My workplace has an internal blog dedicated to Covid_19 experiences. It’s a place where staff let their hearts out through stories. I like it. I sit at my table having yoghurt, grapes and apples (because I want to keep the doctor away) as I read the feelings of some people like me living alone and working daily in their studio apartments.
I see stories of mothers juggling work and their jumpy kids during day. I see how new staff are figuring their way since they joined just before lockdown. People open up about challenges they’re facing during lockdown and working from home. They share lessons learned, what they are doing for fun, tips on surviving this new phase of our lives. Judgement is suspended.
But my favorite application is our department’s TeamMood App. It sends a daily email asking how you’re feeling. “How is your day?” it will ask. You’ll click on one of five options from bad day to excellent day. It’s anonymous. The results are displayed on a dashboard for all to see. Names? Those don’t show.
There is an option of posting thoughts on the dashboard too. The posts or comments show names like Tomato Feather or Dark Green Turtle, Deep Pink Squirrel, Navy cat. They are beautifully made up. There is someone who likes posting jokes.
“Today’s joke is brought to you by data science. You’re so mean your standard deviation is 0,” they posted.
I hate it that I understood that joke. It had me over my seat.
Sometimes I think about what the CEO has probably been going through since the Covid_19 crisis started.
Has he sometimes stood in front of his bathroom mirror, stared at his image, buried his head in his palms and sighed? Has he struggled with insomnia because of thinking about the wellbeing of the over 57,000 staff under his leadership? Has he looked at the share price dropping to a big low and thought, “This is not what the investors signed up for.”
Has he worried about the patients that we serve whose supply of essential medicines has been affected by disruptions in the transport system? Has he sometimes run out of ideas and all he could do was sit at his dining table, staying momentarily clueless? Has he got so tired from endless calls he blacked out on the couch in his living room?
What about his mental health? Has he been speaking to a psychologist? Has he been to a point where he felt like the load was too heavy?
On the outside, he has looked unbreakable. Invincible. Unshakeable. He’s been an anchor with the entire executive board, sending emails of hope and assurances to staff, using words like, “Proud of you,” “Together,” “Our collective commitment,” “Thank You,” “Resilience.” He has shown empathy. He has called up employees to express his gratitude. He has visited sites and labs (wearing the right protective gear) as an act of solidarity with those who couldn’t work from home.
He has written articles on health security, a subject that’s close to his heart. I know this because I read what he writes. He has shared progress on what the company is doing in the fight against this pandemic. He has commented with words of support on LinkedIn posts of employees. This man has participated in a campaign where staff shared photos of themselves working from home. He wore a shirt the color of chlorophyll, his earphones plugged in and a full bookshelf standing tall behind him. He wasn’t in a suit.
He has been a captain, a superhero in human flesh. If anyone asks me what leadership is, I’ll point to my CEO. There is no doubt many people are anxious. He has provided a nest for staff to feel safe in.
When the dust settles, he’ll probably look a little older. His face might get a few more wrinkles, his hair a little whiter. Because even though we don’t see it, he’s probably having few hours of sleep. He’s quietly getting beaten by the weight of work he’s doing steering this ship on.
What he doesn’t know is that there is a 30-year-old man picking up some lifelong lessons on leadership from how he is managing the situation.