Step up, not away
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Nurses and doctors are recommended to retake basic life support training every six to twelve months, regardless of how many decades they have been practising. This is not because the requirements change significantly. It’s because despite constantly working in a medical environment, when people are faced with a crisis situation they can go blank and forget everything they’ve learned. The training needs to be embedded so that it’s easily mentally accessible and can over-ride a flood of adrenalin that can be paralysing.

We’re currently in a crisis situation (not that anyone needs telling) and as leaders of organisations we need to be doing the same thing. We’ve all been trained or learned about good comms in a crisis, about leadership skills, motivation and creating a strong work community. How much of it are we actually remembering to use?

As humans, we fight, flight or freeze in extremis. We’re all feeling vulnerable about ourselves, our families and our businesses. It’s our responsibility to quieten down our own anxieties at work as much as possible (without negating them, obviously, and making sure we address them appropriately outside work) and lead our teams to a working day that’s as productive and calm as possible.

In terms of our own survival through this, there is no disgrace in seeking help. There’s been an outpouring of love to the NHS, there’s been huge community support and neighbourhoods drawing together, ironic in a time of isolation. As business leaders we tend to close down as part of our desire to project a calm exterior, but that does not mean we are not in great need of support from each other. We don’t need to pretend to each other that everything is fine; huge support and comradeship can be exchanged by simply ringing a contemporary at another organisation and finding out how they’re feeling, what they’re doing, what they’re winning at and where they are feeling challenged.

Some organisations have behaved badly during this crisis in the way they have treated their staff. There’s no need for me to name them as you all know who they are, and you will remember who they were when this is long gone. That’s the point. People have long memories and they will remember the companies and the individuals who stepped up and behaved well.

Just as there are a few pub chains who might find themselves with fewer customers than they had pre-virus, and we might be buying our trainers elsewhere, in a year’s time people within our organisations will remember how the senior leaders behaved. In the words of the great Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”