Lockdown wisdom

16 Jul 2020
Carrie Birmingham

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Being at home during Lockdown as events have unfolded around the world, has given us time to think. I have noticed in clients and myself that big questions are coming to the forefront.  These questions often relate to complex and messy subjects like climate change, racial bias, and how you want to work going forward.

Many of these questions have been lurking in our subconscious, and we have been too busy to contemplate them.  The disruption is offering us some wisdom:   invitations to contemplate our work, our lives what we care about and how aligned it all is.

With this in mind, I wanted to share a story from a client, who took a stand for what she believes in & created change as a result.

Taking a Stand For What You Believe In

My client, let’s call her Andrea, passionately regaled what had happened last summer. She and her team were being blocked from working efficiently and she took a stand for what she believed in, with surprising results.  This is her story.

Andrea is a Client Service Manager at a City firm, and her work is very technical, so she is heavily reliant on technology and kit that does what it says on the tin.

Her team had an extended period of technical problems with telephones failing, networks dropping out and laptops incorrectly configured.  This was stopping them from working for extended periods, creating backlogs and understandably demotivating the team, who were often commuting three hours, to find themselves twiddling their thumbs.  Andrea rates her team and is a people-driven person, and so she repeatedly escalated the problem using official channels.  But nothing changed.

Andrea had been in the London office two days in a row, and the network had failed on both days.  An engineer had promised faithfully that they would monitor the network overnight and it would be working when the team arrived the next day. The next morning, Andrea was on the train when she received a call from the team member on the early shift, to say they had arrived in the office and that the network wasn’t working.

This was Andrea’s breaking point, her moment of truth.

Fuelled by the frustration of not being heard, she took a deep breath, sat up straight and decided to take a stand.  Having tried to fix the problem using the bureaucratic process, and having run out of doors to knock on, she turned the problem on its head.  She rang the Director responsible and explained to him that she was sending her whole team home, and they wouldn’t be coming back into the London office until he met her standards for reliability.  She took a stance that got people to sit up and listen, created consequences and also showed that she was serious.

Andrea’s team felt respected and valued by the stand she took, I imagine they may have cheered.  But some of her Senior team felt she had stepped outside her boundaries, that she had no right to make this decision and told her to get the team back in the office.  They argued that the team would never come back into the London office, which she knew simply wasn’t true and based on old fashioned thinking.  Andrea knew her stand would get noticed because she was essentially saying, “Your service is so bad, nobody wants to come into the office”.  She held her ground to her detractors, calmly outlining the facts of the problem with data to back up the impact.  They backed down.

By this point in the story, I was on the edge of my seat. So what happened?

The team stayed at home for two weeks, before the network met Andrea’s standards of reliability.  She then asked them to return (which they happily did) and everyone in the London office benefitted from a reliable and stable network.  Andrea’s stand has become a story of legend within the firm and Andrea now has a more respectful relationship with the senior team.

In current times where working from home is the reality for most, it seems ironic that sending your team home to work was considered a threat only a few months ago.  Apparently, the network in the London office works like a dream; just a shame no-one is using it!

So What?

As you experience Andrea’s story:

  • How does it land with you? What questions arise in your mind?
  • What do you care enough about to make a stand for?
  • What is stopping you from making this stand, and what opportunities are you missing out on?
  • Do you feel frustrated or puzzled, and what could that mean?