Doing the Impossible in the Epoch of COVID-19 – Not letting this crisis go to waste!

Cora Lynn Heimer Rathbone

Out of the mouth of babes … How would you answer the following four questions posed during a socially distanced VE day encounter?

From L, aged 8: “When will this distressing chaos end?”

From R, aged 6: “And when will people stop dying of coronavirus?” “When will the shops reopen?” “When will we get back to school?”

My answer: “Slowly. So, for starters, how can we make this less distressing and less chaotic yet continue to follow the science and maintain social distance? As for shops, we can still go online. As for school, how can we do school through online platforms and love learning?” (And so I came away with an order for a red Ninja Turtle from the 4 year-old brother … duly purchased, awaiting arrival😊)

This is a time for being creative. All around us people are doing things they didn’t think possible before.

Not to boast but to be concrete about doing things we didn’t think possible before, for us at Rathbone Results, in the last two months:

1.We’ve won significant assignments from organisations and senior leaders that we have not met in person. Initial conversations on Zoom led to proposals which we walked through on Zoom. With one organisation, references taken, the CEO and MD signed their contract 12 working days after our initial Zoom exchange.

2.We’ve continued supporting clients – and increasingly teams – to weigh up options, take time-sensitive decisions in lockdown and make sense of possible futures which will emerge, before we know it, as lockdown gradually unfurls. (PS: Nothing builds trust like working together on a share issue.)

3.We’ve completed strategic assignments using proprietary approaches that have involved double-digit stakeholders, all together and at once on Zoom. (Love the “break-out” facility!)

4.Perhaps most notably, I have facilitated strategy sessions for two new clients – both substantial growth enterprises. One assignment completed last week with a debrief of their strategic plan -which I documented, a synthesis of their discussions over several non-consecutive days. Result? A totally bought-into strategy that the team is galvanised to implement. From the MD of the “completed” strategy: “Feedback is incredibly positive. It’s been very interesting to see the change in attitude (for the better) of several team members. The next generation are fired up!!”

These new commissions are substantial. For the two separate strategy- commissioning enterprises,

1.Implementation support days are also contracted, for accountability and to track progress.

2.A team development programme has been commissioned – a series of customised workshops to equip, and to bolster and enhance the formidable skills that the teams already have.

3.1:1 coaching is booked, to follow each team development workshop, to support individuals and hold them accountable as they personalise and apply the collective learning to their specific roles and responsibilities.

4.All sessions are scheduled – into 2021 – to be delivered by Zoom.

Did I think this possible in January? No. Will this continue going forward? Probably. (It saves tremendous travel –time and cost - and CO2 emissions. And it can accelerate the start of the assignment as it’s easier to find diary time to get people together online than in person.) Do I miss the in-person experience. Greatly! …the handshakes, sideway hugs, smell of the place. And I can’t wait to resume those exchanges as part of SOME assignments…

BUT, for the moment, this is it, the best support and development environment we can create.

So we continue, open for business, adding value, helping leaders think clearly through our COVID-19 unprecedented reality and the new unlocking future that emerges as I write.

What are you doing that you didn’t think possible before? Remember, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste; … it's an opportunity to do things you didn’t think you could do before.”(Rahm Emanuel)