In a world where we are all working remotely, and our only 'connection' with our team is through a video call, phone call, or email, how are we now being perceived?
Perception is reality.
Consider this: we are all icebergs, floating in the water. What people see of us is the bit that's above water. In our former lives, that was everything they saw of us: how we walk around the office, how we show up to meetings, how we present ourselves in unexpectedly difficult situations, how we sit downstairs at the coffee shop having coffee...the list goes on. Now it's limited to:
• How we show up on video: how we talk and what we look like from the torso up
• How we sound on the phone
• How we communicate via email
They're seeing less of our iceberg tip.
Add to that the incredible stress we're all under. Whether it's the stress of having not enough work to do, or too much work to do, the impact of COVID-19 (regardless of whether it's positive or negative to your business' bottom line) is adding an additional layer of complexity to all our lives. It's crunch time. So in terms of our iceberg analogy, what people see of us, consider our iceberg tip suddenly directly under sunlight for 24 hours a day.
What does that say about your leadership identity?
Your leadership identity is really exposed, and not only is less of it exposed (thus providing less context and less 'room for error') but it's a pressure cooker moment of exposure.
What are people seeing of you now?
They are seeing you at your core. Your needs and preferences are coming to the fore, being laid bare for anyone to see.
What do I mean?
They are seeing:
• How adaptive you are to change.
• How you prefer to receive information.
• How you prefer to communicate.
• How quickly you process and handle new information.
These preferences at work sit at a below-conscious level, so most of the time you're not even aware of these needs. But these needs are so powerful, that if they are challenged in any way (for example, by taking any 'in person' human interaction away from you), you will fight for it without even knowing.
Consider this: you are a leader of a team who prefers to see your team in the office on a regular (not necessarily frequent) basis, and meet with them on a weekly basis. During that time, you engage a lot with their body language, the way they interact with each other, and their facial expressions. You have great banter in the office. Come unexpected news, you have time to process that alone, and then can pull any of them aside during the day to chat, or know that you have your next team meeting to talk it through. You can plan and filter your interactions. This paradigm has now shifted.
What does this mean for Women in Finance?
We are under enormous pressure. As the lines blur between work and home, and some of our roles expand to teacher, the reality is that the uncertainty and the impact of that uncertainty pervades beyond our professional lives and well into our personal lives as well. This has the potential to set women in finance back in their careers as some of the legacy 'gender norms' re-emerge.
What do I mean by that?
Some of us come to work to have 'me' time, to feel 'normal'. Without the support of school, before and after school care and ability to draw on babysitters, playdates and grandparents, this is going to change as some women will be forced into picking up the bulk of the housework and homeschooling. Women might be the ones working on the kitchen table, whilst her partner gets the quiet office. Not through aggression or physical force, but because we might revert to the gender norms of decades' past. Unfortunately, the uncertainty today has meant that many of the great International Women's Day conversations have been quickly forgotten. Without purposeful intervention, women in finance risk emerging from this period of our lives further behind than where we were at the beginning of the year.
I'm determined to prevent this from happening.
What else is going on?
Despite our 'new norm' involving being connected to headphones and video conferences for hours on end, there is an increased feeling of isolation emerging. I'm hearing from some of the women I work with that they are the only ones in their peer group with young children, or that their male peers have stay-at-home mothers to take the load. It's becoming easier to feel alone.
These new working conditions that we're in as a result of COVID-19 mean that we need to foster and support women in finance more than ever.
Now is the time to own your identity and exert your influence
Your leadership identity is important. Current circumstances mean that your leadership presence now more than ever includes 'all' of you....which may include you as a mum with no make-up on! But that doesn'tmean that your presence needs to suffer. During stressful times like this we need to be kind to ourselves. What we all need right now is to have a lot of empathy and cut us all a little slack. We're doing the best we can with what we've got. But the best way to do that is to be aware of your preferences and the preferences of your teammates. Because once you have awareness, you can take the right action. Without awareness, you're flying blind.
When day turns into night, and weekdays bleed into weekends, we need to create structure to support us so that we can 'show up, be present and have presence' when it counts.
So....work with your preferences and needs.
Create structure to support you
- and -
Create support structures
Together we can make this happen
Give me a shout if you want to have a chat about the practical implementation of this. A quick 10 minutes may be all you need to create the system you need to have the impact you want.
Until next time, take care.
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