It’s June 2020. I mark the date as the world is in a particular state of flux: the prevalence of the Covid-19 virus is still determining what is safe and not safe to do and this judgement varies across the world.

As I write today from the UK, I hear on the radio of people queuing outside non-essential stores as they open for business for the first time since lockdown was announced mid- February. The murder of George Floyd in the US has sparked protests, peaceful and otherwise around the world giving an impetus to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The juxtaposition of mandatory distancing and scenes of impassioned mass protest creates an area for comment that would not happen if these events were separated in history. On another level there is some irony in the existence of a literal virus serving as a backdrop to the insidious virus of racism and abuse of power.

Against this background of seismic world events each of us is living a life which is distanced from the normal of a few months ago.

Think of the new language that has entered our everyday lexicon: social distancing, viral load, self-isolation, the “r” quotient, furloughing, PPE, to name a few.

What about the new visuals: crosses on the ground where you must stand, Perspex separating till operators from customers, arrows directing the flow of traffic around a shop, sanitary stations where you can clean trolleys, baskets, and hands before being called forth into a supermarket as another customer departs.

Other new norms, such as jumping aside when out walking to let someone pass at a safe distance or nodding ruefully to those you would normally kiss and hug. Feeling constantly worried about your loved, vulnerable ones.

I don’t know what to call this period of the lockdown.

It’s no longer the beginning and I don’t know if it’s quite the middle or even the end. And perhaps that is also a reflection of the strange way I’m now feeling.

The beginning was more definitive, and it was new. I’m not saying it didn’t bring its own challenges, but perhaps there was a different, fresher energy to deal with it.

Feeling a bit vulnerable myself, I’m wondering what lessons to draw from leadership – of self and others, and in case any of this resonates, perhaps it can help you too.

To begin with, just listing all the differences and changes that have already happened trigger my self-compassion. There is a lot going on!

Cut yourself some slack – no one has ploughed this furrow before (which is not to say that others haven’t ploughed their own difficult furrows in the past or in other ways).

Know that a degree of concern, nerves, anxiety just makes you normal.

Then ask yourself those famous Covey* questions:

  • What can I control?
  • What can I influence?
  • What, despite my concerns, have I no control or influence over?

Even better – gather the family  –ask and answer these questions together.

Know also that it’s easier to think of the things that are lost rather than imagining what might be gained. Perhaps that’s another question to think of:

  • When this is over what might we have gained and how may we continue to treasure these gifts?

That leads me to compassion for others

  • What are their needs?
  • What might be causing burn-out and fatigue?
  • What could be instigated to refresh or renew flagging energy and tired perspectives?

We’re neither at the beginning, nor quite at the end

So Kanter’s Law (she’s a professor at Harvard Business School) has popped into my head:

“In the middle everything looks like failure.”

It’s just the way of things – think of any project, at home or at work you’ve ever gone through and what makes the tale worth telling is how it came good despite the budget falling through, or how you climbed some unsurmountable hurdle, or how a challenge sparked a creative solution.

I suppose the question then is, for that to be the case, how do we have to be for ourselves and others?

How are you managing the middle?

Answers on a postcard please…or easier, we’d love to hear your comments below!

5 + 7 =

*From the 7 Habits of Habits of Highly Effective People

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