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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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Surviving a second lockdown


How we come out of this second lockdown is largely down to us – we have the tools at our disposal to meet this new challenge, now it's up to us to use them...

We can do this. We’ve done it before. We’ve got good at it. Now we’re doing it again. Lockdown. Intense home working, distanced conversations and continued disinfection.

We already have the mechanisms in place to keep calm and carry on. An online supermarket slot, pilates over Zoom and friendships on Facetime. Every week schools remain open, is a triumph on so many levels. We have understood more clearly than before this pandemic struck, what children and young people need psychologically alongside an educational imperative.

A long hard winter

We have a long winter ahead. We’ll need to nurture our resilience with care and consciousness. It is exceptional for everyone you interact with to be simultaneously in a state of angst about the same thing. Your GP or psychotherapist, your Amazon delivery driver or local pharmacist, your friends, family and work colleagues. Everyone is worried about Covid-19. Such existential ‘surround sound’ concern makes it difficult to escape the pre-occupation with Covid-19 in the news, in our conversations or even in overheard conversations in the street or park. Such is the potency of a virus which has the potential to ravage lives and upend whole economies.

Go for a run at 2pm

Don’t wait until tea-time when it’s dark. Go for a run at 2pm instead. Some bosses are encouraging a reschedule of priorities within the working day. A lockdown winter schedule, if you like.

During the first lockdown I witnessed an outbreak of physical exercise each evening around 6pm, as cyclists and joggers erupted onto the streets. The sun shone. Now it’s the turn of the Southern hemisphere to make the most of the warm, long evenings. Up here in the Northern half of the world, we are adjusting to lockdown in the rain and cold. We need to prise ourselves away from incessant messaging and back-to-back Zoom meetings and create space for our mental wellbeing. Move. You can log on again later.

Health, wealth and stealth

Governments around the world must make colossal decisions amidst the competing pressures of health, wealth and stealth, according to psychoanalyst Professor Anjeet N. Mathur. Managing the health side of Covid-19 is already a daunting task, especially in regions where the hospital systems are not robust. Next comes wealth - the management of national finances. Followed by the ‘stealth economy’, which includes the prevention of the break down of law and order in the form of civil unrest, riots or all-out war between nations. Making the right call seems a near impossible task for any leader.

The close-up lens

The scale of this pandemic is almost unprecedented. A year ago it would have been unimaginable to think that a single virus could confine and compromise millions of people on a micro- and a macro-level….from individual family units to whole global industry sectors such as airlines, oil or the arts.

Perhaps not usually on the scale of a pandemic, but I often ask leaders to examine an issue they’re dealing with from multiple perspectives or lenses. I ask them to take a close-up look at what’s bothering them. We then broaden out to ask how a colleague or their team might view the situation. What might their CEO feel?

We then go up a notch to take a helicopter view. Then a satellite view. How does your issue look from outer space? The speed of clarity can be striking. We are suddenly out of the sticky mud and into a more resourceful, lighter place, fluid place of action. This leader now knows what to do.

What issue would you choose? Can you try taking multiple perspectives on it right now?

  • Your view
  • Your team’s view
  • How your boss or the CEO’s might view the situation
  • The helicopter view
  • What would you say if you were looking at your situation or issue from a satellite?  

Intense home working and distanced living

Down here on earth, we are back in the business of lock-down. Back in the business of trying to stay in business. Whilst we must live with restriction, let’s not confine our vision and our optimism. That means endeavouring to stay emotionally buoyant. Thinking of ways to keep our ideas flowing. We must defend against warped resilience and Zoom fatigue. Being in nature may be a way of achieving this.

Take stock of nature

Whilst we may have to distance ourselves from those outside our contact ‘bubble’ we do not have to distance ourselves from nature. As we appreciated birdsong and the sound of silence during the first lock-down, so we may observe and enjoy the changing seasons of this second lock-down. Mists and mellow fruitfulness envelop the UK at the moment. There is comfort in the dry, golden energy of a country or heath walk. Some communities have started a WhatsApp nature group. How about creating one yourself and contributing a photo a day?

We are being taught how to cope with a pandemic. Some of it is scary but much of it is fascinating as a learning experience. It seems sensible to expect multiple lock-downs beyond this one. Let’s remind ourselves of the many new skills we are developing – both practical and psychological.

Reflective themes

  • Locking down
  • Existential angst
  • Surround sound concern
  • The potential value of nature for clear thinking
  • The health, wealth and stealth economies

Multiple perspectives reflective learning exercise

  • What is your goal or problem or vision?
  • How does it feel to you?
  • How would your direct reports see it?
  • How might the whole team view it?
  • What might it look like to your boss?
  • If you were up in a helicopter what would your issue look like?
  • What about from a satellite looking down on earth?
  • What can you now ‘see’ that you couldn’t before?
  • What will you do differently?

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.

2 Responses

  1. The lockdown has dampened our
    The lockdown has dampened our spirits and made us question the smaller things in life. This was certainly a very inspiring read.

  2. We have seen cases increase
    We have seen cases increase significantly this winter, resulting in continued efforts to control the virus. Vaccinations are now being rolled out to those most at risk, with the program projected to be complete by the summer.
    A key thing to remember is that whilst it may feel like we are going backward, we are in a different time now. The thought of going back to the difficult times of April and May 2020 could be very upsetting for us, however, with a vaccination program in place, we are in a very different position from last year.

Author Profile Picture
Rachel Ellison MBE

Executive Leadership Coach and Author

Read more from Rachel Ellison MBE

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