Taking the reins during crises, or transformation

Wow, it has been an incredible time to start a new role managing a new company. I transitioned from nearly 9 years in management consulting with a big 4 professional services firm into the role of Managing Director for Executive Central in February. Almost immediately, we had to deal with COVID-19 and spiralling economic conditions.

Depending on how I look at it, the timing could be woeful or perfect! I believe it is the latter. Let me explain why.

One of the more challenging elements of my move was the fact that the entire Executive Central Team worked remotely (from home or their local coffee shop) and that I had to embrace this new way of working. To be honest, not commuting to the Brisbane CBD everyday was something I craved, especially given my two daughters are teen and pre-teen now and are a little more independent (read less demanding!) enabling my wife and I some degree of freedom.

Working remotely full time was a ticket to a new lifestyle. It meant more time with family, the ability to attend school awards ceremonies and carnivals, home for dinner, more balanced sharing of home duties and not having to change directly into business attire after a morning cycle! I can tell you I LOVE IT!

Five weeks in, however, and this ‘lifestyle’ was suddenly something just about everyone had to adjust to as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Like it, or not, this has created a new normal that might stick around for some time: it might even fundamentally change workplaces forever.

My transition to Executive Central was not only about lifestyle. This career step means I now have a business to run, a Board of Directors to support and most importantly a team to keep connected across the country and overseas.

As a remote business, our Consultants are well-accustomed to sessions in front of computer coaching clients on our Coachlive platform. We’ve done this for many years now and are really benefiting from having this virtual service well-established prior to the disruption of COVID-19.

What has been important, however, is the need to connect more regularly as a team to share concerns, frustrations, worries, and ideas and innovations that we can take forward. One of the team shared a quote that suggested we shouldn’t talk to clients about ‘bouncing back’ but rather we should help them ‘bounce forward’. What a great concept that, without discrediting the pain and suffering experienced, places a forward-looking, optimistic emphasis on what would otherwise be seen as a catastrophe that cannot be overcome.

On the home front here in Australia, through good management and compliance to ‘flatten the curve’, we are experiencing mateship and support for others in a new light. Simply staying at home and trying to adapt is saving the lives of our fellow Australians.

When the needed restrictions were introduced, our Executive Central team had some deep conversations about how we could best support our clients. The resounding message that shone through was incredibly heartening for me as the new MD. The team was adamant we should ‘be there for our clients’, even if that meant offering complimentary leadership development and coaching as people needed it.

Our team has drawn on their expertise in managing remote teams, on our strengths-based coaching work and introducing clients to new ways of running workshops online. We have continued to deliver coaching and leadership outcomes for our clients — paid and complimentary, and switching to fully virtual delivery — which has enabled at least some normality to continue for them.

What is absolutely clear to me and to our organisation is that the world has been plunged into one of the most astounding and profound ‘Neutral Zones’ ever experienced. The Neutral Zone (as noted by W. Bridges) is a space in time where people are unsure of what the future holds and tend to go into a ‘wait and see’ mode. This has sparked a sense of grief with everyone very aware that the old state of being is going or has gone away, that just about every aspect of life has changed. Our Executive Chairman, Rob Balmer, has prepared a white paper on this topic and I encourage you to read it.

Navigating the Neutral Zone of Change: COVID-19 Book Cover

Subscribe to download the White Paper: Navigating the ‘Neutral Zone’ of Change: COVID-19 Pandemic

From our perspective, we can see that businesses are starting to emerge from this ‘forced hibernation’ and imagine an optimistic new normal. Some businesses have been fortunate to survive and in other cases they have thrived. We have been encouraged by conversations suggesting clients are looking at new ways to invest in their people, both for coaching and for broader leadership development.

We are seeing a particular opportunity to invest in the frontline managers who now have to manage a remote workforce, teams who have to adapt and achieve in a new world and executives who need to be one step ahead at all times.

While I hope I never again have to face a situation such as this in my career, I have learned much about myself, other leaders, my friends, and my new colleagues. I feel that there is on some level a sense of anticipation emerging. We simply can not remain waiting in this ‘Neutral Zone’ forever.

Has the timing of my career transition been good? I believe so and am buoyed by the work I’ve seen our organisation deliver. I am excited by the opportunity to work with our clients to achieve the leadership excellence and coaching outcomes they seek. Please send me a message using the Contact Us link below.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for your time and I look forward to supporting you soon.

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