Covid Conversations: The Personal Voice

As described in our previous article, we recently spoke with senior leaders across a range of industries to understand the challenges they have faced in recent months.

Our discussions with these leaders gathered their business perspectives on the pandemic era, but at the same time – with a richness of emotional, social and physical layers – captured their personal insights into the impact on their lives.

We spoke with them as leaders, team members and colleagues, but equally as everyday people working through human emotions and reactions in an unusual time.

In this second article on our Covid Conversations project, we look at the personal challenges, and the approaches most helpful in managing them.

We heard common themes, shared by many.

And we heard intensely individual stories: the solitary voice, shared with few.

Facing challenges

When asked about their greatest challenges, many leaders described a uniquely new situation: the sanctuary under siege.

As the boundaries between home and office have blurred, we heard leaders torn in two directions. They lament the pressures now invading their safe havens, while at the same time feeling driven to adapt (renovate, rearrange) those havens for optimal professionalism.

Closely tied to this are questions of expectations and prioritization. How best to stay positive, calm and realistic? How to keep connected to family and friends? How to manage communication in all directions? How best to manage yourself?

Repeatedly, we heard stories of simple exhaustion. Too much to do, never catching up, never able to just let go for a moment.

Finding help

Faced with these challenges, what have senior leaders found most helpful?

In many ways, it helps to just say “stop”. Stop tracking the news. Stop checking social. Hands off the devices and the email. Plan and schedule time to hit the brakes…on everything.

Also helpful for leaders is a commitment to new personal projects; the unique opportunity, in an upended world, to tackle something for which they might not otherwise have found the inspiration, or the time.

A commitment to physical activity was a shared priority. Running, working out, walking the dog, exploring the neighbourhood – all ways to recharge and re-energize.

In a time of distance, perhaps the most helpful thing is staying close. Close to family, friends, mentors and networks.

Facing forward

Our conversations showed that what is most raw in an unpredictable world may be uncovered by asking “what do you miss most?”

Senior leaders look forward to being able to enjoy the company of family and friends, without protocol and restrictions.

They carry touchstones – that pint of draft beer, for instance: a symbol now for the connections made through informal gatherings (clubs, pubs, restaurants) so many would love to have back.

They look forward to live experiences returning to everyday routine: their kids’ sports, concerts, hugs.

They crave the freedom to be spontaneous, to do and to pursue in the moment.

Finding balance

In our conversations, we heard individual voices in small spaces, struggling to describe their experiences, sometimes at a loss for words.

We also heard them expand into the light, looking forward with hope, determination and anticipation.

And we heard them pursuing a centre path: the road through chaos toward balance.

The eagerness and openness of leaders was remarkable, and a powerful reminder of the ways that helping out can bring that balance into focus.

Helping can sometimes be about providing safe space for someone to share their thoughts, and to find ways for their voice to be heard.

But it’s also about guiding the strategies that can unlock the power of creativity and curiosity – the active approach and personal commitment that brings positive focus to every part of their world.