Is mindfulness cultural appropriation? Taking ancient wisdom, Gentrifying, then westernising it. What about yoga pants? Cladding age old poses, In a smooth lycra skin. And Swing Low Sweet Chariot? Transported from cotton plantations, Chanted atop a fallow cabbage patch. Trendy Polynesian tattoos? Tracing generations of iconography, So the hench, can ask, “Do you even lift, bro?” Or what of Disney? Fencing free moving folk lore, In a theme park of intellectual property. Christmas! Why leave out Christmas? Baptising Saturnalia, So pagans imbibed the Word. And why leave out the Indian flag? Using Ashoka's over-looked Chakra, To spin a secular democracy.
I’m running 10 miles in October for a very good cause, the Rays of Sunshine charity. I hate running but I do like a challenge and I need to drop the lockdown weight (and the weight I’d put on before that).
Donate here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/AgeasRunners
A good way to achieve a big goal is to break it up into smaller goals.
So, in order to bash out 10 miles in October, I’m planning to run 10k at the end of August. Saturday 29 August, to be exact.
I thought I’d use it as an opportunity to raise funds. So, I’m dubbing it the weird beard 10k. Mention your favourite from the options below when you donate. If you’ve already donated, just drop me a note with your choice. I’ll keep a tally and run 10k with that beard at the end of August.
Donate here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/AgeasRunnersOptions:
- Half and half
- Mutton chops
I firmly believe companies should do good. I believe it’s the right thing to do. I also think it’s commercially beneficial in the long run. However, these are merely beliefs. I have no evidence.
I’ve read about (and occasionally leafed through) studies that show companies who score better on ESG metrics outperform their peers. I’ve done the same for studies that show more diverse companies outperform the market. This correlation is heart-warming, but it’s not evidence in the strictest sense.
To gather evidence about companies that do good being better than companies that don’t is no easy task. There are too many variables to control for and too many subjective opinions about “good” and “better”. It would require making a lot of assumptions.
It is too broad a subject for a single article. However, we can begin our journey by asking some fundamental questions.
What’s the half-life of a good deed?
Does a company doing something nice for you leave you more loyal to them? For how long does that loyalty last?
What’s the half-life of a bad deed?
Does a company screwing you over make you less likely to use them in the future? For how long does this animosity last?
Which half-life is longer? Good or bad?
What’s the half-life of a generally good deed?
If you haven’t personally benefitted from a company’s good actions, but have heard about them, are you better disposed towards that company? For how long?
What’s the half-life of a generally bad deed?
If you haven’t personally lost out from a company’s poor actions, but have heard about them, are you less disposed towards using that company’s goods or services? For how long?
Does availability affect the half-life?
If it is everywhere and convenient, do you get over the bad deed more quickly? Does the good deed last longer?
Does frequency affect the half-life?
If you use a good or service all the time, does a deed have a more or less material impact? If you rarely need the good or service, what’s the effect?
Does repetition affect the half-life?
If a deed is repeated, does it lead to any deeper level of meaning and lengthen the half-life? If a deed isn’t repeated but tales of it are, what’s the impact?
Does price affect the half-life?
If something’s cheap, do you ignore the misdemeanour? If it’s dear, are you willing to pay a premium for good deeds?
These questions obviously probe around ideas of trust, reputation, brand and purpose. They also come from an unapologetically commercial angle. I share them because I’ve been thinking about them a fair bit and I don’t know the answers.
My belief is that bad deeds have greater impact than good ones. That personal experience is more meaningful than broad gestures. That the half-life of a good deed is very short indeed. And, regardless of all that, companies should do good because it is the right thing to do. There need be no greater justification.
We’re a few weeks into the Coronavirus outbreak in the UK and as things begin to settle slightly, I’ve begun thinking about how I’ve handled managing a team during the crisis, what I’ve learned and what I’d do differently.
The world went crazy. Work turned upside down. People were stockpiling bog roll. A frenetic energy seemed to build within us. Where does it go? How do you channel it?
If you’re spending eight or so hours a day working, what do you do with that nervous energy? What if you’re not busy? Worse, what if you’re at home and not busy but in every meeting and message and email you constantly hear from people about how manically they are? How does that make you feel?
From my own personal experience, the first two weeks were absolutely manic. I mean long hours, short notice, fast turnaround busy. Then the pace slackened a little for about four days. Then it ramped up again. Quickly. The frenetic energy, however, never went away.
These peaks and troughs of workload, along with the restlessness can lead to emotionally challenging days. Big things are happening and you’re part of it and you feel like you’re contributing. Perfect. But when you’re not called upon, those big things continue and you’re not contributing and you can feel shut out. It’s difficult on a personal level, and it’s even harder in terms of people management.
Personally, I was slow to cotton on to the issue until a conversation with a friend really unlocked it for me. Without that conversation, I’m not confident that I’d have picked up on it even now.
From a management perspective, I’ve found framing the issue as one of importance versus urgency has helped. That everyone’s role is important, but the urgency with which that work needs to be delivered moves around as the crisis unfolds. Different people and different teams are in the thick of it at different times, but at all times the work is important and valued. I’ve kept reiterating this message.
One of the core skills of management is prioritisation. What’s urgent, what’s important, and what’s nice to have? These things should be pretty easy to identify. In a crisis situation, where things are changing quickly and there’s little reliable information, it can be harder. But I think the real issue is that urgent list can become long very quickly.
In recent weeks, I’ve discovered that real progress is only made if you’re able to clear the urgent list and knock some things off the important list. This is hard. It might mean long hours for a period. It also probably requires a lot of delegation. And, more productively, a hard look at what is genuinely urgent and genuinely important. This latter point will require a fair bit of upwards management.
There’s also an element of bravery involved. Many things will be urgent and, if you had the resource, you’d do them, but you don’t. So make the call that they’re not going to happen. This is important. It prevents burn out, both personal and team. It also protects quality of output; tired, stretched teams do not produce good work. Prioritising isn’t just about the order of things, it’s about saying, “No.”
It’s important to remember here that prioritising things isn’t productive or an outcome in itself. It’s a skill to aid productivity. So if you’re wondering whether or not you’re prioritising things well at the moment, ask yourself if you feel like you’re making progress.
Are you coping? And I don’t mean, “Is the work getting done?”
Too often resilience is synonymous with toughness or persistence, but this is unnecessarily macho. If you’re resilient, you can take the knocks because you and your set up are able to recognise and adjust to the setbacks and the pressure.
That means recognising the signs of fatigue and stopping. It means switching off and not thinking about work. Resilience is about keeping yourself productive over the long run. It means knowing there’s a limit to the late-nighters and the challenges you can set as ‘growth opportunities’. It doesn’t mean shielding your team from a heavy workload by doing it yourself, or delegating so much work that your team breaks.
Personally, after the first three weeks, I recognised that I was running on empty and took three days off. I’ve encouraged my team to take time off, even at short notice. These are challenging times. People come first. Work comes second.
Breaking through the screen
It’s hard to sense the tension in the Zoom. It’s even harder to sense the tension outside the Zoom. How do you manage people if you don’t know how they feel? Well, part of that is down whether you were managing people well before the crisis. Regardless, it’s important to watch out for how your team are doing by keeping in touch more often than usual.
I’ve also taken to giving advice when it’s not been sought. This might be frustrating at times, and I try to not go overboard, but I think the messages of ‘look after yourself’ and ‘how are you feeling?’ and ‘make sure you’re switching off’ cannot be repeated too often at present.
I’d love to hear more views on this. How are you managing your team? What have you learned? What’s worked? What hasn’t? Equally, how have you been managed during the crisis? What’s grated? What’s helped. Give me a shout over on twitter @kchadda.
Optimistic corporate purposes are white-washing reality.
The last few years have seen the eulogising of purpose. And I applaud this. I’ve written before of how worthy an idea purpose is. I do, however, find it surprising how many companies have, after extensive soul searching, settled on a purpose that basically says they’re going to save the planet and help people.
These are noble sentiments and it would be churlish to question them. But I hope it’s not bad form to suggest that some companies are getting a little ahead of themselves. They keep talking about the destination but the journey isn’t really clear.
The silencing power of say-do gaps
Let’s take a recent example. Companies have rediscovered their love of an international day. These calendar dates, once the preserve of activists and the occasional internal comms memo, have become a core part of every company’s corporate narrative.
For International Women’s Day, there was a flood of posts from companies across all sectors talking about the brilliance of many women who work for them. It doesn’t take much effort for the slightly curious to look up the gender pay gap reporting of these firms and wonder why, if they value female employees so much, they don’t pay them the same as men?
The rhetoric is ahead of the reality. But few will speak up and call it out. Activists and the disgruntled might. However, those without a platform or an agenda won’t. Employees (current and future) won’t, because it would be career limiting. Suppliers won’t, because it could be commercially costly. There is a cacophony of silence around these crowing corporate announcements that is troubling.
Cheap talk costs reputations
Mental health is another case in point. Recently, a lot companies have picked up on mental wellbeing as a talking point. Yet a huge amount of survey evidence exists to say that workers are more stressed than ever.
I’m being careful not to name names here (see my previous point about dissension being career-limiting). But I am concerned that this constant, incessant positivity seems to fly in the face of reality.
Is all really for the best in these the best of all corporations?
No, of course it isn’t. Companies are full of people with good intentions doing good things but inevitably bad things happen. There are side-effects and unintended consequences. We might not like them but we cannot wish them out of existence.
And even if people don’t call you out on it, they are thinking it. It is costing companies in trust and reputation. People don’t always tell you that they think less of you.
I suspect one of the reasons these positive messages roll forward so readily is the low cost of owned channels, particularly corporate websites, where firms can say what they want. So they do. And it turns out what they want to say is anodyne, self-serving drivel.