Beware Productivity Porn

by Brian Brittain on April 10, 2020

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Most of us have had moments during this crisis, when we have asked “when will this be over?” Unfortunately the answer is “never”. The legacy of this crisis will be with us for years and perhaps decades. At KRW it is our view that we have to prepare ourselves for living in a world forever changed, and we need to change along with it, to be happy and successful.

So, how should we live now?

KRW has had the opportunity to work with clients, who are leading large teams of knowledge workers, in Asia. Those clients are eight to ten weeks ahead of us in their response to the pandemic. It is convenient for us as coaches to be able to be coached by our clients.

One of their key learnings regarding transitioning from traditional to new ways of work, was to not worry or focus on productivity in the early stages. What they found was critical was to secure their teams in new working situations. Ensure they had the required technology to work from home. As leaders make sure they had what they needed for them and their families to feel safe, secure, relatively stable and connected to each other and the world.

These conversations along with others closer to home have helped KRW form a point of view of what is important right now.

Our message to you is to let go of some of your idealistic ideas about what you should be doing right now in order not to lose ground. Your focus should be on stabilizing yourself, your family and your team. Not on maintaining your productivity. Productivity will come back from a stable base.

KRW consultants and coaches are human first. We are struggling like the rest of you to figure out how to best adapt and survive during this chaotic period.

Here are our thoughts, primarily based on the experiences of others, about what is required to stay calm, focused on the right things, and be ready to come out healthy and productive on the other side.

Establish a Secure Base
In these early stages the most important thing to focus on is your physical and mental security, for you and your resource teams.

Food, family, friends and fitness are what needs to be attended to in this stage. Decide who your critical relationships are at work, home, and in the community. Reach out to them in a way that they know you are there for them (within the constraints of physical distancing) and vice versa. Maintain caring connections in spite of isolation.

If you are working from home make sure the space you work in is as nurturing as possible. Determine how to manage boundaries between work and family, the best you can. Invest some time in a coordinated family plan. Ensure you have the hardware and software you need. Once you have done this for yourself and family, lead your teams through this process as well.

Embrace Distraction and Not Knowing
One of the most sane-making things I have heard was a writer making his point through describing a couple of his journal entries.

“Day 1 of Quarantine: ‘I commit to meditating daily and maintaining my weight training.’ Day 4: *I just put a scoop of ice cream on my four year old’s pasta.*” Funny, and also speaks directly to the issue. We are all a bit disjointed right now, and that is the way it should be. Our world has been turned upside down. We have had to drop old assumptions and habits, and it is premature to develop new ones yet.

We need to abandon who we think we are supposed to be and embrace who we authentically are right now. Drop all your beliefs and assumptions about you as “high performers”, and drop into a deeper level of ourselves.

This is a good time to find that calm place deep inside you that can watch the chaos but not be changed by it. However you do this, through meditation, walks outdoors, playing scrabble with your spouse, find for you what is truly important in life, who you are, prior to identity of the high performer.

Enable the New Normal
So having established the security and well-being of our teams, and made it okay for us and them to be a bit out of it right now, let yourself see the world for what it is becoming and will likely become. From a place of being safe, secure, and connected begin to co-create with others new ways of working, new ways of being with your family, new services and products you can co-create with your work teams.

In an article by Aisha S. Ahmad, who has lived as a professional through many global crises, he advises,
“Understand that this is a marathon. If you sprint at the beginning, you will vomit on your shoes by the end of May. Emotionally prepare for this crisis to continue for 12-18 months, followed by a slow recovery. If it ends sooner, be pleasantly surprised. Right now, work toward establishing your serenity, productivity, and wellness under sustained disaster conditions.”

Brian Brittain, KRW partner April 3, 2020

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