Yesterday’s story was about a short-term crisis and some of the things I learned as a result. It is widely accepted that people learn fast when under the pressure of an urgent situation and we have had a few of our own ‘learning opportunities’ recently. Specifically our battles with COVID-19 and the recent IT systems issues.
My first observation is that most people rise-up in a crisis, actually performing better than usual when under pressure. The rush of adrenaline you get when working on the edge tends to focus the mind and people become very action-oriented. Crises often have very clear short term goals such as to protect people or to get back up and running again quickly. The clarity of these goals and the way individuals can instantly see how well they are doing at them add to the sense of achievement when we succeed.
Secondly, I see how draining it is on people. The trouble with adrenaline is that whilst the primary chemical effect is to increase performance, the side effect is rapid and sometimes crushing fatigue. In a short incident like the fire I described yesterday this is an excellent self-preservation mechanism, but over a long period it can lead to burn-out.
We have definitely displayed both symptoms as a team. I see heroic efforts on a regular basis, as well as some very weary folks who have been under pressure for too long. In conversation with the SMT we agreed that there are two sources of pressure to hit goals, meet deadlines and please customers: the pressure from the top, and the pressure we place on ourselves to be accountable and help the greater good. We talked about how we could take out foot off the gas a little to help people recover and I will say here that we are prepared to be flexible. I am personally open to renegotiating deadlines or deliverables where we find ourselves struggling. Open dialogue with myself and the SMT is the key and I promise you will not be judged. The second thing is to watch out for your own high expectations. Please go easy on yourself and remember you are allowed to switch off and recharge.
An important goal of my Lockdown Thoughts has to be to recognise both the every-day and crisis-focussed efforts of our teams. Once again I find myself concluding one of these postings with my thanks for todays heroes. I want to recognise Warwick Anderson, Markus Hopkins, Sandra Kingsland, Julia Cooney and Dominic Feran who have worked diligently at the end of last week and over the weekend to ensure our servers and IT systems are up and running rapidly.