Exactly x2 months ago to the day, I posted to TDP’s Instagram account that not only was Cat coming back to TDP from maternity leave … but as Managing Director too [allowing me to take the big step into Creative Director, a position I dreamt of having 10+ years ago when I began my career in digital marketing].
Nek minnit? … bats. Apparently? I’ve avoided the super dark private groups on FB that are spinning all o’ the conspiracy theories, it’s just … too hectic for this basic-bish to keep up with in this climate, if I’m being real. #lol
But yea. Bats. And COVID. And suddenly? We’re pivoting to a full WFH workforce, and it’s just felt like one crisis after another ever since: week one? Our accountant came to my house, and explained [very gently] to me that we’d be lucky to retain 3’ish team members, and at a bare minimum? We’d need 2-3 immediate redundancies. I looked at Dave [with Muriel’s Wedding tears. Guys? I don’t think I have ever cried like I did in that moment in my entire life], and I said, “we make my role redundant, and I have 51k in savings that we cough up to cover x4 weeks of pay runs to buy more time”.
Following that? There were client losses, and there was revenue loss beyond-even-your-wildest-dreams, and then the schools closed, and following that? There were huge mental health impacts on my team [a lot of them working parents, who just didn’t ever think they’d be working full-time whilst simultaneously home-schooling little people]. There were redundancies [x1 member of our own team, which destroyed us all, and partners of my employees]. There’s been disagreements between team members that have had to be mediated [every people manager’ll know you’re *extra* wrecked after those mediation sessions], and there’s generally just been people at … their wits end with 2020 essentially turning into the year we all never really thought could possibly happen.
And throughout all o’ that? I realised the role I have to play is that of ensuring my team’s morale is as high as it can possibly be [during a crisis, because let’s be real … it’s gon’ take a beating no matter how Tony Robbin’sy I try to be], and when I thought about writing this blog post, I actually had to ask my team, “what have I [TDP] done to improve morale during this time?” … because I wasn’t really feeling like I’d done a lot, if I’m being real.
They let me know the following things really boosted morale throughout this period:
There are regular checkins
This one was easy, because we do this in a normal climate. But I basically really pulse-checked myself throughout these weeks, and whenever I was feeling especially weary? … I decided that might mean my team must be weary too, so it was on those days that I’d slide into a private message on Slack and check in on them [I usually always made sure it was coupled with good feedback related to something they’d worked on that I really personally rated].
The response was always, “wow. Weird that you’re checking in today, because today was a day I was feelin’ weary”, and I felt like saying, “yep. Me too” … but I didn’t, because then that’d take back what I was trying to do, i.e boost morale, as opposed to destroying it by letting them know their Director was f*cking cooked. #lol
My advice though? If you’re leading through a crisis, and you’re feeling weary … chances are it’s exactly the point that your team are feeling it too, so check-awn-in.
Then there’s been flexibility, because #nobrainer really
Again, this was easy for us: we’ve always had flexibility, but in a climate like this one? … you’ve never needed it more.
I reminded my team [countlessly] that we were clocking tasks, not hours. Work through the tasks whenever it suits you, and we’re happy. It doesn’t matter when or where, just as long as they get done.
And if they can’t get done? Talk to us. We can [temporarily] reduce your hours, so you’re not sitting there attempting to pull off the non-pulloff’able [not fair on anyone, but especially your employees who are attempting to home school whilst meeting urgent client deadlines].
Regular lol’s on Slack.
This one is so important.
We’re a funny workplace. We have some really funny people at work. We’re a really non-serious group of people, and I live to laugh [and spend most of my days at TDP laughing so much my sides hurt: mostly because of Bobby. She just … finds the viral videos just as they’re going viral, and we all gather around her Mac and larf-until-we-cry, but also she’s organically funny, too].
I did a strengths test recently with a business coach TDP are about to work with, and the no.1 strength for me was humour, which made me LOL [ironically] because I’m genuinely not funny [unless you count awkward AF as “humourous”] … but I decided it must mean that I rate humour highly, and I’m here to tell ya that in this climate? I rate humour highly.
Transparency of our individual struggles.
Then? I’ve been ensuring that everyone feels like they’re allowed to be transparent with their individual struggles throughout this period, because it’s a 1 in 100 year event, and I reckon you’re allowed to struggle throughout this … and let your workplace know that you’re struggling throughout this [if you are].
I’ve tried to lead by example here, and I’ve seen that through my own [measured] transparency … my team have felt like they too, could be transparent with their own struggles.
Zoom calls to break up the loneliness.
Because human beings are designed to operate best in packs, so for some of my team members? This lockdown period is the longest time in their lives they’ve been *this* isolated from the people they care about the most.
For me, it genuinely just feels like being a newborn Mum all over again, and I remember how f*cking lonely that all felt [i.e I genuinely wasn’t prepared for how lonely those days were gon’ feel].
We’ve ensured that we have regular Zoom calls to break up the loneliness: Monday AM WIPs [as per ushe], paid ads Zoom WIPs, strategy WIPs, creative pod WIPs, and bucketloads of Slack banter thrown in for good measure.
No thirsty onboarding.
This one has been imperative.
Sure, there was initial client loss … but even then? I was like, we do not “thirsty onboard” [which essentially means onboarding red flag jerks]. Reason being? I’d rather be financially unstable, then operating with a portfolio of clients who simply do not align with our values as an agency.
Nothing more morale destroying than rocking up to your “remote office” during a crisis, to do marketing-related work for arseholes.
Ensuring that I administer an oxygen mask to myself, so that I can look after others.
And then finally? I’ve tried to make sure that whilst I’m doing all o’ the above, I’m not turning into an “armchair psychologist” or life coach, or counsellor etc.
Reason being? … I’m one person, and I’m a hardcore empath, so if I don’t still do my best to operate with fairly firm boundaries in place? I’ll 1,000% end up with gastric ulcers again like I did circa July 2019.
Can 100% guarantee you won’t be able to lead throughout a crisis, if you don’t look after you too.