Calm. Balance. And now… Reflection.
It’s been a ‘journey’ and then some for all us humans the past few months. It feels churlish to complain about the impact it’s had on me, I've been lucky. Compared to the vast majority of those cut down by the virus, the restrictions and/or the massive economic impact, it’s been a socially distanced walk in the park.
However, self-deprecation aside, across life and work there has been an impact that has to be recognised. There were of course situations in lockdown and subsequent restrictions I could have handled better — relationships, projects, work, parenting, life.
Recent weeks have been a time to rally, take stock and reflect on everything learned, broken, made better, ignored and left unchanged. With the trials of 2020 (and let's be honest the previous few years) leaving a large and growing stain on 2021 still, what can we do to continually improve our situations in work and home lives? And how do we positively impact others around us? Leave nothing unsaid nor assumed.
Of course, it’s far from just being negative — they tell us growth comes through adversity and there are numerous examples to look to for encouragement and a positive outlook, as we kick-off a new (yet still rather familiar) year and the continuing challenges we will face.
So in the interests of transparency and ‘to hell with it’ openness, here’s my reflection — twisted and ever-changed...
First things first:
Priorities needed to shift in a situation that was fluid, with very little certainty. It took a little time, but you know what? Focus did shift, and is still shifting. Of course, the business and our own individual lives had to have a level of solidity, so working productively was still important but to what level is reasonable?
We had to find that line of enough productivity that is a fair expectation in this climate vs. what does the business need to continue to support our clients and ourselves? That is a tough equation for anyone to work out and probably the #1 concern I still have.
“Trust those in the ‘room’ (or 'in the Zoom' I suppose) to understand the project, relate to the client and nail it from there..."
Yes, I should have embraced remote working earlier in my life BUT it’s not the only answer to a balanced work-life. As many have already said, a mix of remote and studio based work is the ideal.
How that develops over the next year or so will be fascinating to be part of, but what’s clear is the team like working together at home and they like working together in the flesh (just ask them!). A balance must be found — and it will be.
Trust and be trusted:
Even with a flatter hierarchy, we all must trust our colleagues to use their skills to get the work done. Trust those in the ‘room’ (or 'in the Zoom' I suppose) to understand the project, relate to the client and nail it from there.
This is not just for managers and owners but for all who work as part of a team — trust those around you and they will trust you. Pushing each other to be better is of course part of this, but trusting your team is an essential part of building a team is at the core of success, however you measure it.
Me, me, me:
I figured out the kind of leader/colleague I want to be. Being conscious to the needs and well-being of everyone involved whilst also wanting the best for us, the clients and the broader industry has always been my motivation if not within my full capability yet. But like I say, we are all growing and evolving and I know my direction of travel and the level I want to reach.
Commitments have been made and plans have been hatched. You can see the start of this with the creation of Conscious Leaders Scotland, of which I am a founding member.
“Skills are important but understanding how they fit within a team is where it really starts to sing.”
Choose what you do best:
I’ve also worked out what I’m good at and what I’m not so good at. I'm doing more of the former and worrying less about the latter. Everyone at FortyTwo has capabilities that others in the team do not possess — that’s what makes us a team, after all. Skills are important but understanding how they fit within a team is where it really starts to sing.
I will challenge everyone to think about this too — what do you want to do, what does the business need and what are you great at?
I have also better defined the type of work I want to be involved with — and, fortunately, we are already involved in some of it. I know the team share much of it too but I’m also interested in where their unique interests lie too. Over time, we will look to develop a plan together.
The economy is unpredictable and the sectors within have a lot of tough times ahead, but we know where the potential lies in Scotland. Despite the short-term problems many are finding themselves in, there is real potential of a bright and creative Scotland — we are part of that and will continue to be.
Double down on your strategy:
As per my previous post, this is not a time for half measures. Even with everything that is happening, we know we need to continue our growth even if the timescale shifts.
Show confidence to everyone around you by being more determined than ever with your strategy — communicate your vision and how you plan to get there. Be honest about what lies ahead and keep everyone abreast of how things develop. Your goals are still your goals, but being resilient will keep you on course. It may be rockier, so take your time and wear better boots.
On Reflection, In Summary...
I am more determined than ever to build a team, business and reputation that celebrates and nurtures mutual success, respect and support. If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that there are many things you can’t control — so do your level best to avoid stressing about them. Concentrate on where to be better and go ahead and do it.
On reflection, this post is really about being better at what you do and who you are — colleague, parent, partner, person — but that realisation only comes when you look at yourself first and decide to change.
It’s a powerful and cathartic experience… do it.
Mark Kemp - MD, FortyTwo Studio