Leadership Q&A with Richard Gerver video transcript

Toby: Good Morning, hello and welcome to the Inspired Business leadership Q&A with Richard Gerver. This is part of our Inspired Business podcast series which we launched earlier this month, and Richard was our launch guest I'm Toby Bradford and meeting with us today is Angela Tooley our co-host and of course Richard Gerver, but I'll let them introduce Themselves. Angela would you like to say hello to people?

Angela: Yeah hi hi yeah, I'm Angela Tooley you've probably heard my voice I've been working with Toby on the inspired podcast series, and I work for the university at Derby Business School leading on and working with businesses under the enterprise agenda.

Toby: And Richard.

Richard: Hello everybody I'm Richard Gerver, I was the proud debutante on Inspired Business which was a thrill great to be involved. And amazing really, because we recorded it so long before the world changed as dramatically as it has. It's great to be here, some of you might know I'm I'm a very proud Derby University of Derby alumni, in fact I got my postgraduate in the university's first year of being a university in 1993. I'm now honoured to be chairing the alumni and members board, and for my day job when I'm not in lockdown I'm a professional speaker and author and spent 20 years working on the front line of education as a teacher and head teacher.

Toby: I'm gonna turn the big screen thing off now, oh what have I done now, there we go. Apologies if I seem mildly incompetent with this, this is my first webinar hard to tell I'm such a smooth operator. One of the reasons we decided to do this podcast was because as Richard said we recorded the webinar, recorded the podcast before the coronavirus appeared. So, we just wanted to bring forward some ideas and give people an opportunity to talk with us about leadership. So, if you have any questions on on leadership please pop them into our question area, you will find that somewhere on your screens but we do have some questions for Richard already in fact, which we'd like to kick off with. So, a lot of people are working from home now Richard, and leadership is gonna be a very different operation for them so how do you think people should approach that as leaders?

Richard: I think the really important thing for people right now is to remember that leadership has first and foremost always been about supporting and empowering people in your teams to do the things you need them to do, you want them to do, you expect them to do. And I think right now the greatest challenge of leadership is a human one, I think we have to make sure that it's not just about our people functioning, which is management really, but the given the extraordinary events we're living through, you know, that there has to be an appreciation that we're all going to be coping and dealing and experiencing these events completely differently, you know. I've spoken to some people who will tell me quietly and in whispers that actually they've enjoyed the kind of free-range nature of of being at home, and and having a little more control over their lives spending more time with their families, there are of course people that have lived through horrific situations, some may have experienced bereavement, some may be in environments where family members have been in a state of upheaval because of a loss of job or whatever else. The point is that we're living in times where the most important characteristic of leadership now right now is that human one, it's that emotional connection, emotional support. And I think what we have to do because the danger is in in the climate we're in now a lot of people will kind of default to just trying to make everything as efficient as possible which, I totally understand but actually the long-term legacy as leaders of how we deal with this is how we nurture and develop the relationships with our people over these months.

Angela: Interesting Richard because obviously the long side of the notes, I do I do have a day job and I, you know, I have a a team of people who, you know, who I had to support a me this time and that's you know it's been interesting, it's been an interesting journey and it's only sort of now when we have these conversations, and I look back, you know, you you sort of see those various stages and things like that. And I agree, at the start because I was having to deal with my own sorts of issues I kind of just left them to sort of, you know, obviously I spoke to many things about, you know, I just left them to talk and work out how to do things themselves as individuals and as a team. And actually, in hindsight that was probably the best thing that I did, because I think probably pressure on them they were, as you said they, you know, I've got people who are living on their own in a flat and not seen anyone for a, you know, 8-10 weeks, through to  people who have a remote working sitting on camping chairs with young children running around the things, I have a whole spectrum. So, actually just allowing them to, you know, to work it through really re-adjust in terms of how they work together as a team it's been, you know, it's really important. And the communication point as well is is interesting, I think I have I found I've had to change the way I communicate my staff. I spent probably, you know, I'm very much a, you know, want to empower my team and you know you know leave them to get on with things and sort of sort of things like that, but I've spent a lot more time communicating with them well it has been very different, you know, just sort of things, cause you don't see people as you would you in the office you kind of lose me those sort of indicators that you would see sometimes in terms of their body language and just a sort of general the general sort of sort of demeanor in the office and things like that. So, you know, I think so, for example, you know, I often just say to someone and I now have like a call with them, you know, just ask those really simple questions that are; you okay, that I would never normally ask before, because you would have sensed it but that sense is gone. So, you know, just sort of asking those sorts of questions, different communication styles and things like that as some of the key things that I've learnt over the last sort of 10-12 weeks.

Richard: I think that's right, and I think, you know, that the really important thing is for us to be very mindful of kind of the 5 or 6 phases that most of us have gone through on a personal level which will impact on the way we engage professionally as well as personally, you know. You you look at the kind of 6 phases that most people go through in any change process, but particularly when change is unexpected and imposed on them. And I wonder if this, you know, that people all this will resonate with people because the 1st stage and if we all cast our minds back 2 and a half months or whatever it is, to the time we started to realise things were gonna change and change very quickly, I for one and I'm sure most people start in a state of paralysis, you know, you kind of freeze nothing really goes in, some people in that paralysis state become really manic it's like I mean, I've seen, I saw people in the early days just going into some kind of crazy delirious overdrive trying to find a way to control the uncontrollable. Right and then what happens after that is is people tended to go into a kind of denial phase you know you stick your head in the sand well I'll just- it will be over in a week or 2, we'll go back to normal or maybe it won't happen here or to my job or my company, or my family. And then what we've seen over the last few weeks after that is a kind of anger right, people get angry and they look for who to blame, who do I blame for this situation? And partly this is all because think is the comment, is the huge thing now. On a personal and professional level virtually all of us are experiencing or have experienced a profound sense of a lack of control and so, the anger generates then what happens in some is we kind of give up for a phase and we go, you know what the anger all of it, the denial none of it is gonna give me back a sense of of control so, I kind of go into a depression stage, where everything becomes listless I'm not even sure I can be bothered to get dressed in morning, you know, I'm done I'm just I'm just gonna hibernate until there's  a vaccine or something. And this is the point at which the leadership challenge clicks in, because there are 2 phases after that which I see as progressive and developmental, which a ways of helping people regain a kind of semblance of feeling of control and they start with a kind of exploratory phase, you know, and that's where people start to engage mildly by asking questions by showing an interest so, what is this? What what's going on how is this gonna impact me? What can I do in my business, my job or my personal life to try and negate, or or feel a level of control over this? And then finally after that you get to a kind of activation stage, an acceptance phase where everything settles down a bit and you start to just feel that you've got some control back of the parameters and variables that you're dealing with. And I think in many ways you're right the real challenge is to assess in those snatch conversations and communications with your stuff where you think you are, they are sorry, on those kind of 6 phases of change and people will be at various points, and by the way what's really interesting is, after Boris Johnson whenever it was 2 weeks ago announced the the Nando's scale as I call it, you know, that the 5 stages of hot to super cool and Lime and whatever,  and and he talked about this kind of what we're gonna have this phased release of lockdown, and noticed a number of people jump back from that kind of acceptance exploratory thing back into a more anxiety-ridden thing, again because it's a new parameter a new thing of change. So, I think the really important thing as a leader is to say how how can I get my people into that more active perceptive belief that they've got more control, how can I get them questioning, how can we get us looking forward and asking constructive and positive and insightful questions which leads to communication and conversations, because even if nothing comes of it that process gives people a feeling of control which allows them emotionally to feel that they can engage again.

Toby: One of the the pull out thing that you said within the podcast which was about leadership being impaired about empowerment, and about letting people off the leash and letting them run with stuff which seems in a situation we're in we're in lockdown but what you're saying is to a degree to give people a feeling of control, giving them that emotional impairment letting them run with stuff giving them, okay we want to we want some parameters within which we can work, but we we still need to be able to think about how we're going, where we're going, and using our own initiative in a sense which will give them control over this situation.

Angela: No, I was gonna say, I relate to that. I mean we had to, you know, my team we were in a number of business programs, and very successful all face-to-face 16th of March, 17th of March everything stopped. And literally we had to reinvent the whole the whole of our programs, and of the back of that we had to change all of our processes' and our measures and things like that, you know, but we, you know, we had to go through that sort of process of developing all of those but you know see we kind of went we kind of like went back into that sort of task sort of very much focused task operational thing, because that was what we needed at the time the business survival to be to be honest. And that was, you know, that was a very tough time to the team and I think one of the one of the biggest surprises that I had, you know, I went from a team that were high performing and a very close knit, to almost, we almost went back to day 1 in terms of that sort of team formation thing. And we've we've had to spend a couple of months as we've gone through that process, rebuilding, re-engaging as a team thinking about how we work together in this new environment where we're not all sitting together, and I was quite surprised how that we literally did go back to that sort of base point team formation sort of stage and things like that. And it's been amazing to see that, you know, that journey that you would normally take me may potentially weeks and months it's happened in a really short period of time, and it's nice that now we're at the stage where is you, we just say where we know we're back to that sort of high performing team, and we're starting to develop new ideas their creativity is flowing and you know we've been like this last, through last 10 to 12 weeks we, you know, we've gone through that whole process we've come back and, you know, we're actually, you know, really really sort of focused, well actually, this wasn't that bad and, you know, being managed to do this what else can we do! You know, and so, you know, I've just had a couple of meetings this morning about some great new ideas that the team have had, and I’m just like; let's just do it, you know.

Richard: I think, I mean, you know. I think what you're saying is really important and actually, despite all of the horror and and the uncertainty and, you know, for some the horrific lived experience they've been through over the last couple of months, if there is a glimmer of light a legacy that's positive that we can take from this, it is actually that we are far more capable than we were led to believe at dealing with change and innovation. Because you're right, you know, whether it's been in the in the academic capacity of the university, and Derby has always been well set up for example for online learning, but, you know, there's been huge procrastination for 10,15,20 years over what, how do we balance online learning, how do we create blended learning, how do we create, you know, how do- what's the difference. The same with working from home and working in an office, and all of a sudden we were presented with the situation and what most organisations have accomplished in 2 and a half months is truly staggering, I mean is truly staggering, you know, most people would have had what they've achieved in the last 2 and a half months down as a tentative kind of 5-year plan. And I think what's really important about that is, to understand that for so many years the reason we kind of lack confidence in our own capacity is because we're almost trained and managed to believe in what I call the assumption of incompetence so, most organisations and I think we talked about this Toby on the podcast, you know.

Toby: We did.

Richard: This idea that we're kind of made, with most traditional organisations, are predicated on a belief that most people will only do their best work if they are hyper managed to do it, whether it's through target setting or performance management strategies, or whatever else it is. And as a result, people lose the confidence in themselves to take their own initiative and do innovative things, to set themselves challenging tasks to risk making mistakes in them and therefore evolving. But what you've we've seen for a lot of large long time now in and in and a number of dynamic companies, is a different style of leadership and management which is assumed excellence and and that's where the people in an organisation are believed in, they're trusted and that creates a different fabric of structure you still manage but you only manage at a point of into an intervention if people need it, rather than managing everybody to prove their competence. Now what happened in the last 2 and a half months to an extent, because you don't have the physical environment where you can hyper manage people, is far more people have been able to show their excellence and demonstrate that. And I think one of the really interesting challenges as we get back to and I could go first first BS bingo words if anyone's played at home, because we can't see you is the new normal is one thing we mustn't do is let ourselves go back to believing that we need to go back to old management styles, and go back to a management structure based on the assumption of incompetence. And make sure that we respect and realise the capabilities of our teams and create that structure, which is much more around the celebration of excellence.

Toby: Thanks Richard. One of the things you mentioned then about flexibility and larger companies, just going back to the podcast one thing we talked about was companies who have been working in a certain way for so long, the difficult idea of change for them this has been forced on us in the sense and it just shows how how much change is possible.

Richard: Yeah, I mean I you're right, you know, again it's no accident that most of the most innovative companies in the world are companies that didn't exist 10-15 years ago, whether they're small companies or in particularly some of the large tech companies. You know, they're fleet-footed they don't have a tradition to deal with. One of the things I remember and we might have told this story so, for anyone who heard the podcast forgive me, one of the stories I tell a lot is about the meeting I had with Eric Schmidt who is the Executive Chairman of Google until a couple of years ago, and he said something to me then which really struck me, because I asked him what his greatest challenge was in his time at Google, and he said; "Actually my greatest challenge Richard, has been our success." I mean he wasn't in on the very early days, that was Larry Page and Sergey Brin, working on an ideological and visionary belief for doing something to the Internet, you know, bringing democracy to the Internet. But they brought Eric in to help monetise the business, and turn it into a functioning organisation and he said; "You know, when I first started innovation was easy, because we had nothing to lose. And so, the meetings in teams were just so exciting and dynamic because everything was possible because there was a very low threshold of what could happen if this all goes wrong." Right but he said; "The greatest challenge we've had has been the extraordinary accelerated rise of this business, because very very quickly we had a whole lot to lose and we were answerable to a whole huge number of people whether they were investors, directors whether they were shareholders, whether they were staff members." And he said; "what was really interesting was we stopped discussing the art of the possible based on our founding vision and values." And and I don't know how many people remember that the founding vision and values of Google, they were to organise the world's information, make it accessible for everybody and by so doing diminish evil. Right that was the- how well they've done on that we weren't we won't get into that today. But the point is that that's how Google Earth was created and Google Maps and all the other extraordinary things they did, but he said; "Over time we became more and more obsessed with what other people in our sector were doing, which meant we stopped believing in ourselves and our vision, and our ability to meet and practice create create practical solutions for our vision. And we started to obsess with what other people were doing." He said; "The meetings changed, suddenly people were obsessed with what Apple were working on or what Microsoft or Facebook, or one of these other organisations..." He said; "When I look back on our greatest disasters they have all come when we've tried to react to what somebody else was doing." And I think the really important thing about that is, the nature of companies and organisations, the bigger they become the more successful they become, the more embedded they become, the more they have to lose, the more they lose the ability to be fleet-footed to take risk to be innovative and creative. And it’s why actually, this has been an extraordinary 2 months because the world is almost said to you to every company no matter how long it's been functioning, change you've got to change, and what I think what will happen in this process is is, there will be companies that struggle but I think some large organisations are really going to use this time to re-evaluate and use it as an opportunity to recalibrate. I was talking to somebody the other day who works with a major global tire company and she was telling me that the CEO of this company was now deciding whether they even needed office buildings anymore or whether they would get rid of, liquidate their their office real estate and just keep their manufacturing plants open and find a more economical and agile way of keeping their office-based staff working together in in in different formats so, those conversations are going on in real time.

Toby: Just going back to the podcast...

Angela: Its interesting I...

Toby: Sorry we're talking over each other.

Angela: I was just going to say it’s interesting, I've seen, you know, you sort of see, you know, daily news coming out and things like that, and we've been chatting with businesses  and it's almost like the supply chain turned on its head and some of the best stories, and examples I've seen in terms of companies know, finding innovative ways to continue to, you know, get people to work, operate and things like that, have come from some of the smaller companies and there are some really good lessons larger businesses can learn from those companies. And we're already starting to see that in terms of some of the larger businesses we work with, starting to reach out and actually, you know, talk to their supply chain in a different way I want to engage with them in, you know, in terms of more more innovate, you know, innovation and collaboration. And and makes for those processes, that normally quite difficult in terms of qualifying new ideas, and its supply chain particularly if you think about some of the big local supply chains we've got around our site like  aerospace, rail actually trying to sort of work with them a lot earlier on so, actually we can start getting some innovation quicker to market and things like that. So, I'm already starting to see that change in some of those key sectors.

Toby: I've just had a message in from somebody saying, "Loving the webinar is it recorded?" No, we're flying on the seat of our pants here which is which is great fun. Going back to what you said about Google and and looking inside your own industry, one of the big takeaways we had from the podcast, was you should look outside, look and that's where you find your flexibility you look to see what other people are doing, but not necessarily people who are working in the same field. Look outside, look and see how other people deal with stuff and new ideas will come in.

Richard: Yeah, I mean and that's really what Angela was touching on. And I think, you know, this is this is another incredible moment and I know; you know, I'm not trying to belittle the last 2 and a half months and the stress and pressure on anybody. But there has been a weird kind of gift really which we've had, which is for some people seconds have become minutes, minutes have become hours, hours have become days, and days have become months. Right, there's been a slowing of time, which we've never experienced in our lives before and it's easy for me to say this by the way because my children are both grown up so, there's no homeschooling been going on in my house [Laughter] but but we will never have this time again and we've never had it before, and it's an incredible opportunity to put your head above the parapet and see what other people are doing because most people's businesses function at warp speed they function at capacity, where you are so busy doing the job you have to do day-in day-out look that we don't have time to stick our heads above a parapet and see what others are up to in in real functional terms. You know, there there are there are tremendous networks in Derby including Marketing Derby and another, you know, a number of other connective forums where people get to meet one another and kind of loosely talk a little bit and share practice which I know people find phenomenally useful. But actually, now is a wonderful time to dip out of your industry and your sector entirely and ask yourself how are they doing that? What are they doing? What does the supply chain look like for that organization over there? Or, how are they innovating? What does their online working pattern look like? Have they still got a staff development program and what's, you know, what's that looking like? So, I think now is an incredible opportunity to do that, and I really urge people not to waste this this time because what the one thing we know and we've heard the expression a lot, and I don't think the champagne bottles are great analogy but but if and when the world opens up again properly so, post vaccine, you know, and there's some sort of champagne bottle is of a boom and we're off, and that would be great if that's true and the economy goes into this warp speed overdrive, you know, whatever we want to call it. We're not going to have the time then to reflect and challenge our own practice and ways of working so, we've got to do that now and the best way to do it Toby, you're right it's not just to hang out and talk to people who are doing what you do every day, because that limits the opportunity for creative thought, you know, that the way you max out create- creativity doesn't happen when you talk to the people who do the same thing as you day in day out, because all you do is recycle old ideas. And how many people who are wizened wise pros have said of their industry, "oh if I stand still long enough, I become an innovator every 5 to 10 years, because everything gets recycled." Right, and that's because if all you do is you use the remit of your own experience, you can't ever it you can't ever stimulate that creative process, you know, when when do people have their most creative thoughts well, usually when they're out running or, you know, having a day off or sitting in the garden or you know in the most inconvenient mean moments where you don't want to be thinking about work that's where the creativity comes from and it's because you're enjoying the stimulus of other stuff. So, yeah, I I urge people to connect with people they may have never connected with before over the time we've got in this space, take a real interest in what other sectors and organisations are doing because the mistaken belief that you can only learn from the people in your sector is one that speaks to that very traditional kind of tailors of efficiency, this isn't about efficiency anymore this isn't about becoming more efficient, this is about transformation and that needs a different mindset.

Angela: To touch on your point about sort of reaching out and looking at what other people are doing, and I think we have a unique opportunity at this moment, because everyone is in the same position and actually, we have never had such close access to senior executives in in large corporations and government officials and things like that, than I have before, for example I quite often listen to the the CBID webinars not normally live normally sort of, you know, late at night when I'm switching off and things like that. But, you know, there's the opportunity on there to engage with and listen to, you know, senior executives from the likes of Kingfisher and and Airbus, and Tesco's and things like that. And never before did you have that accessibility where you can, you know, jump onto a webinar, you know, for an hour and, you know you know, ask a question of, you know, Chief Executive King Fisher about what they're doing and their experiences, and things like that. So, I think, you know, we need to take advantage of the opportunities while they're here, because at some point these guys will stop doing these things and they'll, you know, they will become more busier and whatever else.

Richard: Yeah.

Toby: That's questions- talking of questions, there is a question field if people do have any questions to ask Angela and Richard, please input some questions in there. We also have some questions that have been sent in elsewhere, which I will put to Richard and Angela one of these is how can we adapt leadership styles to facilitate working in the new norm? Which is obviously one of those BS phrases but...

Richard: So, yeah.

Toby: Adapting a style of leadership, what do we do?

Richard: Well I think the first thing is is we have to really spend a little time reflecting on what we mean by leadership, because in many ways for me in the most simple terms management is about compliance now that's not I'm not using that as a dirty word or dirty term, but management is about compliance it's making sure that people are doing what they're paid to do in the way they're being asked to do it right and we use all of the the the different tools at our disposal to do that. Leadership for me I've always believed on a really soft wooly phrase, for me leadership is about serving the people who work with you and for you. And actually, leadership is about getting the best out of people it's about helping them understand, realise and activate their potential, it's giving them the courage and confidence to do that, it's giving them opportunities and pathways they might not necessarily have seen before. And it really goes back very much to the start of our conversation, which is this difference between control and empowerment. So, in many ways we spend too much time assuming incompetence and therefore hyper controlling staff, but what we need to do is shift our mindset and believe that the people who work and who are working with us and for us are highly talented, highly committed and want to do the best they can do. And therefore run... Toby: Shouldn't you be doing that anyway, shouldn't we be doing that anyway?

Richard: Yeah we should, we should but I guess what I'm saying Toby, is I'm not sure we are if we're honest, because we're under so much intense pressure to be productive so much of the time and as a boss you feel that for all of the responsibilities, economic and social that you you carry that we tend particularly in times of stress and trouble, we tend to default to lowest common denominator shut up get our heads down let's get it done right. And actually, what we need to do in times of trouble is trust and rely on the people who work with us more and the thing is it's not some drastic transient it's like I've got a ta-da moment where I'm, you know, you're gonna come in on Monday onto you're next zoom meeting or whatever, and go I'm changing my leadership stop I'm gonna be you know softer with you all, I've put an apple in the post to everybody, you know, it's slow and it's incremental and the thing about leadership is it's about it engendering trust and Trust doesn't happen quickly. So, it's about really focusing on those human relationships, and the other thing is I think people will have adapted their leadership as Angela said, you know, people would have adapted their leadership style more over the last couple of months and they even realise, because that investment in human concern and trying to understand the person behind the job role is gonna pay dividends moving forward. And I think the challenge for leaders is not necessarily to do something dramatically new, but to realise the way they've led and managed over the last couple of months on a very human level, is absolutely the best way to do it moving forward.

Angela: Yeah I mean you by the nature of the fact that we're all working from home I, you know, I have got a lot closer to my team I've been forced to and, you know, that there's that uncomfortable moments that, you know, at the start of this where suddenly, you know, your personal and your your work boundaries have merged. And that's been very difficult for people, because, you know, normally, you know, you you drop the kids at school you keep the dog, you know, whatever you normally do during the morning, you drive to work, you change and you switch from that, you know, being a mum being a wife, you know, being whatever in going to work and so, we can you kind of sort of have that space to leave that behind. And actually, working in in the same environment where the rest of your family are and where you live and things like that, it's quite, quite difficult people, you do feel quite exposed because what's happening behind the scenes, you know, I've had I've had to stop meetings because, you know, the dogs, the pencil sharpener or the kids have been fighting and things, you know, I'm just like don't worry about it guys, you know, what this is, you know, this is completely, you know, how it's going to be so, I'm not bother so don't you worry about it. But people do worry about exposure and things like that, is that we've had to go through that process, I think oh I think the one thing that I've probably in  reflection I think I'm a better listener, and I think sort of I spent a lot more time sort of sitting and listening to what my team is in and, you know, almost sort of sitting in the background when when there's team meetings and actually, say like you know to sort of one of my project managers you take the lead and I'll just sit back and I'll just listen and just try and understand the general feeling of the team and what they're doing and things like that. And that's really helped me think about what I need to do to better support the team going forward I've got time for reflection and listening.

Toby: We are getting some questions in, sorry about scratching my head. One for Richard, what are your thoughts about managing mental health and well-being of remote teams?

Richard: Well I mean this is this is a huge a huge huge issue and we've kind of touched on it at various points. I think there are a number of things here I think, you know, going back to looking for the signposts I talked about earlier in the 6 points the 6 places people might be I think one of the things we have to understand as managers in leaders is we can't be superhuman right, and we can't necessarily be expected to do all this stuff ourselves because our names on the door or on the letterhead or at the top of the website. We also have to reflect that we ourselves are more vulnerable than probably we've ever been before, and we are dealing with more than we've ever been before and just because you're a leader or manager doesn't mean you're more resilient more mentally tough, you know, all that that kind of old-school machismo has has got to go. But I think what is important as a leader and manager is to be cognizant, you know, you know your people almost as well as you know your family particularly if you're line managing smaller groups or if you're in a smaller company. And so, you can see the subtle change if somebody starts to cause concern, their behaviours come across as different. And I think what you need to be able to do is do a bit of research to know where to signpost those people, you have to be able to support them by signposting them to the right places and the right expertise, and telling them that it's okay, you know, again I think the biggest the biggest thing we've done for mental health over the last decade, is is start to remove and I say start, because I think there's still a long way to go start to remove the taboo, the fact that it is about if you're stressed or you're, you know, mentally going through some difficult times or you know you're depressed or whether, that somehow that's a sign of weakness or incompetence that that  machismo guff is going and we have to push it further out the door. And I think the first thing you can do as a leader is make sure your staff feel comfortable and confident talking to you and being honest and being vulnerable, and the best way by the way you get them to do that is by you being honest and you being vulnerable, and not being some kind of on a pedestal Church... Churchillian figure. You know, if you look and I'm not going to get political heavily here, but if you look at probably the moment at which people have the greatest empathy for Boris Johnson in the last couple of months it was when he was going through the horrific health scare he had with Covid, and people developed a much stronger empathy towards him. So, I think being vulnerable yourself is really important, but also realising you are not superwoman or Superman, it is not your job to keep that person on the right track it's to ensure that you help them find that right track, all you can do is create a culture where they're prepared to be honest an vulnerable.

Angela: Yeah. No, it's I absolutely agree I mean we've, you know, I mean one of the first things that we did was just made sure that everyone had, you know, some basic things that sort of, you know, have you got the tools to do the job and things like that you know. So, some practical things about, you know, if you've got a working laptop if you've got somewhere to sit that's comfortable, I've had so many you know sort of team members with backs over the last few weeks because they're sitting on various sorts of dining chairs, camping chairs and things like that. Making sure people, you know, people stressing about the fact that their broadband is not working, and they can't connect. So, we've had to go through a lot of those sorts of personal things and other obviously, you know, that's where the biggest stress is when you know on a basic level I can't dive into a meeting because my Broadband's, you know, dropping out and things like that. So, we've done some of those sorts of things very quickly, we've also sort of set up a buddy system with ours so each so, everyone in the team has a buddy, and initially I set it up because I was concerned that I was going to have a lot of staff members off sick, thankfully that hasn't happened, but it means that everyone's got someone who they talk to on a daily basis, you know, chitchat, who they can support and support each other and things like that. We have virtual coffee mornings, because what I found is is that meetings, we use Microsoft teams all the time for meetings, but meetings are very operational focused it's the very tough focus, because actually, you know, no one's to spend all day sitting on a computer and things like that, but by by being like that you look you're losing some of that creativity and that spontaneity so, you know, by putting on and we have sort of daily coffee mornings, I will actually, we just say like if I want to dial in,  we'll all sit and have a chitchat, and that's been doing because it's enabled people just to talk informally like they would do within the office. But it's also, you know, as we switch off we sort of start chatting about the things that we'd like to do, and things and that started to sort of create little sparks of magic back into the team and things like that. And as I said earlier, you know, I am spending a lot more time talking to the team, listening to the team and things like that, and just sort of making sure that they are okay because I am recognising that if we're not at the end of this every day some, you know, every day or every week things are changing. So, you know, we think we're on a level playing field and then, you know, there's a new announcement about what the next phase looks like or there's a, you know or you know, I've got I've got staff members who've got partners who are furloughed, who you don't know if I've got a job, you know. so, you know, all these things are happening behind the scenes so, you know, we just need to understand that everyone is dealing with it differently everyone is adapting differently and also for each individual person, there are different points where there are different and new stresses coming into that situation that we have to be mindful of and and and and sort of support them with and things like that, and help them deal with and signpost.

Toby: Thanks Angela. Another question’s come in and it sort of relates to what we've been talking about but, and my thoughts are a lot of this the skills we're talking about the leadership skills we're talking about, are skills that we use on an on a day to day basis whatever scenario scenario we're in but the question is, do you think leading from a distance requires new skills and/or perhaps a greater emphasis on certain leadership skills we already have?

Richard: That's um, that's a that's a really really good question and, you know, I don't know that I have a concrete answer to that but I think what Angela said earlier is probably the most significant thing of all. Which is we have to hone our ability to listen, we have to listen more right now for a whole host of reasons, you know, when you think about the way you process what you see in your daily life as a leader so much of that is based on visual information, on body language on the way somebody might be speaking to you totally observing the way they're working, and and a lot of those things if you like have gone, we've taken we've had to take the 3-dimensional glasses off right, and now we're in 2 dimensions. And I think that ability to listen right now to the nuance and tone, to the phrasing to what it is people are saying to you, I think has become more profound and and more important than than ever so, I would suggest that I would suggest that it has to be listening.

Angela: Yeah, yeah. No absolutely, yes as I said I think this is one thing that I, you know, I recognised that I've probably been, you know, become better at I say over the last, in the last few weeks. And and, you know, really lis..., you know, active listening not just you know sort of, you know, not in your head and say anything like that. I think Trust has been absolutely key and I I don't know whether I've been it deliberately or not, but I have taken almost a second step back and I have a lot more relaxed approach with my team it's interesting like I've always I had that in my

personal life, I'm sure if the kids came into the room they would say the same as well, and that's sort of, you know what just, I trust you just to do the right thing, because you, you know, we're all in this together you, you know, you want this as much as I do I'll just leave you to get on with it and work out how the best way it is for you and your colleagues to to deal with this and and, you know, come up with the right solution that we, you know, this, you know, that’s right for everyone, that hits the shared goals and targets that we that we have been collectively set so, that's been interesting it's all back to trust.

Richard: I think, I just to pick up on that. Sorry Toby. I think that trusts really important because I think the other important thing to recognise about leadership is to have the confidence to be collegiate about it, you know, in a time of profound change in uncertainty there may be other people better place than you, to come up to generate ideas and thinking and working working ways of working in your organisation. And so, it's to have the confidence and trust to be able to allow others to lead to step back and allow others to lead, you know, one of the things I think I've seen in the leaders I've ever interviewed is that incredible confidence and  trust in their people, but confidence in themselves to be allow that, to allow themselves to step back and let others take the lead where it matters. Because we're in an entirely new world now, and although you may be the founder leader or been in that the industry or sector you you've been in all of your life or trained in it or whatever, you know, from apprenticeship or university or whatever it is highly likely there will be people who are far more skilled at certain things than you are, you know. I think about remote learning for example, and I look at my two grown-up children, I mean I have spent 2 months and an absolute fortune trying to work out how to be a professional speaker from home hence the Ponzi backdrop, but my children have like gone, "oh yeah dad, if you'd asked me I would have been able to do that for you in 5 minutes and for no money." See sometimes we have to understand that the experts aren't necessarily the ones we expect them to be.

Angela: Absolutely True.  

Toby: I've taken a positive thing, a positive view what we're talking about here, is the opportunity to use the developed skills the skills we already have the listening skills and and the trust skills, and the empowerment skills we already had the perhaps are being given the opportunity to develop a lot more in this situation the opportunity, once we come out of this situation to keep that going.

Richard: Yep. No, and I agree, this is one of the things I think we need to be very clear about now is not so much an exit strategy because we don't know when that exits coming, but I think now's a great time to really be reflecting on what we as individual managers and leaders have learnt both about ourselves, and about our teams over the last 2 months, and and for what could be months more. And to make sure that those things are explicit in what we know what we understand, even if it's to the point where people journal, you know, they have an idea they see something happen there's something they've seen in in a member or an interaction in their team, they journal it log it. Because what you don't want is just to kind of see it in the moment and then not learn from it, and and we've got an incredible opportunity to reflect and learn now and and hopefully as this dissipates, because I think it's gonna be that much more graduated process as we go back to some semblance of the physical environment we were we were in before, the business environment we were in before I think making sure that we've learned from this experience taken the really good stuff and used it as part of our policy driving forward around leadership and management, means that although this this couple of months this few months is going to be horrendous for a lot of people and a lot of businesses it'll hopefully give us something positive and constructive as a legacy to move forward with.

Angela: It's interesting that you've used the L word Richard obviously learn, because and without doubt everyone has learned something new over the last 3 months because they've been forced to, you know. I mean all right I am by no means a dinosaur but I am pretty close to it when it times the digital capability, you know, and everyone has learned something and actually what organisations and teams and leaders need to do is, is capture that, you know, we've all been forced into, you know, doing things differently adapting to new things embracing new technology. And we obviously to use that as a platform to to continue to develop that learning culture, and drive that sort of process the improvement and behavior changes in organisations and use it as that basis to sort of drive, you know, drive real change and you know different practices and things like that. And I've read a lot of articles recently about, you know, this time being the time for companies to sort of, you know, start to embed a new learning culture within their organisations whatever that may mean on different levels doesn't necessarily mean, you know, new new hard skills, new digital skills and things like that it, you know, it's about behavioral changes and just sort of, you know, thinking more entrepreneurial and, you know, sort of in terms of the way that you work softer skills that we just need to sort of, you know, encourage more businesses to be braver, you know, take you know take calculated risks and things like that going forward. Because look what you've achieved in the last 3 months.

Richard: You know, I mean I think you're right. I think there, you know, there are there are 2 words really for me moving forwards that companies need to really comprehend now in practical terms, one is agility and the other is collaboration. You know, we need to be far more collaborative, collegiate and we need to be far more agile. And we've proved that we can do both in the last 2 and a half months.

Toby: We've got another question that's come in, do you any advice as to how you can best manage productivity with remote workers? Which is kind of a different way of coming at it.

Richard: Yeah, I mean I I think again the important thing there is to to challenge our traditional sense of what it means to have a productive workforce, you know. Because one of the things I personally have experienced, you know, I've been working from home since I left my headship 13 years ago and what I've learnt is that the biorhythm of my day is not necessarily traditional anymore. So, I don't, I haven't worked from 9:00 to 5:00 if you like or 8:00 to 4:00 or whatever else it is, in 13 years and what I've learnt over that 13 years is there are times in the day where I can accomplish as much in an hour as I used to accomplish in 4 in a workplace, because all the factors around me. And I think one of the really important things around productivity that we need to learn, it's 2 things really, one it's not necessarily about how many hours you put in, you know, that myth that well I'd look how productive I'm being I worked 9 days last week, you know, that is a myth, as is multitasking by the way. There's no evidence anywhere to say multitasking works, and I'm sorry I know I'm defending that thesis as a man and you who might be going, "no you're wrong." But but this whole idea that productivity is about how many hours you put in and those hours have to be between fixed dates and times in a day, you know. What people will have learnt I think over the last 2 and a half months of working at home, is they will have learnt more about their own bio rhythm and patterns, and they will have adapted and adopted their days where they have control over it children permitting to work hours when they know they're at their most productive. So, for example I know some people get up in the morning, go for a run get to there get to their screen or wherever they're working at 7:00/7:30 in the morning and by lunch time they've accomplished more than they'd accomplished in a full day normally easy. And I think we have to be more flexible and I think we have to question, ask questions and observe and say okay, when our people, when are individuals at they're most productive, and with this flexibility we need them to allow to allow them to be that. You know, we've known for years for example around teenagers and education and learning, that teenagers do not work best between 9 o'clock in the morning and 3:30 in the afternoon, teenagers scientifically are at their most productive in the mid to late evening right. So, there's a real question there about why we structure what we do the way we do, and I think this is a great opportunity for us to explore productivity in a different way.

Angela: Yeah absolutely agree and, you know, I've got I've got team members now who are working all sorts of weird and wonderful work patterns and things like that. I, you know, I myself, quite often I'm sitting in a fairly dark room at the moment and  I quite often have an hour midafternoon spend time with the kids, go for a walk, go for a bike ride switch off and then go back to it later. I think the one, the one area of caution that I do have is that because work and home is blurred, I'm very mindful with my team that, you know, I'm very clear there is not  expectation that you work 24/7 and actually, yes yes it is very easy at the moment for you to, you know, go on a log on at night and check emails and things like that but, you know, I don't expect that. And actually, if that's when you want to do it and please take some time off during the day when the kids want to do something with you, or you want to go for a run or whatever you want to do you know, it's going back to the trust thing again  is, you know, it's about being supportive of people wanting to manage and, you know, working, you know, deciding how they work they work best and things like that. But also to ensure that they do have that the correct work-life balance and I know at the moment that is very challenging because they're either working or they have or, they're looking after children because schools aren't open and things like that. Hopefully as schools can start going back they can better adapt to those sorts of routines, and also to allow themselves some proper downtime and some proper quality sort of family time and things like that, because that's, you know, that's at the moment I know isn't happening with my team because because of the other pressures that they've got.

Toby: Right well, we said we're going to give ourselves an hour on this webinar we're approaching that now. I just wanted to give both of you an opportunity to leave our viewers with a pearl of wisdom let's say, is there any one thing that you think is the most important to consider in this situation?

Richard: For me, I think the most impact, there are so many and you've kind of put me on the spot, but I think the most important thing to take from this situation, is the ability to reflect, to take time, because often we see time as the enemy of productivity we see time as the enemy of accomplishing what needs to be accomplished. And I think what we need to understand is time is probably the most important resource you have in your organisation, and that's not more time to do it's time to reflect, it's time to step back, you know, for leaders and managers it's time to go and have a cup of coffee with somebody in a totally different world who doesn't necessarily connect directly to what you're dealing with in the moment. And I think if what we do is we start to see time as a commodity that needs to be protected, and utilised in a different kind of way that will give us a really strong way of being able to carry some of the good things that have come out of the last 2 and a half months forwards as we move into the next phase of hectic. And the reason I say that is I remember, you know, when the financial crisis happened 2007, loads of people started to see their work pattern change they were going to commit to doing things differently leaders were going to do things differently, the way they were going to construct the pot... the purpose around their organisations were going to change. And everybody did for about 18 months, and then the milk and honey started to flow again, and everyone went back to their default setting. So, I think in this case the most important thing is to capture the stuff that's worked for you, do not lose it and make sure you keep time constantly to reflect and think, and network and and and to use those soft ideas, because actually I think what we've realised is those soft ideas have become the hard currency.

Toby: Angela.

Angela: This is an interesting one. So, a couple of weeks ago when we were having dinner we started chatting about what we missed the most during lockdown and things like that, and I I said one word I said spontaneity, and I still hold to that it's the one thing that I miss more than anything else and I think that's both in in work and socially, and just this is where you get the enjoyment and the pleasure in life, and and it's where you get the magic. I do think it was your podcast Richard, but on one of the podcasts we did talk about business magic but but, you know, in businesses that's where you get that magic, that sort of, you know, casually bumping into someone as you're walking around the office or something like that, and have a chat with them leads to, you know, new ideas and things like that. That sort of spontaneity of, you know, or just it was a nice day and it's going for a walk let's drop into the pub, you know, it's those sorts of spontaneous moments that that make make life special and work special and things like that. So, my advice is: try and find a way to bring spontaneity back into your life again and even under the current circumstances.

Toby: Thank you very much. Well I'd like to thank again Richard Gerver and Angela Tooley for doing this webinar with me today, it's been an absolute pleasure and I hope that you have found it very useful. Now again, the webinar was based on our Inspired Business podcast, which endeavors to bring you engaging and inspiring stories from across the business landscape in Derby, Derbyshire and beyond. Thank you for listening today, you can find our inspired business podcast at derby.ac.uk/inspired business. We've had 2 episodes broadcast so far and more episodes will be coming over the next few weeks. Well thank you again Richard and thank you again Angela.

Richard: Thanks so much for having us.

Angela: Thank you.

Toby: Goodbye folks!

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