A year ago when the pandemic and lockdown first hit, we saw many ways of working change overnight and what was once thought to be 'impossible' for many organisations, very quickly became the norm. I was hopeful and optimistic that lockdown was a time for real change, an opportunity to take stock of what the 'workplace' really meant and how new ways of working, communicating, leading, managing and engaging our people could really change.
I'm still hopeful and optimistic, and yet at the same time, I'm disappointed and disheartened at how some leaders still think a one size fits all approach is the best way to return to 'normal'. Have we really not learned that we can be putting our people first and still running profitable organisations? Have we not learned that speaking to and listening to our people is a much better approach than endless surveys? Have we not looked at the last 12 months as an opportunity for real change and to do what's right for our people, our customers and our bottom line?
12 months on and we're still debating whether everyone should be at the office or everyone should be at home. A blanket approach didn't work before why do we think it's right now?
In all of the work I do with leaders, be it coaching, development programmes or consultancy, my philosophy is very much one that change starts with each of us. Waiting for someone else to make the decision or drive the change can make us complacent and then presents an opportunity for a bit of a moan when we don't get what we didn't ask for.
I was 'away from the office' last week and focused a lot of time on my learning and research, fear kept coming up in the responses in one-way shape or form. People not wanting to speak up, people not wanting to lead the change, people not wanting to be the only one with a different perspective.
And I was reminded of the story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.
For those of you that are familiar with Psychology, this story links to the Bystander effect. It's the influence of others being present that prevents people from taking action, even in an emergency. We all assume that someone else has taken the action needed, and because nobody has, the situation can worsen.
If we assume that someone else is going to make the decisions needed to change the world of work, we may find ourselves exactly where we started. Nothing will have changed. We'll go back to how things were, we'll moan about it and we'll wonder why nothing changed and why nobody else made the right decisions.
The change has to start with us.
We have to take responsibility for the changes we want to see. We have to ask for what we want. We have to say what we need. We cannot leave it up to somebody else to decide what the future of work will look like, we need to play our part.
The last 12 months have also shone a very bright light on Racism, Sexism and Psychological Safety. It's not acceptable to sit back and keep quiet. If we aren't challenging the inappropriate behaviour that we see, we are complicit in allowing it to become acceptable. Each and every one of us is responsible for being the change. Each of us has to play our part.
The change has to start with us.
If we want behavioural change, we need to behave differently, and this includes when we see things not right.
If we want a different way of working, we need to say what we want and why.
If we need support we need to ask for it instead of being bitter when nobody asks us what we need.
We need to stop making assumptions about what's right and what's needed, and really ask our people for their opinions, and we have to be open to receiving their opinions even if we aren't asking for them.
As leaders, the change starts with us. Our people deserve and are demanding a different type of leadership, a different type of management and a different way of working. We can no longer make decisions in our ivory towers and just tell people this is how it's going to be.
The change starts with us. Be the everybody, not the nobody and drive the change that's needed.
If not you, who? And if not now, when?
She leads and coaches with an open heart, an open mind and has the courage to challenge the status quo and do things differently so that we can all love our roles, find balance in our lives and so that we can all change the world of work for the better.