Day 25

Day 25

It was like one of those old school Sundays where it’s a bit cold outside, there’s nowhere to go anyway, and the inside is full of warmth and activities. I read The Calculus Affair today. Yes I know the story but it’s got some of my favourite components of Tintin – Marlinspike Hall, the Trains in Europe and the cities with amazing details. And funny too.

It wasn’t exactly funny, but the 1pm press conference did seem fairly upbeat. After saying that no decision has yet been made,  in response to a question about business the prime minister said that retail, hospitality and other businesses should be getting themselves readied for opening with social distancing. She said that although level 3 will mean some relaxation for business, the social relaxation is not a thing. Perhaps we should tell her we’ve actually been doing quite a bit of relaxing! Or did I just get my relaxings all mixed up. Anyway, I’m pretty relaxed about it.  Someone mentioned that they’re getting ready to start working on Thursday in a cafe although they probably don’t know any more than the rest of us. Either way, expectation is building of a partial release – let’s say it’s going to be a pre-release work experience type of thing.

As well as Tintin, I also did some reading on Worldometer.  It seems the whole world is obsessed with infections and death rates. For a while there, it had a bit of Olympic Games medal table feel about it – who would get the top of the table, but it’s serious of course – people are dying. It looked like China at the top for many weeks, but that seems a life-time ago and the infection rate in the US is now just less than one-third of the total infections, but only 24% of the total deaths. Dare I say it, they must be doing something right, having let the ‘rona loose.

Since I last looked, the rate of those in serious condition as a percentage of active infections is down to 3%. The percentage increase in deaths has been on a decline for two weeks now. It doesn’t matter what data you look at, the vast majority of deaths are in the 65+ age group, and most have underlying conditions. That doesn’t mean that there are exceptions to this rule and everyone knows of an example that doesn’t meet the majority. Not so in New Zealand though. On the information available none of the deaths in New Zealand had COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death. We don’t know all the actual ages of those whose deaths are attributed to COVID-19 in New Zealand, but using an assumption that someone described as in their 80s is 82.5, and 90s is 92.5 and so on, so as to not overstate it, then the median age is 82.5 and the average age 83.5. We are not an outliner. In Italy 83% of deaths are in people aged over 70.

Here’s some predictions. When we look back the death rate of humans on the planet for 2020, it will not be materially different to other years. The virus squeezed the mortality rate into a compressed time frame. That compression of mortality is without doubt the main reason why action was required to not overload the health system, as is happening in the States. Sound harsh and unfeeling? 150,000 people die each day on earth. At least 500,000 people die each year from influenza and you’d have to think that social distancing and isolation measures will reduce that materially.  Will the ‘rona cause worse rates of fatalities in Africa? Unlikely, the age demographics are wrong – median age in all of Africa is 19.7 years, compared to Europe at 43.  But it won’t be a picnic either, as health services are likely poor.

So 4pm is when we’ll crowd around the radio, Michael Joseph Savage style, crackling reception, have the valves even warmed up yet?, waiting “Where she stands, we stand“.  Okay, so it’ll be “Breaking News” on the television even though we know it’s coming.  Hopefully it’s breaking the Home-D.  Either way it’s a significant leadership opportunity.

Leadership is not for the faint-hearted. In this matter, we have replaced a possible medical crisis, with an absolute economic and social crisis. Breaking the cycle of STAY HOME! will not be easy and requires courage and an acknowledgement that it’s time to let go.

Credit to Peter Bromhead for the cartoon. Captures it perfectly I reckon.

Stephen

 

 

 

Day 24

Day 24

Writing the titles for this series of blogs has been pretty straightforward, obviously.  Writing it today I had a sense of it coming to an end soon. Slightly melancholic feeling, which is weird after wishing the time away.

The Lockdown will probably end to be replaced by another form of restriction, but the Lockdown blogs will end with Level 4 ends. OK!

The sharemarket – as if its a being – appears optimistic about the current economic prospects. Shares have largely rebounded strongly, not regaining all the gains of the last few years, but quite a bit of it. Investors are seeing signs that COVID-19 as a medical issue is largely dispatched, and the economy can fire up again. Yes it’s more complex on both fronts, but I think that’s the perception.

The government led us strongly into economic freeze to stop the ‘rona spreading. It will say there’s still lots to be done, but by the look of the amount of traffic on the streets today, many people have stopped listening. Business is coming back ready or not I think.

I went on a walk again today, a long walk, Maungakiekie and Cornwall Park, Te Kopuku/Mt St John and Maungawhau/Mt Eden. The body needed a big workout to match the mental energy this past week and it paid off.

Do watch Unorthodox on Netflix which I finished tonight. If you don’t need to wipe your eyes you might be a sociopath! It’s only four episodes.

Although there’s quite a few things I like about the Lockdown, I do miss the weekend drive, the coffee in the cafe and riding my motorbike.

So the challenge is to hold on to new ways whilst grabbing back the best of the past.

Leaders can make this their mantra in the refreshed world in a week or two.

Stephen

Day 21

Day 21

We turned 21 but we didn’t get the Key! Battle lines are being drawn between experts.

One group, who advise the government, says that the risks of COVID-19 can’t be understated, that Lockdown is vital and we’re so far doing precisely what we should have been doing to eradicate the virus from New Zealand.

On the other side are experts who say that the risks for most people are overstated and that the main impact of the the virus is to compress the mortality of a certain group from twelve months to two weeks. They say that we can’t ever expect to eradicate the virus, that’s just not practical.  Of course, there’s more to it than that but these are the highlights (or lowlights really).

iStock-1214440800.jpg

The first group will be saying that at Alert level 3 there should be severe restrictions on movement and that a return to level 2 should be measured and slow, ensuring all risk is eliminated.

The second group essentially proposes a return to level 2 now, but with Lockdown applying to those over 70 (or maybe 60) and those with low immunity.

One of the specialists from the first group suggested that this proposal was impracticable. I doubt it’s any more impractical than what we have! Which is not to say he was wrong but it’s hardly a fighting argument.

Naturally group two has the support of many business people who say that the medicine is worse than the disease.

Adversarial processes are used commonly in law and in parliament. They promote a “winner takes all” approach to settling a dispute. As the economy and society hemorrhage from the Lockdown we’ll see more of this advocacy.

Good leaders build consensus and in my experience, business leaders are generally excellent at it. Command and control has its place – including during a state of national emergency – but consensus will be far more sustainable in the long run.

So it’s an odd situation. We have a government that built a consensus across the political spectrum to go into Lockdown. This Lockdown was built on evidence that was available at the time – 80,000 will die if we don’t respond – and that we would be the next Italy if we didn’t take action.

A few weeks on a lot has changed. There is little doubt that the measures have squashed the curve. But we’re more or less being given the same evidence – the dementia patients dying has been cited as why we can’t relax. I know this sounds harsh, but the majority of those patients have “Do not resuscitate” orders against them. These are folk who, sadly, their loved ones have made that very tough decision about. I’ve been involved in one of those decision. You do what’s right.  These folk do not represent or crystallise a real and present danger to what the majority in the community might face. They do explain why we need to flatten the curve so hospitals are no overwhelmed. We’ve done that.

The toughest calls are not always what you do. In my work sometimes we make calls not to go for something. They’re really tough and you fight against all your commercial instincts to do what’s right. That’s not in anyway to compare the gravity of the calls that might need to be made, however, leaders need to know when not doing something is right.

I remember when the fourth Labour Government put an end to shopping restrictions in the weekend. I remember clearly the great feeling of freedom that, finally, here was a government that wanted to stop telling us what to do!

I’m hoping for a grand consensus and freedom for those who need it, and relevant restrictions and, yes, use some of that $52B in emergency funding, and pay whatever it takes to keep those most at risk safe and secure.

Too much sitting at my computer on video calls have started to take their toll. Some soreness in joints that shouldn’t be there so I’m going to try and take a day time walk tomorrow. The walking jacket is now always on hand. The summer walks are over.

Let me out!

Day 20

Day 20

I almost broke the chain of blogs today, but no way. I could hear the 1pm press conference echoing in my ear – STAY HOME AND WRITE! – or something like that so lucky I’m compliant.

I had a call with someone outside work today who reckoned that I was just a featureless blob on the screen. I blamed the sun streaming in behind me but she didn’t let up and insisted we find another option. I was concerned that I’d become either featureless or a blob or both but I checked the mirror and I found features, admittedly in two degrees, but that’s the nature of a mirror. Later on we had a telephone call.

It might also be that this third week – three weekends in – has made us all a little stir crazy. Since school, have you ever felt so dependent on another adult for what you can do in your life? Will we get out? What will we be able to do once we get out? Can we go home early after PE? Okay so maybe the last one really was school, but you get the drift.

As I said on the D-Day Home-D blog, Freedom is my most important value. I don’t care much for unnecessary control as a consequence, so the dangling, the hope, the scolding, is all a bit much at times. But hey, we may, if we’ve done the right things, have 8 days to go until the worst is over.

There were four more deaths today. A nurse on Checkpoint this evening texted in and said that the annual influenza cuts through the elderly in rest homes in much the same way as COVID-19 does when it takes hold. A podcast of a Saturday morning interview by Kim Hill with Dr Chris Smith, a UK virologist was replayed tonight (yes I’m boring). Dr Smith said that they expect the death rate to be significantly lower than currently described once the data is in on the very large numbers of people with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic. The story of this virus will have remarkably different headlines in three years time than it does now once full information is known.

But governments can only be expected to act on data that they have available to them at the time. When they data shifts, the politics of owning the decision suddenly make it more challenging. That’s fascinating, especially given that we’ve all been under the impression that most key decisions were political, when in fact they’re not.

There’s a leadership learning here and relevant to leaders everywhere.  Have you put so much leadership or political capital into a decision that to change course unbalances the ship?

It truly was a winter’s walk tonight – 14 degrees –  dark, wet and cold and that chain, the walking chain, stayed intact too, although it was only 4 kilometres. The police approved I’m told.

And it’s Wednesday already! Plan for that last weekend – or maybe don’t just in case it’s not.  After all, Saturday week is ANZAC day and we might just sneak out and make our own freedom parade if we’re not ordered to stay home!

Stephen

Day 19

Day 19

It was a day of Nineteens. 19 new or probable infections of COVID-19 on day 19 of the Lockdown. Another death bringing the reported COVID-19 related deaths in New Zealand to 5, although we don’t have any information to know for certain the underlying cause of death in each case, but you could probably guess it wasn’t COVID-19.

It really did feel like Summer was over today. Maximum temperature 19 (really!) and squally winds on the walk. Now the real test of walking and keeping the chain going begins. It’s all well and good to walk when the weather is agreeable, but with daylight saving gone, walking is likely to be in the dark and possibly cold and wet at times. I’m up for it. Just don’t catch a cold – it’s going to be the most unsociable thing you can present with for the foreseeable future. And that’s a good thing. I very much consider that if you’ve got a cold then you STAY HOME! Some good might come from all of this.

It was nice having this long weekend, despite no ability to go away – it was good to have a break from an intensive period at work – made more challenging by working from home so intensely. Colleagues reported they were exhausted at the end of the week. The video conferencing seemed to be the common theme.  At one stage during the weekend I got excited that the end of Lockdown might be in sight, then I felt that I’d miss the new way – it’s added a lot of different energy to work, then this afternoon if felt like a grind again. Tintin in The Crab with the Golden Claws helped. If you’re a scholar of Tintin you’ll know that this is the story where he meets Captain Haddock. Blistering Barnacles!

iStock-1214087281.jpg

For most if us we’re not meeting anyone at the moment and there’s massive uncertainty for some. What does a person on a work visa do, when their job is a risk? How do they repatriate to their home country? Do they want to? How many people are getting laid off right now? It’s pretty grim for many folk and it brings into perspective my reality.

I’m privileged in that it actually hasn’t been too bad for me so far. I’ve been able to try and imbed some new structures in work practices that I’m finding useful. My shiny boots and business clothes – well they’re taking a big break! STAY IN THE WARDROBE! Will we have changed the way we do business permanently? Or will we get back to the norm and wonder why we were being so dramatic over a few weeks of disruption.

We were told today that we’ll get told next Monday – a week away – what the new level and restrictions will be at the conclusion of the 4 weeks. Of course nothing might change, but I think it’s inconceivable on the current trajectory that we stick with the status quo. The economic and social imperatives, when cases are so low and connected deaths limited to the main vulnerable demographic only so far, must move us forward.

Well let’s hope so. When power is held by any one leader, it must only be used to the absolute minimum necessary, regardless of how well intentioned the use of that power is.

Enjoy the short week!

Stephen

Day 16

Day 16

It was another gorgeous day today in Auckland so perhaps my welcoming of Winter was a bit premature. I had my 119th and 120th walks of the year today. Up Maungawhau (Mt Eden) that sits proudly watching over Tāmaki Makaurau. It’s the highest Maunga (mountain) in Auckland’s monogenetic volcanic range on the mainland. Each volcano erupts only once, as compared to polygenetic volcanoes, such as Whakaari White Island, or Mt Ruapehu.  The most recent one to erupt was Rangitoto Island, 550 years ago and it’s also the tallest.

The Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority is the statutory authority which co-governs fourteen of Auckland’s fifty-three Maunga with Auckland Council. Of those fourteen, in addition to Maungawhau, Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill), Ōhinerau (Mount Hobson), and Te Kōpuke / Tītīkōpuke (Mount St John) are within easy striking distance for walking during the Lockdown. Maungakiekie adjoins Cornwall Park, and is essentially one large park. Mount Hobson is very close to me and I often attend our weekly Consulting all-partner morning calls striking it up to the top, hoping that when I need to speak I’m actually at the top and not pacing it out upwards!

I feel very blessed to live amongst such beautiful form in the city, which has meaningful history and is ideal for walking for fitness. The variations in route, views, typography on any one walk are almost endless.

It really did feel like the city had cleaned out and gone to the beach for Easter. I think a few may have, but some got turned back – STAY HOME! – and no doubt reminded that it’s a staycation this weekend.

It’s still a great opportunity to do some cleaning out I reckon. Little projects that you can do at home in the garden or the house to clean out stuff you don’t need. Face it, we have too much. Clean some stuff off your mental or actual to do list too. Create a project list*. and if something doesn’t make it, it’s never going to be a thing. Maybe that physical photo album is not really a thing. Forget it, it’s clutter in your mind holding onto it and then clutter 30 minutes after it’s created.

I got cleaned out of someone else’s 2020 plans. Plans for a project were ended with “I’m bowing out“, without explanation. But I respect that. We’ve all got our own stuff going on and to clean out is refreshing for the mind, when needed. No-one wants to continue with something, when you’re only half-hearted, or something doesn’t feel right. But it was slightly jarring nonetheless. Not my call but you have to move forward for the next opportunity.

Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill

So a big question for Auckland will be when the next eruption might be.  When will the volcanic bed get cleaned out? The eruptions have generally been thousands of years apart, and scientists’ best estimate will be that the next one is off the coast near St Heliers, near Browns Island. LEAVE HOME! will be catch cry you would assume when that happens.

Almost forgot COVID-19. It’s still a thing alright, you can see that everywhere you go – which isn’t far – but we need to be patient.

Cleaning out and patience. Excellent leadership traits to practice during a long weekend confined to home. Patience is underused.

Stephen

*I’m reading Getting Things Done at the moment.

 

 

Day 11

Day 11

It’s already late! And we’re supposed to have had an extra hour to make us get to bed early. It was dark by the time I got back from a walk and shop and it was only 6.45pm. This was after an afternoon of home-admin: financial planning, an insurance claim for overseas travel postponed due to COVID-19, and other bits of “shallow work” that take time, but need to be done.

Not that financial planning is shallow work. It’s most definitely not. I’m giving serious thought to the changing environment – following my Barefoot Investor* rulebook – and devoting deep work time to it as described in Cal Newport’s book* of the same name.

There’s an awful lot out there right now, that we can’t control, but as I’ve said earlier in on the Lockdown I consider that this is a great time to focus in on ourselves using Windfulness and what is truly important to us. In my experience, narrowing my focus in a way that brings meaning to the things I can control reduces anxiety, and increases my life contentment (or satisfaction – you can choose the work that suits you here).

iStock-1152601920.jpg

Much of what we can’t control is the strong alarm soundings everywhere – the flashing red news site banners (did you know that the colour red raises anxiety) – and strong opinions on the Lockdown in Social Media and the Media generally. It does nothing for me to read much of it. That’s not to say I don’t keep myself informed or that I do have opinions on some matters but can I control it? No. Essentially, no one person can, so I refuse to unnecessarily bother worrying about it, if it’s upsetting for some reason.

This is why I endeavour to remain upbeat and in good humour about the current events. I consider I am much more use to those that need me and rely on me for support – family, team, colleagues.  I’m well aware there are thousands of personal tragedies, directly or indirectly related to COVID-19 and I have empathy for those impacted. But I refuse to let it get me personally down.

And about those opinions we’ve all been reading (that’s most news items in case you hadn’t noticed!). Well, what if you didn’t have an opinion? Is that acceptable? In his book The Art of the Good LIfe, Rolf Dobelli says that it can be immensely liberating not to have an opinion on something. My son Thomas, who’s a great reader, put me onto this and I agree. For example, I don’t have an opinion on either the Cannabis or End of Life reform legislation that are going to a referendum.  I hope I get one when the time comes! But it’s freedom – my most important value – and like Marie Kondo does with your house, you can do it with your mind.

Take the Lockdown time to do some deep work, clean out the shallow work and home clutter that are getting in the way, free yourself of unnecessary opinion, and focus on facts, not on-line windups.

That’s me for the next 17 days at least!

Happy working week 3 (can we call it that? Why not)

Stephen

*There’s no financial or other advice implied or provided here of course. These are just my personal reflections only.