend – a short term return on what we are being paid, then under pressure, our personal stock price is likely to collapse. 

What part do we want to play?

How might we think about our value? 

What is is that we understand, or access, or can do that is difficult to replicate?

How have we grown that in the last year; the last five years?

What are we exploring, and learning? How are we innovating ourselves?

It’s really easy to stall. Early success resulting in a comfortable income in comfortable company.

Reality is that very few of us are motivated by money on some sort of a linear basis. Those who study happiness think there’s a flattening off of the money motivation curve at around $75,000 a year. Beyond that, it’s as much about ego and power as it is about money, and the people motivated by that are a minority.

Being comfortable is a dangerous place to be. It’s ok when things are relatively stable, and business models last for a period of years. Until even quite recently, it was possible to fuel a moderate, comfortable career off the back of a good education and a large, recognised name employer.

Now, that’s dangerous. The career half life resulting from being a one hit wonder is rapidly reducing. Our past success is what the finance people think of as a sunk cost. It’s behind you, and no guarantee of future performance. 

What stage are you at?

Shakespeare talked of seven ages of man:

  • Stage One: Infancy
  • Stage two: Childhood
  • Stage three: Adolescence
  • Stage Four: Youth
  • Stage Five: Mid-Life
  • Stage Six: Senescence
  • Stage seven: Dotage

I think our careers follow a similar pattern, and that many of us stop when we get to mid life on an assumption that we can somehow stay there. 

I don’t think we ever could really, but now, in current and emerging circumstances, we certainly can’t.

So, what to do?

  1. Check in with yourself. How much are you learning from what you do versus how much is repetition. How youthful does your career feel?
  2. How much does what you do engage and excite you. (Clue: if it doesn’t, welcome to stage six, Sensecence)
  3. How much of what you do will be eaten away by technology?
  4. How are you developing the human side of you, your unique qualities, the part that cannot be replaced?
  5. What are you doing to explore new areas that challenge? Who are you talking to, who has your interests at heart,  who will challenge you?

Coronavirus is not a one off event. It’s a stage call. Are you ready?