Last week there was a tide that seems to have shifted all around. It seemed that while we were all in various phases of the journey from shock and anger to acceptance we were all hitting our own crisis points. Some were doing a better job than others muddling through but it was still there. The more fortunate of us had managed to turn it into a dynamo for good.
We have all seen the tens and hundreds of webinars online calling for a better reality. From the self-improvement to the politics and the work environment, the change is so clearly fundamental and so long-brewing that we all know instinctively that it is time for radical re-design. For asking the deep, hard questions and starting the hard work towards a better future for when we emerge. It’s not easy but the vision on the other side is limited by our imagination only. It contains all the right and the good we have ever dreamt of if we only make it so.
There have been voices who knew how to “sherpa” us through change because they dealt with it before, such as the amazing Karen Ferris who spoke about “Finding your why” - focusing on a clear vision of what you can do and be. It’s a sine qua non step in accessing and building on our existent resilience reserves. We’d all like not to do it, no one wants to do the work involved, we all wish we could blink and life would go back to “before” but that “before” doesn’t exist anymore and never will and the forward is unwritten. Here’s the trouble with that though, the pages are not blank but being written for us unless we get involved and pick up a pen.
Speaking of unwritten and what prompted me to inflict this “fluffy” mambo-jumbo on you guys: I have my own blank pages to contemplate. Beyond the metaphorical ones of a future I too have to build, I have some of the more present kind, as last week I have signed a contract promising Bloomsbury a book about People And The Importance Of Psychological Safety And Teams In The Digital Age by July. Much of it is written and some of it you guys may have seen if you’ve been reading me for a while and of course, when the time comes I’ll come to you for advice, maybe interviews and then to ask you to please pre-order it but a lot is not done for now and it needs deep thinking and data analysis and experimentation and stupendous amounts of work. It’s equally daunting as it is exhilarating. On my first book, I used to think it’s more the latter than the former, on my second now, even on this topic that I can pour my heart into, I know better.
To power that work, I had to turn to my own “why”. First and foremost it’s my 9-year-old of course, who doesn’t even need to be as amazing as he is (no, seriously, I know all parents say that but I’m objective!!!;) to be helping me want to put in the work to build a better reality to wait for us when we get out. And then, the second one is my work-why.
I’m blessed it’s a simple and everyday one for me: I want to eradicate the “human debt”.
It’s a term I have come up with to match an IT one called “tech debt” which refers to wrong turns, bad decisions or ignored mistakes made in writing code or architecting a system which is being created for various reasons but have to eventually be dealt with and cleaned up or the system is not sustainable and will collapse. “Human debt” is, therefore, that which we have created in workplaces where EQ, human connection and teamwork have been demoted and shunned. To avoid collapse we must reverse this and make people come before tech, profits or unexamined convention. I want to show how Psychological Safety is the only productivity lever we need and teams are the only unit we must focus on. How talk of all the other frameworks and methodologies meant to help a mythical “organisation” alongside empty rhetorics are harmful and we have no time for them. How, if we get Psychological Safety right, we get high performing employees and how the fact that they are happy and mentally well is a welcomed by-product not the starting point of the goal. I plan to use Agile KPIs to show that, simply because I feel that’s Agile’s greatest calling, beyond that of delivering results fast, that humanity has conjured it as a proof of concept of what is possible to achieve if you shift the focus on humans. That’s my work-why.
Sounds like a lot, but it isn’t. It’s a simple and deeply needed one. I share it with the team. We’re stupendously lucky, we know. For all of us at PeopleNotTech, this “why” is so evident we need no mission pep-talks and no vision reaffirming moments: “Change lives by making people happy and highly productive at work”. It’s so grand and deeply felt that it gets us all out of bed and ready to do hard work, of course. But of course, for other companies and other people, the “why” is much harder to find. It takes much more effort to bring back into focus. It needs doing though. If you run teams you have to help them find it. If you don’t, and you only run yourself, you need to find it too.
Our own “why” needs work. It’s time for work.
We have to put down all the distractions and semi-destructive behaviour we loaded up on in the first weeks of this shock - from the day drinking to the isolation weight gain and keep it as meme fodder only. It’s time we stopped re-sharing the posts that claim we are in survival mode and anything goes, the ones that claim we can pass self-destructive behaviour as self-care, the ones that say we are on the lowest steps of Maslow’s pyramid and this is no time for belonging, creativity or self-actualisation. If we’re honest, we all look at those and after a brief moment of validation where we go “hell yeah, I can have another cookie in these slacks and make it through the day with no direction, no thought and no heart invested” our next thought is a realisation that it’s probably not true and the time for that has now passed. It’s ok to still be scared, it’s ok to still be tired and angry and broken. It’s not ok not to start doing the work despite them.
The good news is that if you find the need to polish your “why” it isn’t out of a sense of conscience and morals or because you want to save the world or do what’s right, but because your reserves of resilience are kicking in, your courage muscle is flexing and your passion is starting to shine through. It’s good news. You have this. We’re entering acceptance and that’s where we’re starting to grow and build and the future has every reason to be amazing once we put in the work.
Tomorrow we’re back to practical matters and watch out for a video where we talk about what we’ll be packing in the book research-wise alongside some surprise chapters, but today take a personal day if you must and just dig deep and let your strength propel your “why” so you can get to work.
Stay safe, stay sane and hold on to your “why”.