Flexing to Engage with a New Normal

In an attempt to become more flexible – I’ve been doing yoga every day since lockdown began eight days ago. It’s a routine I’ve been able to stick to thanks to YouTube videos, a reduced commute and no real need to get out of gym wear. My physical flexibility is now starting to improve. Okay, I’m not able to wrap my feet around my head (it’s coming…)

However, I’ve seen not only my physical flexibility improving, but my mental flexibility being tested too. In just under three weeks the world we once knew has completely changed. We have a new normal. The way we used to do things just isn’t possible now. I’ll admit it’s taken me a while to get my head around it and I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it yet.

At IW we’ve had to flex, adapt and innovate at greater speed than ever before. Luckily, we are a team that love getting stuck into a challenge, being agile and going on an adventure. We also have brilliant client relationships in which we’re trusted to do just that, meaning we get to explore, experiment and create together!

Opportunity in uncertain times

The perfect example of taking an opportunity in these uncertain times was the delivery of a full day face-to-face training just last week. Exactly five working days before we were due to run the workshop, we were on the phone to Ruth Barnes, Director and Head of Learning and Development at Savills, discussing all the options. With the country on lockdown, we couldn’t run the workshop in person as planned. Would an online solution work? We had designed the day to include group work and even simulations with professional actors.

A true advocator of learning, Ruth’s words were; “We’re still running it, it’s just going to be different.”

I love this attitude. This mindset excites me in times like these.

We threw around ideas, session flows were re-drafted, and a plan was put in place to do the whole workshop online. We tested out Zoom’s functionality to see what was possible for webinars – turns out a lot. This meant that we could still provide group input sessions, share slides, run the planned simulations with actors and have individual coaching slots. This was looking like an action-packed day – something for everyone to get their teeth into.

A truly collaborative process

I spoke to the actors via Zoom to check they had the tech and were up for it. It was a resounding ‘yes’. There was a gut feeling that the original content focusing on ‘Career Conversations’ just didn’t feel right for the times. These managers were joining us during a very uncertain world, changing all the time. We were conscious that for some people the world had been turned upside down within a week and this was an opportunity to speak directly to that. What if we shared content on dealing with this current situation? Savills were on board with this idea. We were too. We designed the content, re-mapped the flow and re-wrote the simulation for the actors, all in a day’s work. A making, not a meeting.

Delivery day

On the day of the workshop, I still made time for my morning yoga, but quickly made sure I showered and got out of my gym wear ready to meet my guests on screen!

Attendees dialled in, people connected, we caught up, people paused in the chaos and really listened. Whilst the internet connection for some people wasn’t ideal, the personal connection was stronger than ever. The real value came from having a support network and sharing what had and hadn’t been working out there in the real world.

Managing uncertainty

The participants from Savills explored ‘Managing Uncertainty’ through facilitated content, individual coaching slots and simulations with the actors. They left with a clear action plan of what they needed to do – what was necessary during the uncertainty and what might need to be done afterwards. The feedback from the attendees mirrored our feelings of the experience; it was a huge success. It was inspiring to be a part of it.

Although far from the original plan, Savills used this time in the first week of lockdown to equip their staff to manage these uncertain working days in the weeks and months ahead. That’s a far better outcome than if the workshops had been postponed or cancelled. It’s an enviable position to be in.

Working through COVID-19 is teaching me a lot – that people are resilient, that we can adapt, and that even in difficult times – whether it’s learning and development or yoga poses – a little flexibility can put you in a very impressive position.

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