You can never tell if your company has a good culture until you have experienced a major crisis. I believed the culture of BoxMedia felt good, looked good, and seemed good. But those were all mere assumptions until Covid.
As my grandfather used to tell me: “The fish rots from the head.” On Day One of Lockdown, I sat and pondered from my employees’ perspective. What would I want from a leader? What do I need to structure my day having to work from home? What would balance even look like?
These questions led to our new company operations: Consistency. Therefore we immediately, on Day 1 of remote work, put into place mandatory 9-.930AM and 6-6.30pm video calls. We decentralized information from departments so we all had access to the same files.
We created a clear communication structure for tools such as Slack, Asana, Trello, WhatsApp, and Google docs. Every email or document created had to begin with: The Purpose. This helped structure thinking and eliminated confusion. Not surprisingly, I found that every single thing I would want from a leader was actually the same as what my team needed. We aren’t that different after all, especially in a global crisis. This collective spirit uncovered the essential ingredients of good culture:
Be vulnerable with your team at times. By showing this is a tough time, you can create an “all hands on deck” atmosphere. We all rise and fall together. Be consistent in communication daily with yourself and your company. Be the guiding light for your company’s voice and direction. Allow for adaptability that can pave the way for further growth. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.
On March 9th, we shut our offices in London and set off to muddle together what remote living, working, and learning looked like in a pandemic. We had our wits, friendship, health, company cultures, and daily global reports to go on.
My first action during lockdown was to contact each member of my team and find out more about their living situations. Did they have WiFi? Enough room to work from? A good desk/chair? How could we help?
Secondly, a medical support system was put into place that included mental health. We wished to make sure our teams had masks/gloves/whatever else they might require in case they had to go out.
Finally, as we are a company that offers healthy lunches and snacks every day in the office, we made sure to offer solutions such as identifying which companies would still be delivering staples like veggies and fruit.
During the first month or so, the mandatory evening calls I focused on how the day went and what everyone might need. With this consistency, I began to see a sense of redundancy within everyone and I decided to change it up.
Going forward, our daily calls featured a person chosen in alphabetical order to bring up a question with the team. This question could be a riddle or a question designed to get to know everyone better. The results were extraordinary. The questions were revealing, lively, and rekindled a sense of camaraderie. Suddenly, we were sharing our bucket lists or our deepest fears. We discovered our hidden talents and strongest skills. Everyone felt safe and trusting enough to openly share. In the mornings, we suggested breathing exercises, stretching, and even dance.
We’ve now moved onto morning sessions that involve teachings around our learning models, which are steeped in neuroscience and Communication Intelligence (CQ). It’s a chance to help with mental health awareness and self-discovery. In short, we are providing 10 hours per month of training and mentoring for our crew.
Our business has flourished in the process. The gratitude around this factor during this period was felt by everyone. We have been so fortunate not to have financial stress added to all our plates during this time and our thoughts have really gone out to the plenty who have also had to deal with that, not to mention the grief of losing people. Some of our colleagues have lost one of their parents or grandparents during this time. Not being able to attend the funeral or see loved ones in the hospital only adds to the complexity. Covid has been and will continue to be, a maze of emotions.
I shall end by saying that even though I am unsure of the future, I am sure of the basics that are required to lead during unpredictable situations. Uncertain times deserve consistent, thoughtful, and kind leadership. Leaders secure enough to show their own fear, anxiety, and humility become role models for others.