Wow, what a year it has been. If you had come to any of us just 12 months ago and said that we would spend all of the next year in some form of lockdown, we would have called you crazy. And yet – here we are. As the world has fought this invisible enemy, we’ve all had our lives radically altered in every way imaginable. We won’t ever be the same.
This really resonates with me, as the person I was just 12 months ago is very different to the one writing this today. Of course, the major shift in my life has been the founding and early building of Connex Leadership Networks, which has been a rollercoaster to say the least. Building a new organisation in the middle of a global pandemic is hard enough, but when you consider that the whole premise of what we were building was to connect people – it could have been even harder.
That’s why I’ve been so encouraged by the culture and atmosphere we’ve been able to cultivate so far. It’s been very fulfilling to see how our members have taken some of the learnings from our programmes and applied them to get real results in their organisations. We’re only just getting started, but I’m confident we’re on the right track.
In this light of gratitude, I thought I would briefly reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned after one year in lockdown, in the hope that it might help you crystallise what really matters:
- Mental health matters. Being locked inside for long periods of time and trying to live our lives through screens has really been challenging from a psychological perspective. I’ve felt the same fatigue and lack of connection that all of us have and it’s been a good reminder about how crucial our mental health actually is. I’m hoping that we continue to dismantle the stigma around it so that people feel comfortable asking for help and taking time to work on their mental health. It’s all we have at the end of the day. Without it, nothing else we do will make a dent.
- New Habits. As our world has been shifted up side down, we’ve all had to reckon with the way we do things and whether we can re-examine those habits. From a business perspective, leaders have an opportunity to do things differently. They don’t have to go back to the way things used to be. They can take the learnings from this period and cultivate new habits and operating principles. One of the key changes that I’ve taken on board is the shift away from traditional offices and to a more flexible and new-age way of working. As the pandemic subsides we’re likely to see a sharp rise in the use of collaborative spaces that will change the way we work for the better. I think the days of an office where you’re at the same desk from 9-5 are over. We can carve a new path, without being held back by how we used to do things.
- Inclusiveness. The pandemic has started a range of conversations about globalisation and how our society is structured. We’ve had a lot of time to argue with each other on social media and think more deeply about the challenges we still face when it comes to race, gender, and the like. Normally, everyone is so busy that we don’t get these opportunities to talk so openly about these things – but this pandemic has opened up that space. I, for one, hope that the discussions around inclusivity and empathy continue as we move toward the new normal. It’s not something we can ignore and I’m optimistic about what open conversations can do to move the needle.
- Brexit. Ah yes, that dreaded B-word. After years of back and forth, we saw Brexit finally come into full effect over the past year and its long-term implications are still to be seen. But it has changed the way we think about the UK’s future both in Europe and in how the rest of the world sees us. Here on the ground, it would appear that we are more confident and less anxious over the future. However, political polarisation remains a key part of the equation, so only time will tell as to its implications. Nonetheless, it has been a stark reminder that we cannot take things for granted, things are never as certain as they might appear.
- Perspective. As humans we desire certainty. And this pandemic has turned that on its head, forcing us to reckon with parts of ourselves that we can normally ignore. The empty space that we normally fill with busy work became an opportunity for reflection. I found this a scary, but very fulfilling activity because it gave me a chance to take a step back and gain a new perspective on my life. I thought a lot about what truly mattered, and what gets in the way of those things. I hope that the epiphanies carry forward in both my personal life and in the way I run my business going into the rest of 2021. We all need to carry this rare moment of perspective with us as we shape our lives in the future. Otherwise, we end up wasting this crisis.
It’s been a crazy time and we’re not out of the woods just yet. But with some luck, we’ll emerge from this period stronger than ever and ready to take on the world once more.