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.

anzac
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

Day 8

Day 8

It really is the weirdest of times. Tonight I had that slightly surreal feeling, similar to what you have when you wake up in Europe really early, time-zone confused, but wide awake. Feels like a new beginning.

Quite quickly it’s become a completely different work routine, meetings are almost all on time, everyone on screen, clothes increasingly casual – am I really wearing a Nike T-shirt to a business meeting? you know the one with the very large logo across the chest –colleagues opening bits of their homes to the team without any explanation. What even is work any more? Is this really happening?

Paris

There’s a documentary on Netflix The Next Pandemic, released in November 2019. The next pandemic will probably be a virus jumping from another species it says. Right. Bill Gates says on the documentary “We don’t know when the next pandemic will happen“. We do now!

Since SARS, scientists have been investigating bats in Southern China where it is believed that the virus started. Great work but it wasn’t bats this time. There’s work being done to develop a universal influenza vaccine but it’s said to be “years away”.

The next pandemic is inevitable, its said, but our technology has stopped a virus before, it says. One of the earliest uses of technology was during the Black Plague, when travelers were quarantined!

The story of COVID-19 is being told now. We don’t know where it will end, but it will end for sure. It will be a story of a virus that spread rapidly, with most people having no or mild symptoms. But when it struck bad it could be deadly, particularly to those over 70, or those over 60 with poor health. Most cases went undetected.

Global measures were implemented, but too slowly and inconsistently, to isolate people, but the quarantining of travelers was woefully inadequate and caused the global spread. Severe restrictions were shown to slow the virus’ spread in communities and eventually, after six months the virus faded and a vaccine was developed.

The political fallout was large. Governments all around the world were thrown out in elections that followed, not because the voters didn’t think they tried to do something, but because the economic impact was seen in hindsight, to be far greater than the problem. Ironically, one of the leaders who prevaricated for several weeks, but eventually acquiesced to strong internal isolation measures, was re-elected even though his country had the highest infection rate. President Trump went on to serve a full second term winning the popular vote, something he hadn’t achieved in his first election.

Whoops, just woke up again. Did I say I should be in Europe on my holiday right now? Barcelona at this very moment to be precise. Well lucky I’m not but I did have that time zone spaced out feeling for a moment like I was there.

I suppose I could be wrong in all of this.

Have a great day 9!

Stephen

Day 7

Day 7

You know on the late night American TV talk shows they take the mickey out of weird news items around the world. Right now, we’re probably lucky than there’s lots of other news.

Policing cauliflower pricing caught my eye and distracted me from what was otherwise another very busy day. All I could think of was mother’s white sauce and my stubborn refusal to eat the stuff! Much prefer Broccoli, but Cauliflower has gone very hot, so hot that we’re dobbing in the supermarkets for over-pricing. And that’s found its way to a press conference.

Other snippets from the press conference were that there were 61 new or probable cases with 2 people in serious condition and a further 12 also in hospital. Pretty soon, the entire New Zealand story on COVID-19 will be about two things: the border and the economy.

My local park had a relaxed pre Home-D feel about it this evening. Most people appeared ready to get back to normal life. What was being talked about today was the economic crisis that’s been created. This will almost certainly be the main conversation going forward, as we move to a more ordinary state of living and threat assessment.

Seven days! A whole full week and still going strong – felt a bit scratchy today – I think it was from too little sleep and non-stop video calls. A working from home challenge. And new ones will emerge. A friend tonight on a video glass of wine wondered how new people are integrated into the culture when everyone is working remotely. I’m not sure what the questions are on that one yet. But it’ll be a thing, with consultant methodology to go with it soon.

Eat ya veges!

Stephen

 

Is that my hot water?

I’ve worked very late the last few days getting ready for a new programme we’re running next week. Working late when under pressure can test my resilience and with it, my sense of humour but I’ve kept it intact so far. Well that’s my own reflection anyhow and I’m the one doing the writing here!

I spent yesterday in Mt Maunganui with clients workshopping (is that really a word?) some concepts that will be used to roll out some performance management and training over the coming year. It was a pleasure to work with people who know how to have a laugh. We cracked jokes and had several Larry David moments including “was that hot water for my long black or are we sharing? I feel I need to claim it if it’s just mine you know”.

I reckon we achieved a lot yesterday. We worked pretty hard and the ability to have a laugh during the process was an important component of how we worked. We didn’t put a team charter together, we all took roles at leading and at times there were random jokes that on the face of it distracted, but actually kept the energy up, the connections alive and the thought processes going.

Do you know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a joke? Is there a relationship between humour and creativity? Humour and irony in particular is an important part of our culture and can have an important role in leadership.

Do you use humour in your leadership? Do you try to? Or does it just happen? Giving feedback truthfully and with empathy will require emotional intelligence, experience and a lot of self-awareness. Delivering difficult news about a restructure proposal will be a serious business. And you won’t want to make light of it.

Lot’s of leadership though, is about creating an energy that gets your team in a creative space, if you’re wanting to take your business to the next level. Taking that step-change you know you need to create to make a difference.

That’s where humour can come in. Not taking the mickey out of each other – that can easily be bullying – but sharing humour with each other. Irony that acts like a team brain gym, keeping the energy up and the creative juices flowing.

Think of it another way: does the permanently serious boss who frowns when you’re having a laugh really get the team going? Chances are it’s about something else – some fear of not being in the group which he or she won’t be if there’s no engagement. No casual Friday around this dude!

So are you a leader with humour? I’d say you can’t be one without the other. Humour is that special, connecting characteristic of being a human being that not only separates us from the animals – it can separate us from the mundane.

Back off, the hot water is mine! It’s actually quite a serious business. Maybe humour is actually the opposite of what we think it is. Seriously, you need it. Especially if you want to engage.

Stephen