A week in standard 3

A week in standard 3

Not writing each day upset my new structure. This surprised me as I had thought that the extra hour I would have not writing the daily COVID-19 Lockdown Blog would be helpful. It turned out that losing that part of the daily structure made me more disorganised – working after dinner again on the couch. Too much to do.

The traffic amped up significantly since Tuesday. At times it’s almost looked normal, but not quite.

But we really are in the calm before the economic storm. Twenty-four billion dollars spent and we’re still in a post-pandemic haze, wondering what that was all about, or maybe in my Bubble I’ve become too disconnected. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs, our tourism industry is dead, we can’t fly anywhere, most businesses still shuttered. And knowledge workers are still stuck at home, but we should be grateful that we can still work and working at home isn’t that bad. Level three feels no different to me than level four, a bit like Standard 3 and 4 was for me.

Mr Keen was my Standard 3 (and 4) teacher. I remember overhearing the other teachers talking about how the headmaster, Mr Matheson, was friends with Mr Keen and Mr Keen got to choose who his pupils were! Somehow I was a chosen one. Mr Keen was an enthusiastic musician and had us all playing the recorder, other instruments, and singing – that was his real passion.  He also used to talk about the horrors of Belfast.

A search of the name Keen identifies it from County Londonderry in Northern Island. The Troubles in Northern Ireland which started in the late 1960s was almost certainly what he was talking about, but it completely escaped my attention.   Driving through Belfast, the suburb in north Christchurch that State Highway 1 used to run through, never seemed that much in turmoil to me as I observed it from the back of the family car, although I never sought clarification.

Mr Keen also showed us – from the Christchurch Star or The Press – one of the most famous photographs ever taken – the photograph of Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the Napalm Girl – who epitomised the horrors of another war. What I never appreciated was that this young girl was the same age as all of us in the class. Mr Keen probably knew though, and I’m very grateful for the social conscience that he instilled in me about things well outside the confines of our little school. At the time I didn’t realise the significance of what he was trying to get across – but I do remember his passion about these two wars – even if I had no idea where one of them was!

Your leadership story grows with practice and this regular blogging has reinforced for me the memories that are stored in us all but not easily accessed without a mechanism to do so. I’ve quite enjoyed that part of this Lockdown. So maybe there was more than just the structure that I’ve got from it – re-living and reflecting on memories from many moons ago has brought a deep sense of contentment.

Have a great first Alert Level 3 weekend!

Stephen

Day 33

Day 33

A very kind reader sent me a message today “I have learnt a lot more about you than I otherwise would in the business world.  You’re a great writer, you like the outdoors and walking, and you’re a big softy when it comes to your parents“.

Writing each day for the length of the Lockdown was about several things for me. Creating a worthwhile pattern or chain, straight out of Cal Newport’s Deep Work and something I mused on earlier on in the Lockdown. Practice is an under-rated thing, linked closely with the ability and time made to do genuine deep work. Work that truly makes a difference to what you’re trying to achieve.  The Lockdown was and still is, a perfect time for trying some deep work. The experiment of the daily blog has been rewarding, and hasn’t at all felt like hard work. It’s helped me process thoughts and feelings, and created a discipline of continuous work that felt meaningful for me.

I’ve always written in my blog as a reflective process too. In the leadership development work I facilitate, the power of reflection is always top of mind and I’ve, perhaps selfishly, used these last five weeks as a personal reflection. To see what might come out of a condensed, focussed, purpose-driven reflection to achieve lasting change. And it was doing something, when doing nothing seemed like a real possibility!

During the month, Facebook and the like has been great for connecting with family and friends, well that’s what I pretend it’s like, but it’s really full of feeds to meet your personal algorithm, echos of your own views and prejudices, and largely uninformed commentary building on the echos. It, along with Twitter, and an empty email inbox, will have zero consequences when the day comes and people talk about what was meaningful and memorable in your life. The shallow work things in your life don’t matter and the same applies in leadership. Ignore them. Cal Newport’s Facebook Amnesty can help.

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I noticed these last five weeks that a majority of the viewers came to the blog via LinkedIn, which has prompted me to look at it a bit. It’s nice to look at, clean, and the commentary is somewhat more intelligent. Is it just a giant for sale thing or is it just me? Is there anyone there buying? You might know that my main day job in client work is leading the PwC Forensic Services practice – you know, economic crime, conflicts of interest, fraud, anti-money laundering et al. Although during the last five weeks, most of the time has been spent in my people and culture lead role in PwC Consulting, as you might expect. Perhaps I should have spent time writing about all this stuff to sell! Maybe, really, that might have been a better use of my time and energy. Afterall, someone has to pay for all the nice things! Is it worthwhile reflecting and sharing?

Writing wasn’t the only chain I had. I walked everyday – total distance 322 km in 41 separate walks. I love walking and I’m sitting at 140 walks for the year, creating a habit for mental and physical health. The Lockdown has solidified the walking chain and I have a deep sense of contentment and achievement from that.

When we went into Lockdown 33 days ago, it felt quite scary and I was quite anxious.  Living close to the Newmarket Viaduct, the drop in city activity was obvious and confronting. I got irritated about the 80,000 people that were said to die if we didn’t do anything as it seemed obviously wrong. Today that was brought up again, sort of, in a rough looking chart that mapped countries that did nothing vs those that did. That binary message is too simplistic as I doubt anybody thinks we should have done nothing.  It draws from declarations of war language to fire up a community.  It’s hardly been challenged. I’m disappointed in that as it’s an opportunity for authenticity lost.

My anxiety passed quite quickly and I let my own thoughts about where I was each day into the blog.  At its core I think leadership and authenticity are inextricably one and the same. Together. Peas in a pod. When you write your own journal, you’re reasonably likely to write truthfully, honestly and authentically. So the same has always applied here for me. It can feel risky at first. It’s not smooth and manicured like a marketing message. What if you said the wrong thing? What if you offended someone? What if your thoughts today, are not yours tomorrow? Hey, so that’s authenticity right?

I’ve no idea about the writing as my kind reader has said. I’m pretty sure I’ve started way too many sentences, like this one, with “And”, although you are allowed to, apparently. What I do know, is that if you want to build trust in your life, with a team, your family, maybe your readers, you share a bit and build the trust bank. Trust is at the heart of meaningful business relationships.  Possibly even better than a LinkedIn Ad!

What you share must be authentic, things that matter to you. And the more you know about yourself, the more you have to share. Before you know it you have a story, your leadership story which will start with events long before you were in business, probably from your family. So of course, I’m an old softy about the folks!

It won’t be every day from now on, but the blog feels that it has a much better meaning for me now.

I’m feeling grateful for the opportunity to reflect and share. There’s a lot of pain in the world right now and I, relatively speaking, have none. Just the leg a bit still. Thank you.

Stephen

 

 

 

Day 32

Day 32

It was another stunning day, helped by some rain overnight. I didn’t manage a COVID-19km walk because of my sore ITB but I got to 13. Dr Google says that I shouldn’t aggravate it by the activity that causes the pain, so I told myself on the walk that as long as it was short enough that’s not the actual activity. How we try and fool ourselves! Contrary to the impression I had that medical facilities were open during Alert Level 4, it’s extremely restricted – only primary care – with severe restrictions. So a physiotherapist will have to wait. To be fair I walk along Auckland’s Medical Mile frequently and it’s been quiet like everywhere else.

What didn’t wait was Mum’s birthday – coming ready or not – and according to the ancestry.com family tree that I maintain, she’s the oldest person on record in her line for many years. Obviously I don’t have all the dates but she has now moved ahead of my 12th Great Grandmother Mary Banestre who lived 1509 to 1598, although my 25th great grandfather Robert du Vaux is recorded as having died in 1194, aged 94 years.

Dad put on a special breakfast and when I saw the picture on Facebook this morning, with blurry morning eyes I assumed it was a shot of the Queen, and then I realised of course it was. Just our family’s! I did feel a bit sad I wasn’t there, as I usually see Mum on her birthday, but there’s a lot more pain going on that this of course. But after singing her Happy Birthday, she didn’t muck around with the niceties:  “Have you got yourself ready to go into work?” Now I remember why I wasn’t late for school! Wisdom brings with it refreshing practicalities I find with Mum.

A birthday breakfast in Lockdown for Mum

There were nine cases today and my running review of the eighteen deaths shows none of them appear to have COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death according the WHO. New Zealand has a remarkably low level of cases, and related deaths, and we’re being put in a group of five nations with similar statistics – Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The fact of elimination being touted up until the other day as ridding the country of the ‘rona, but now being used in a medical sense i.e just very low cases, has caused some disquiet as to whether our media are fact-checking the press conferences. It’s obvious they’re not – in fact as I’ve said before the whole thing looks like a propaganda exercise.  If you’re tempted to think it doesn’t matter because it’s our health at stake, that’s in the same genre of argument that can apply to multiple areas that is essentially government knows best.  In this category is the unlimited access to our data by government agencies (if you’d done nothing wrong, why worry etc). That’s not a system I want to live in. Freedom is far more important.

Be that as it may, our success is being analysed and includes the fact that we are quite socially distant anyway – low population density – and very isolated and relatively wealthy. The cost in this article is described as astronomical, with our Tourism sector as a major contributor to GDP effectively shut off. We have the strictest measures of these countries.

The sooner we can bubble with Australia the better.  Bring those Aussies over for the Ski Season I reckon.

I was lucky enough to escape the city for some essential maintenance at my rural property. I’m quite disappointed to have not had to use my evidence, nicely collated in a plastic sleeve – police exhibit style – I thought they might appreciate that, although the car is a bit cleaner that might be expected and my hands too smooth!.

One more day, and it’s a holiday. We won’t forget this ANZAC break for a while.

See you for the final Lockdown Blog tomorrow!

Stephen

Day 31

Day 31

I walked to the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Cenotaph at the front which felt right on Anzac Day. There were three or four wreaths laid, one by the Museum and another the Mayor of Auckland. For Anzac Day it was extraordinarily quiet, but a few people were milling around, reflecting.  A father and son were flying a kite which looked like the flag of Thailand, although on closer inspection, the father was doing it all.

The Domain – Pukekawa – is Auckland’s oldest park and consists of 75 hectares and includes the Museum and Cenotaph, Wintergarden, Cricket Pavilion, Duck Ponds replete with Auckland Acclimatisation Society plaque. These are the societies we can thank for ferrets, weasels and rabbits being formally introduced into New Zealand. Pukekawa is one of the oldest Volcanoes in the Volcanic field, at 100,000 years old. It was fresh – almost Spring-like today – and it made for a very good walking loop with a slightly sore leg still.

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Auckland War Memorial Museum and Cenotaph on ANZAC Day 2020

On the second part of my walk, up Mt Hobson, I had a chat to Dad who said he’d stood at the letterbox at 6am, heard the Last Post loud and clear and was now preparing a photo montage for Mum’s birthday. Mum has jokingly said that they’re going to their favourite restaurant, but it’ll just be the two of them and Dad reckons the special crockery is coming out!

This is our last weekend in Lockdown Level 4 and the traffic has already started building, somehow in anticipation of Level 3 on Tuesday. That will be a big step back to the new norm, as many more workers can restart and construction can recommence. It’s got to be an ideal time to advance all the projects in Auckland CBD, with minimal traffic and pedestrians to deal with.

It’s occurred to me today that the reality of working from home for me is probably several more months. The logistics of social distancing in a high rise with elevators is going to make it really challenging. So I’m gearing up for the long haul. Part of that will be finding new television series to keep this routine going!

Jerry Seinfeld has a new series starting in May, although I’m not sure if that is NZ – 23 Hours to Kill and it seems to derive inspiration from James Bond. All my best things all in one show!  In a 2017 HBR interview Seinfeld was asked if humour was effective as a leadership tool: “Being funny is one of the ultimate weapons a person can have in human society. It might even compete with being really good-looking.

Humour has a really important role in leadership. Some people mistake humour as hiding or a cover for something. It can be, but it’s actually really serious business. You can’t be anxious and laugh at the same time, and it’s a great way to break conflict. And a lot of what goes on in business is funny. Even the Elevator rules (well the old ones) – face the door, stare at your phone, don’t talk. But I better stop there – that’s for another day as to write some truths about the things I think are funny in business this late at night, is something I might regret!

Happy Birthday Mum, the ‘rona kept me away.

Stephen