Leadership is more important than ever as we cope with this year’s sudden changes in working arrangements. It goes without saying that it needs to be inclusive, supportive and empathetic leadership. Human leadership.
In our 2 April 2020 webinar on “The mental health impact of working from home”, we discussed how leaders need to establish trust and understanding among their teams, look out for their colleagues and ensure they receive the support they need. One of our panellists, Lee Davies, explained how he interpreted those responsibilities in his role as Chief Executive of CIPA, and he has kindly shared with us an email he circulated to his team recently.
Lee gives his staff a simple encouragement: to “be the best they can be”. But he acknowledges that “best” may look different now to the way it did before, and that it absolutely does not require everyone to stay strong all the time. He asks colleagues to share how they feel, and offers support through the difficult times. Above all, he gives a message of hope for the future, for what these new ways of working can do, if we embrace them, to enhance the organisations we return to. It is inspiring leadership – underpinned, as it should be, by basic human kindness.
This is what Lee wrote:
Dear amazing CIPA people,
Thank you for all you are doing to keep up a semblance of “business as usual”.
I know, you know, that it is far from usual. It is far from normal. It is exceptional. It is unprecedented. I need you to be the best you can be, as often as you can be. I know, however, that there will be times when you will find things difficult.
There is a massive distinction between “working from home” and being at home because of this international coronavirus crisis and needing to work… and be a parent… and be a carer… and stay healthy yourselves. I want you to know that my approach to this strange world we find ourselves in is realistic, supportive and pragmatic.
We are two weeks in, and you are holding up magnificently. There will be times when it will not feel like that. You will find this imposed regime of trying to work at home hard. I am. There will be times when you cannot balance work with looking after children, parents or yourself. That is true for me. I want you to know that it is absolutely fine to say you are having a tough time. Talk to someone about how you feel; one of your colleagues, a trusted friend or family member or even me. We are all working our way through this and we need to be open with how we are coping and to be there for each other.
We have an amazing chance here to transform CIPA. We have started to bounce ideas around about how we can deliver new and different services to members and how we can provide our existing services in new and different ways. When we discussed how we could be ready to turn Congress and other major events into equally engaging online experiences, your enthusiasm, energy and commitment was infectious (no pun intended). I am beyond proud of you. I truly believe we can turn this threat into an opportunity. The CIPA we return to does not have to be the CIPA we left behind. We can make it better still.
All I ask is you be the best you can be, as often as you can be and that you are there for each other when times are tough.
Take care, look after yourselves and stay well.
(Now: who’s going to look after the leaders? They face huge challenges too. We’re hoping to post more on this, and maybe to run an event, soon. We’re also organising a webinar for mental health first aiders, who we believe will play a key role in helping their colleagues through this difficult time. Keep an eye on our Events page for details.)
Page published on 3rd April 2020
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A truly inspiring, heartfelt and mindful piece of leadership from Lee. Let's all get behind the idea that this is business as unusual, and may provide opportunities for re-imagining the world of work going forward. Let's also remember that leaders are human too. It really can be lonely at the top at the best of times, and, in what may sometimes feel like the worst of times, they too need our empathy, some leeway and support. Thank you to Lee and all at CIPA who are doing a fine job under unusual conditions. Hope you all keep well in mind, body and spirit.