Welcome back. I have had some good feedback on my weeknotes from last time, which has encouraged me back to come back. I also found it useful to reflect on the week as it happened and it helped me switch off over the weekend, which was a boon. Proof of the value of journalling perhaps, and reach a kind of closure which somehow seems harder when the workplace and home get so blurred.
This week has been filled with a virtual whirl of Board meetings, Committee meetings, and a Board Away “Day”. Between preparation and post-match activities, this seems to have taken up much of the week. The quality assurance held up to the task, although we can make it slicker as we go through future iterations. The suite of meetings went well though and certainly proved you can have inclusive, complex, open, and strategic conversations virtually, despite the gainsayers.
We found having someone acting as Chair and a separate person managing the Chat element on google meet as being helpful. When we did this it made a real difference to the flow of the conversation and helped draw more voices into the room. It also allowed the Chair some breathing space to consider the content (what was being discussed) and not just keep an eye on who was saying it and who wanted to speak next.
We are giving a lot of thought to how “virtual governance” will pan out in the annual cycle of AGMs, Board Development time, appraisals, etc. Whilst nothing can replace the value of face to face I’m optimistic we can capitalise on the opportunities virtual working provides and I don’t think we should fear it. It forces us to be better communicators in fact, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
I also think that celebrating success is a skill, and its harder to do in a virtual world in my view. We have achieved a couple of milestones this week, but it hasn’t quite felt like reality. We have said the words to each other, and I am not one for American style high fives at every juncture anyway, but I would put out there that project success feels just a teensy bit flatter virtually. Perhaps we need to telegraph more intent. Be interested to know what others think.
As it happens I have a couple of unplanned contact with my wider network this week, and this coincided with many externally facing meetings. This wider social circle has done me good, from the reassurance that we in our sector are all grappling with the same things at roughly the same pace, to hearing from old friends and the sense of wider connection to that things. It is also useful to be shaken out of one’s perspective, hearing how other sectors have bigger issues to fry or sobering news for the economy, for example.
I think one of the issues of lockdown if you have an analytically demanding role is the simple but real risk of living in one’s head too much. Perspective can be lost and we need to make more effort to ask colleagues to be critical friends. And, I think, listening in the right way to conflict and why flashpoints arise where they do. It’s not good for us not to be collaborating, we are social creatures. Those people and those organisations who have already built their collaborative muscle are going to be more resilient I think and I’m hoping we can get more going on our collaborative tools as we fully roll out G-suite in the coming months. We are seeking to resource changing the culture at the same time, it is just as important as deploying folk with (virtual) spanners on this.
I had a productive meeting on Friday when I rambled on quite a bit while a colleague listened patiently to me. Only 20 minutes or so, but the insight I got from proper deep thinking was worth a full day. Hats off to my colleague — she is a great listener and it made all the difference to my coffee raddled mind. I did some proper deep work, deep thinking, and had a good dose of perspective as I talked it all out at the same time. I realised I was mildly cross at a few things too — honestly, I hadn’t realised! Good to get that out.
It has made me think about whether virtual meetings stress tests one’s listening skills. Perhaps the problem isn’t really about virtual. We know its clunky, but its still communication though. Perhaps virtual working simply throws crappy listening and poorly held meetings into sharp relief. Interesting hypothesis. I will watch out next week and see if there is any evidence for it.
Following on from last week’s organisational point, its also been helpful in blocking out more preparation time in the day. This has given me valuable respite and restored some sanity, although I need to work a bit harder on carving out any kind of lunchtime! I did get a few slots of deep work in, and strangely that improved my energy levels rather than depleting it. But energy still needs to be managed carefully. I am knitting a rainbow jumper at the moment in the evenings and notice that quite a few mistakes have crept into it this week, and the mistakes are down to poor concentration and not the kind normally make. Although I have spent a fair bit of time on it this week it is currently slightly shorter than it was on Monday. Ah well, it’s about the journey travelled (unravelled) I guess! At least the rainbow bit looks ok.
Finally, though, my thoughts have been much given to #BlackLivesMatter and watching the newsreels with horror and revulsion at events in America this week. We must talk about these things. All of us. And a reminder that if we are to honour our values we have to take steps to address racism, personally, and at a corporate level. It is a reality. It is everywhere. We need to face up to it.