6 weeks ago? … my company was in the best position it had ever been in. I could see it, and I could feel it, and I said to my husband, “this is it, babe. This is x5 years of relentless hard work, about to kick in”.
It’s incomprehensible that the most amount of security I’ve ever had in TDP’s history, went and changed … and *basically* overnight, giving most Australian small businesses less than x24 hours to process that business as they’ve always known it is about to change.
For me? I have a team of x14 beautiful [beautiful] human beings, so I’ve not just been focused on me > the economy > attempting to predict the future a la Nostre Damus, but also … considering what aspects of my leadership would have to change [and in less than x24 hours] in order to steer the TDP ship [and in some of the choppiest waters we’ve experienced as a business, no less].
I’d like to walk you through what that x24 hour leadership pivot has looked like, in case it resonates with anyone else who’s managing a team throughout all of this [or perhaps it’ll resonate with those who are employed, and wondering what leadership pivots look like in times of crisis].
We had x24 hours to move our entire company to WFH
And if there was ever a company who were going to be able to pull that off with ease? … it’s this one.
We managed to go entirely WFH within x8 hours, and I’m so grateful we’ve had all o’ the years working together and building the relationships that we have / the mateship / the camaraderie, and Slack channel banter that’s ultimately gone and built the strongest internal work dynamics, which we’re very-much-so drawing from during this full WFH period.
No matter what’s going on BTS, it’s been more important than ever that I present a strong front [because your team gon’ need it]
Now this doesn’t mean I’m channelling Liquid Man from Terminator [i.e a void-of-all-emotion robot], but it means that I’m doing my best to feel all of the feelings I’m currently feeling … and relaying them to my husband / Dad / best friend before any of those emotions are felt by my team.
It goes without saying that I imagine the whole of Australia [and the world] is waking up with the most anxious feeling in the pit of their stomachs every day, and it’s not my job to add to anyone’s anxiety by relaying any of my fears to my team.
And then almost in the same sentence, I’ve had to show a level of vulnerability I’ve never shown before
Now with that said, because I’m not Liquid Man … I did cry to our Managing Director, because I’m *human*, and we have an incredible working relationship [and have done so for years now] … and it was day 2 of all o’ this, and I was exhausted, and tired, and scared.
FYI? She was incredible.
And then she cried the next day, and I prop’d her up, and we’ve decided this is likely going to be the “tennis game” of emotion and fragility we’ll be playing for the foreseeable future, and that’s a-ok.
This hasn’t been a pivot [it’s always been our leadership approach at TDP], but more than ever? … I’ve had to reassure my team that we’re not clocking hours, but tasks being completed
This one’s easy. We’ve never been the company who’s like, “you’re leaving now?” at 5pm. Actually, most of our team leaves at 4-4.30pm, as they start at 8-8.30am to avoid traffic.
In other agencies, a pre-5pm finish is basically unheard of, but not us.
With a chunk of our workforce being working parents [and staring down the uncomfortable barrel of homeschooling their children], I’ve never had to reiterate this one more: work in shifts, work when you can, I don’t care what hours you do … we just collectively need these tasks done.
And then almost in the same sentence [again], I’ve had to ask my team for help [more help than I have ever had to ask for before]
That said, I’ve probably never needed my team to do more than they’ve ever done before, and it makes me feel uncomfortable … but we’re in the midst of a global crisis, and it’s an “above and beyond” approach I’m seriously craving from my team RN.
We’re a creative agency, which seems to statistically predispose us to high statistics of anxiety within the workplace … so I’ve had to make sure I’m managing the MH needs of my workforce exceptionally well
There’s no denying our workplace is almost fuelled by anxiety [it’s almost part-and-parcel with creative industries, and the personality types creative work attracts], and so we talk openly as an agency about our individual battles with anxiety, and we very-much-so understand what our individual triggers are … and how our anxiety individually presents within all of us.
At the moment, I’m almost full-time considering how everyone is feeling / I’m thinking of staff whose partners have lost their jobs to COVID-19 related redundancy / I’m reading our Slack threads and making sure tone is ok, and I’m assessing whether or not I need to do a “MH check-in” for anyone etc.
I’ve had to accept that everything I stand for as a leader, sometimes can’t always be seen during times of crisis
This has been the hardest part, honestly.
x6 weeks ago, I didn’t believe in after-hours work, or hustle culture, or hustling for self-worth, or running TDP the way that most agencies do [i.e prioritising profit over people], but now? My team are virtually all working beyond 8 hour days, and if I’m being honest? … I think that’s why I cried to our MD the other day.
I’ve never felt so ashamed of myself, but I was reminded by my MD, “you’ve spent years building something so strong, that you have human beings wanting to do whatever it takes to ensure we’re safe throughout all of this”.
She’s right. I know. But I still feel so ashamed that everything I stand for as the Founder of TDP [and as a human being] has almost been thrown out of the window, almost overnight.
And finally? I’ve come to the most beautiful realisation that everything I spent 5.5 years sowing [and building in my team] has translated to something really beautiful this week [at a time where I’ve never needed to see that beauty more]
It’s that saying that everyone says, but it’s true, “if you build it, they come” … and I’m seeing that in my workplace. I built it. I blood/sweat/tears’d it. I worked relentlessly hard, and I grew a beautiful team of beautiful human beings, and now? 5.5 years later? They’re asking myself [and each other] every-single-f*cking-day, “what can I do to help you?” … and they’re doing the work.
We’re working 12 hour days. We’re hustling [I hate that word]. We’re innovating. We’re pep talk’ing each other. We’re remaining seriously optimistic, and we’re expressing our appreciation for each other: on the reg.
And I’m proud. Indescribably proud. #truestory
6 weeks ago, my company was in the best position it’s ever been in, and I’m grateful … because it means we’re in a much better position to wade through this horrific, uncertain time in the lives of so many Australian businesses.
I’m thinking of you all.
Let’s please help each other throughout this period, as much as feasibly possible. #bettertogether