• Scott McInnes

78 | One step at a time

When I was interviewing Jane Sparrow a couple of weeks ago for the podcast, she mentioned a book I'd read years ago - 'Touching the Void' by a mountaineer called Joe Simpson (well worth a read).

Having had a fall that everyone assumed he didn't survive, he had to get himself off Siula Gannde, a 6,300m Andean Peak. Unfortunately he'd broken his leg and many other bones and could only drag himself along the ground on his belly.

His horizon became 10 feet - a distance he knew he could achieve with each painstaking pull. And he did that over and over again.(I won't tell you how it finished).

It struck me that that's kind of what we're going through now - two weeks of 'try not to mix with people', followed by two weeks lock down, followed by our current (further three weeks) of lock down and likely a bit more thereafter.

If the government here, in the UK, US or any other country in the world had said "Please stay in for the next seven weeks please", I think people would have gone mad - it probably wouldn't have worked.

But, by breaking it down into more palatable, holiday-size chunks, we're all a little more 'OK' with it.

The same lesson can be applied to communications and leadership as we continue to chart out this, or indeed, any change journey.

1. Set achievable goals

It's brilliant to have a vision - every leader and every organisation should have one. But, often it can feel too far away to be achievable. That's why Simpson's 10m example is so relevant - you need to break that Big Hairy Audacious Goal down into little goal-lets on a quarterly, monthly or even weekly basis. This way, your people get to feel a sense of achievement and you can show continuing forward momentum which, in itself, is really motivational and motivating

2. Then celebrate hitting them

"Thanks, well done, what a great achievement Think about the difference your actions have made for yourselves, your family and friends; and the country we all live in - the lives you've saved, the pressure you've taken off the health service" are the kinds of things we're hearing in the many messages from government. Despite everything that's going on, they're still keen to maintain a sense of achievement and drive a sense of pride

Those things are no different for any leader. Celebrating isn't about throwing a lavish party - it's about recognising, in your team catch-ups, what your people have achieved, and taking a moment for everyone to give each other a - virtual, of course - pat on the back.

3. Communicate little and often

A big briefing from 'on-high' once a week is fine. But once that scene is set, leaders need to think about ongoing, bite-sized, micro-communications that are easier for your people to hear and and digest. So think about how and what you tell them and how you'll break the big story down into those little, relevant chunks that you can seed into your teams over a period of time

That's all - simple things that can really help your people as we all continue to wend our way through this odd situation. If you're struggling to think of ways to update your staff, if you've got to deliver news - good or bad - and you're wondering what to say or when to say it, then please do get in touch - we'd love to help.


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