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Rachel Ellison MBE

Rachel Ellison Ltd

Executive Leadership Coach and Author

Read more from Rachel Ellison MBE

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Glühwein in the garden


As we toast the end of a challenging year, it's an important time to reflect on how far we've come and re-examine our purpose and our values.

We are managing. We are managing well. There are ups and downs. Bright days and less contented days. Alongside the drearier aspects of lockdown 2 and the iterations which follow it, there are some encouraging trends and reflections.

Consider the simplicity of going for a walk. The likelihood that anyone you invite to join you will be free, or that if you head out alone, you’re bound to encounter an interesting conversation or a friendly smile. From supermarket slots and pharmacy runs, to book exchanges or food banks in the front garden. How quickly we have learned to adapt and thrive anew.

It’s been a journey of acclimatisation. Variegated versions of confinement have taken us through summer to autumn and now into the first frosts of winter. This past week has sent us glimpses of nature in golden glow and on top sparkle. Let’s welcome those bursts of energy and inspiration. They help us retain our resilience as we find our way through exceptional times.

A moment of calm

Despite financial angst, many people have been forced by lockdowns to rest for the first time in decades…like my dentist, my hairdresser, my piano tuner. Years of hard work have temporarily given way to riverside ambles and time on the allotment. A moment of calm. Even boredom. That dose of boredom is to be savoured. For neuroscience finds that boredom fires up ideas. It also gives us a pool of time to think. To delve deeper…to re-examine our purpose and our values.

Some of us are reassessing. Pandemic lends a new interpretation to ‘cancel culture’. For many parents of young children, Covid-19 conditions have brought relief and release from the lock-in (rather than lock-down) of the commuter-childcare-school-gate dash. A pressurised juggle of high tension and brilliance. Fine, stimulated minds striding at speed towards a baked bean supper and story time. Near permanent exhaustion is its companion.

Ironically with far less help yet far more time, there seems to be space to breathe. Children have been unpinned from packed after-school schedules.

The same goes for adults. Some have weekends resembling a spreadsheet of activities which are supposed to compensate them for their ‘high-compensation’ yet sometimes unfulfilling jobs. What we are seeing instead is a return to the simple joys of a muddy game of football with your children in the local park. The joys of ‘we’ time over individualistic ‘me’ time.

Hot chocolate on the heath

With personal health but also business health in mind, I punctuate every day with a walk. I schedule outdoor meetings (in accordance with the government’s Covid guidelines). Agenda items include sturdy walking boots, a thermos flask and a hot water bottle.

The therapy of meeting outside is a jolt to concentration levels. There is something nourishing about leaving the home office and being out in fresh air. Normally jet-propelled executives, have seen their working world shrink from global business breakfasts to a cinnamon bun at the local café.

Such is the popularity of hot chocolate on the heath, that I think further psychological exploration is due. Perhaps a pandemic has made us more appreciative? Maybe it has grounded us in more ways than one. Perhaps we are now less arrogantly busy. More gentle. More helpful. More genuine.

Glühwein* in the garden

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson embraced the festive season saying: ‘have a jolly good time but be jolly careful’ . Just because you can merge three family bubbles and share a meal indoors, doesn’t mean it’s actually wise to do so.

Better a dose of intense common sense. Have a blustery walk along the beach, a suburban power-walk or a park bench conversation. If you’ve already done all that, how about a cosy workout in the living room followed by Glühwein in the garden?

Speaking of which…as winter weather grips and the potential for January lock-down hovers, I predict an increasing emphasis on outdoor seating and heating. When I happened upon a hot water bottle sale at my local hardware shop, I bought six. Thus I am equipped for any form of ‘tier group’!

Tilt and pivot

This pandemic is no tilt or pivot. Almost every bit of business, leadership and home life has been turned upside down. It’s less of a swerve and more of a handbrake turn. Some of these shifts will be temporary. Some not. Most likely to emerge post-vaccine will be a blend of in person and remote working. Office space will be for collaboration and the simmering of ideas. Everything else to be done at a distance. Which means we are increasingly likely to live and work nearer and within our local communities. Let’s raise a toast to that and the additional social contribution we may be able to make because of it.

Themes to reflect on:

  • Variegated leaves…variegated lockdown
  • Confinement and circuit breakers – different terms for lockdown
  • How to greet imposed rest
  • How to greet boredom
  • High tension and brilliance
  • Pay or ‘compensation’ – what does this mean for you?
  • Pivot, tilt and the handbrake turn – which have you done in what area of your life?
  • Social contribution

*Glühwein – the German word for mulled wine

Rachel is author of Global Leadership and Coaching: Flourishing under intense pressure at work, available now. Get 30% off when purchasing the book from Routledge using code ANPA2.

Author Profile Picture
Rachel Ellison MBE

Executive Leadership Coach and Author

Read more from Rachel Ellison MBE

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