As a leader you may be facing many competing demands at the moment: managing the transition of energy and priorities from the second wave of Covid-19 alongside restoring services and planning strategic change for the future. All against a backdrop of the mental and physical exhaustion that many people are reporting, the current fast pace of work, the number and scale of new requirements, and the seemingly unending calls on your time and emotional reserves. In this environment it can be hard to pause and reflect; it’s much easier (albeit still hard) to keep responding to the relentless meeting requests and urgent demands. In this context, it’s easy to get caught up in recreating the fast pace and, in the process, to contribute to the pressurised cycle of requests that everyone feels.
This may be having an impact on your own wellbeing and effectiveness and it’s hard to keep sight of the importance of modelling a more measured and more sustainable way of working for both yourself as a leader and for your staff teams.
It may be that leaders and teams have to ride two horses – responding to overwhelming demand while also trying to maintain a balance for self and teams. But this must be a temporary situation and worked with as such rather than the new normal. The current pace is not sustainable without cost – there are risks to the quality of decision-making, safety and care. There is also a risk of creating a dehumanised culture based on efficiency without much space or energy for compassion or humanity.
As leadership consultants at The King’s Fund we work with a number of systems facing these pressures and being alongside leaders in recent weeks, I have had a recurring sense of being on a very fast-moving, runaway train. While I want to acknowledge that this is a difficult time for many leaders, it’s also important to acknowledge that it is not realistic to keep running this fast without taking time to care for yourselves, for each other, for your teams
In our work to support leaders and teams at this challenging time, we have suggested some ways of working that other leaders have found helpful and would like to share them with you. If you are running fast in your role, it can be helpful to slow down and:
connect with others, pause and reflect on how you are and what’s coming up for you
slow down the pace, even if it's just now and again, to allow yourself and your teams some space to think as well as to act and react
make time to look after yourself
be honest with yourself and others about how you need to work in order to fulfil the ambition of your roles.
It’s not straightforward to be intentional about slowing down but it is in itself an act of leadership and will undoubtedly help with the transition to a more hopeful future beyond the immediacy of the Covid-19 crisis.