As we’ve guided our business, our team and our clients through the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve spent some time acknowledging the positive changes it has triggered.
Here’s the top 10 things we’ve learned:
Never before in the history of business has the nation felt so unable to predict what is down the line, even 2 or 3 months out. We’ve described it as similar to walking in fog, where even the familiar can suddenly seem unfamiliar. But the good thing is, fog eventually lifts, so for a while we had to find a way to get comfortable with this less clear view. We had to learn to become more accepting of not knowing all the answers. To continuously adapt to new conditions on the horizon.
Disruption, planned or not can be a catalyst for change. We always wanted to power our agency to become more remotely enabled, then overnight we had to turn it on. Queue Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, we plugged in all of them at different points and we are massively appreciative of how much tech has enabled business continuity and made connection possible.
The art of conversation is hard to replicate. The need for clear, transparent conversation has never been more important, at a time when casual conversation with people as we go about our lives has been halted so fundamentally. At first it was difficult working out how we would replace those value-added liaisons we stumble upon in the kitchen, the motivational power of the cross-team huddles, or the emotional connection felt during a French Village catch-up. We had to make more effort to converse, focus real effort on reaching out, to enable conversations to still happen. We each had a personal journey with this but across the board our team have found new ways and some of them have been really empowering.
The amount of change in the world has opened our eyes to new ways. We’ve adjusted our attitudes and how we think about the world we live it. We are thinking about our agency, the agency we want to become in the next five years. A soft reopening of our agency allowed us to trial a hybrid existence – some of our people in the office and some at home. It’s an ever-evolving situation, even as I write I’ve one ear on the news to hear about further new restrictions around meeting up. We want to use this opportunity to help our employees strike a better balance between their professional and personal lives. This period of change can be for the betterment of all. Being rigidly focused on getting back to a normal that doesn’t exist anymore serves no-one.
Helping our team navigate unprecedented waters emotionally has been important to us throughout, and key to our effectiveness as a whole. We regularly seek expert advice and coaching on how to support them through the inevitable change curve we are all travelling on. Much like the grief process, the process of change follows an emotional curve through a number of stages over time, from shock, denial, doubt, through to positive acceptance and problem solving. We knew that our people would be at different stages based on their own life situations, so we’ve encouraged self-reflection through guided time out. This has been a useful catalyst in identifying old ways of being, habits and behaviours that no longer serve us, and focussing on who we need to be moving forward, individually and as a collective. Keeping an eye on the emotional field of the agency is an ongoing priority, to help the team stay happy, engaged and looking forward to a shared future.
We used this time to re-evaluate what really matters to us as a business. To use the opportunity to step off the treadmill of running a busy agency and catch our breath. We wanted to look at our greater purpose, at helping our people to become extraordinary versions of themselves. And to bring our clients on extraordinary journeys. When we took our team on this journey, we had 20% of our team on furlough. They were our first port of call. We spoke to them and helped them to find purpose in their time, to create good in what they do, and show them how they can still make a difference in the wider world by using their talents for societal good. Our team went on to support both Northern Ireland Hospice and Stepping Stones NI with creative services. Two charities our agency is proud to support, and one great way for our furloughed team to feel the power of purpose at a challenging time.
Our team are around us because they have the skills and experience to be extraordinary in their roles. Trusting our team to continue to plug in their talents, passions and diligence when working from home allowed us to push forward at a great rate. We didn’t try and micromanage their days. Instead we afforded a fair bit of autonomy and encouraged our team towards upskilling, using the vast amount of online learning resource to go and learn that thing they always wanted to.
At MXB there is always so much shared learning and remote working meant our creative team were faced with a challenge; they were no longer afforded the opportunity for over-the-shoulder peer knowledge share when it came to software skills development. They solved this themselves by creating a learning plan for online tutorials, and an online shared space which replicated the studio environment. Here they could share hints and tips and ask for advice from each other in real time. Whilst it will never be a replacement for the experience of a shared space, our problem-solving team proved that working apart never needs to mean working alone.
Knowing some of our team are caring for parents while some are dashing about after kids has created more of an appreciation of the varied demands in our personal lives. Teams calls, Zoom calls, it’s a virtual window into the real world of our people.
We may be much farther apart but in many respects we’re closer than we’ve ever been before.
Our mindset is positive, whilst entirely empathetic to the impact this pandemic has had on lives and livelihoods, we want to come out of it a healthier, stronger, more resilient and more rounded as a team. Our people have held our agency up. Their talents, their resilience and their realistic optimism as individuals is our biggest agency asset.
They make extraordinary happen every day.
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