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Black Swans and Bread Making: Embracing The Strange

Black Swans and Bread Making: Embracing The Strange

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

There will be good days and bad days for all of you at the moment as you navigate what the impact of Covid-19 means to your colleagues, your teams and your business. And although you will of course be considerate and supportive of the wider team, we know that this situation is likely to be just as tough for you, as it is for them. Often more so, as you also might be feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders in leading at a time when the business pressures are unlike any most have ever seen and many of the answers are unknown. 

A Black Swan event is largely described as an unexpected one that has a disproportionate and disastrous effect on our economic world: think Dot Com crash in 2001 and Financial crisis of 2008. The biggies that we all know and remember. Brexit may have been deemed one of them until recently, when the ‘C’ word has well and truly knocked it out of the park. 

During such periods of disruption and change that accompany these events, people respond at different levels of intensity and speed, but my experience is that we are pretty predictable in following the Kubler-Ross ‘change’ curve, the model used to describe an individual reaction to grief and death, but which can often be applied to general responses to circumstances and which has also become known simply as the ‘Change Curve’ in the decades since the first research was undertaken.

As a leader of your business, the ‘Change Curve’ is a useful model to understand:  for now, and planning for the future. Not just with regards to understanding the reactions which your team may be having and behaviour being displayed, but because it can also help to understand, navigate and adapt your own feelings and behaviour. The last 3 weeks have brought shock and panic to most, followed by confusion and possibly anger as many realised how fast the impact of this would make on their businesses and then themselves (for many business owners of course, this is one and the same). 

Self doubt often accompanies these stages and at its worst, it develops into a form of depression:  Why couldn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t I plan something different? What am I going to do now? During this stage, productivity starts to drop and the focus on self takes over. However the good news is that – provided you don’t languish in those darker stages for too long – the next few weeks have the potential to offer something much brighter for you, as the fighter in you adapts and develops to seek new opportunities. 

You wouldn’t think that breadmaking as an activity was synonymous with energy, but it appears to be an unlikely, yet splendid, example of individuals taking actions to move themselves forward along this curve. This weekend, as images flood social media and family whatsapp groups of various batches, explanations I’ve read of our current obsession, talk of people doing this to tap into their unconscious feelings to retain a sense of control. Something we all need as a basis for moving forward.

Bread not your ‘thing’? From a business perspective – and assuming you’re not a bakery that is – what else can you do to gain this control and propel yourself forward to the ‘Acceptance’ side of the curve:

  • Keep talking to yourself: No, really… Start with the positives each day: what are you grateful for; what have you enjoyed the day before.  I promise it will help.  
  • Keep talking to others: other members of your leadership team or (if you don’t have one of those) your networking groups or advisors (we’ve been in conversations with most of our clients in the last couple of weeks and please be assured that our conversation extends way beyond HR if you’re free & keen!) 
  • Stick with some of your routines: team meetings are good as they form consistent conversations and adapt to what you are doing already. It’s likely that you have increased these in the last few weeks, however as we settle into the ‘new’ norms, be careful not to overload them or have them so frequently that you put pressure on yourself to be able to come up with answers you don’t yet have or that people won’t have actually managed to do anything agreed since the last one… For a bit of a refresher on how to get the most out of working from home generally, read (or re-read) our own general guidance here
  • And increase the frequency of others: most will agree that you need to be on top of your finances more than ever right now, making sure you scenario plan for different forecasts. 
  • Allow yourself time: by all means have a brief pity party for yourself – it’s an acknowledgement of the impact of this and shouldn’t be glossed over – but use the time you have to think of as many different ideas as you can think of for your business. Most business owners I know are not short of these, and many have come up with some of the best ideas they’ve had whilst on holiday. Whilst I’m not pretending this is a holiday for anyone, there may be times you have (gardening this Easter break at all?)  when you can tap into your own innovation and start to imagine a post-Covid world and how this might look different. On your own – be it in your head or doodling – you can rip up the rule book all you want and the world really is your oyster. This in itself is motivating and helps provide a lift to most.  
  • Decisions, decisions….: Most of you will have made some tough decisions already ( furlough, redundancy and cost cutting to name a few) and there are a few ones which will come from external forces, but the decisions I refer to here are the ones which you can take yourself which will take you mentally forward once you’ve evaluated some of your ideas. Want to develop new products or services? Double down on your purpose or client group? Or change it completely? These are the ones which I see as the opportunity for the next few weeks. Most of you will have a strong degree of impatience at your core and won’t be content to sit and wait ‘and see what happens’ , so can use the next few weeks to crystallize your decision making about the direction of your business. 

In the words of the late, great David Bowie: turn and face the strange 🙂 

We definitely can’t predict when this will end, but we can definitely be here to support you through it. For any help you need – or even if it’s just a chat you’re after  –  drop us a line via hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0207 627 7048.