Growth, Photo by Hello I'm Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

Finding growth in a crisis

It is easy to talk about what is going wrong, easy to focus on the negativity of the word lock-down, on the impact of all being shut down, on the impossibility to meet others, on the limitations imposed to us by all these new rules. But in every crisis, there is an opportunity. Be it at home, at work or in any other area of your life. Crisis have a tendency to make space, space which can be used for growth.

Sara, this is a mess, how can you talk about growth

You, incredulous

The flip-side of a truly messed up story

I hear you, the situation we are in right now is nothing but a mess. Millions locked at home, children out of school, people working remotely, if they are lucky enough to have kept their work. Supermarkets running out of random items, online orders crashing, amazon not arriving in 24 hours. The range of things that have changed in our lives goes anywhere between the very serious and the lack of the superfluous. I am purposefully staying away from the extreme where people are dealing with death and grieving. I think growth can come there, but I would not brave lecturing anyone on its timing. Each to its own.

I will focus instead on the average of us that saw our lives massively disturbed but are not living the extreme of death and poverty. The solutions for growth are much different there.

A glimpse at what life can be

In a matter of days from the start of lock-down, there was this buzz in the air. WhatsApp messages filled on how to be the best parent, how to be the best cook, how to be the fittest, how to learn 6 languages and 3 instruments in 30 days, the list goes on. But as the dust settled, the buzz became a new voice.

Home-schooling as an opportunity to learn new things. No commute as a chance to finally start exercising. Limited take-away possibilities as an opportunity to start cooking home-made nutritious meals. Less after-school clubs as chance to learn new skills, fun skills. Less after-work engagements as a chance to read a book, watch the latest Netflix series. More time at home as more time to call family. Fear for elderly as a greater urge to call parents and grand-parents in a way we may not have called them before.

Lock-down rather faced as shelter. Limitations rather seen as opportunities to slow down. Just be. Mindfulness no longer required an explanation. You rush and plan through the first weeks but as routine kicks in, then you have a chance to be present, a chance to observe, a chance to really just absorb what is going on in this thing called life when you don’t dedicate your life to being somewhere else other than here.

Let’s talk about growth then

Every week, at The Viewpoint, I talk about the 3 areas of growth that matter the most in my life. Growth at work, growth at charity and growth at work. Sometimes it is hard to condense all in one, but I find that it gives a certain structure to the chaos of thoughts that often dance in my head. I expand that to 5 areas of life at the moment where perhaps growth is possible in face of this crisis: i) Work, ii) Business, iii) Community project/ charity, iv) Family and v) Yourself. In all of these, there is potential to create something that outlasts this crisis and allows us to grow beyond it. These are my examples, what are yours?

Growth at Work

My role has not changed, but my focus has shifted considerably. Whilst I still focus mostly on strategy and driving growth (no wonder), I have chosen to spend a lot of time on our people strategy. I have always been interested in it, but I constantly deprioritise it, for one reason or another. No reason can occur to me to explain to you right now so let’s leave it there.

But as we entered a world where such a great part of the population (in general) is working from home, my intellectual curiosity kicked in and I can’t help but think of the future of work. And that is absolutely linked with strategy. Keeping productivity high, people engaged and there in the long run are key pieces of a successful long term strategy. And I can’t help but believe that the current environment will make people think how they want to work in the future. And whilst not everyone will have short term choices, I am certain it will affect their long term decisions.

But as usual, I digress. The point is that I was able to shift one of my focus areas to something I am passionate about and that currently really matters, while putting less emphasis on some areas where the impossibility of a physical presence may be more limiting. I have taken upon myself to have a plan of actions to support our people through the crisis (and beyond) whilst at the same time finding ways to bring culture to each ones remote desktop.

After covid-19 is behind us, whenever that may be, I know that I have now found the angle and the space in my job to dedicate myself more to this area. It may mean sacrificing other areas, but I am pleased to have taken this leap and test the waters when it is most needed.

Growth in Business

I have been impressed with the growth in businesses around me. Be it the Creperie around the corner that now also sells milk, eggs and flour. Or the kindergarten French teacher that started doing this amazing French lessons on zoom for my 3 year old. The launch of new products to cater for coronavirus. The adjustments in supermarkets to deal with risk groups. All of this in the space of no time. Here are a few of the highlights I have spotted both in daily life but also as I chatted with some of the businesses I mentor here and there.

  • My favourite French start-up has found incredible opportunity in ensuring all processes are written down, collaboration technologies are used to its maximum and files are clean and organized. And it is not because they are bored. Indeed, they re-used the time freed up by some hold ups on the insurance companies to push ahead with tech improvements and working on the development work that was lagging behind. As hard as it may be, this crisis gives them an opportunity for their systems to catch up with growth;
  • My favourite active lessons for kids has launched facebook lives and zoom lessons almost immediately. To test the waters and convince parents there was really no risk if their 3 year-old did not like it, the introductory price was a no-brainer to go for. She has expanded her community and found a new way to reach children. In the future, she may even have opened the possibility to offer after-school virtual clubs. Moreover, even the entertainment space has gone wild, and she has done a massive kids party virtually. Who would say?
  • My favourite shoe brand debated its future. With lock-down, who needs fashion shoes to stay home? And with economic crisis looming, will people be looking at buying those not-always-so-needed goods? In a leap of faith, and as the lock-down promised to get to an end, the CEO send an order to the factory in the first day the factories re-opened and named the new line appropriately. Out on the 1st of June, so can’t spoil the surprise just yet. But it is growth oriented.

Growth in Your Community Projects

Fundraising will be in a tough spot this year. When so much money is raised from events – galas, sports events, dinners and fundraising nights – the sector is bound to suffer. At the same time, many teams can’t even consider furloughs, because furloughs most likely mean they will not survive. And then there is the other side of it – the application of funds just became even more needed and more difficult. So there is no other way than to innovate for growth. Here are a few examples of what we have done at ALG.

  • We have launched more aggressive communications campaigns. It made us better and speedier at getting these out, and that, we will take with us when this is over. Moreover, we started applying our newly developed CRM process, including ever more personal contacts with existing large donours and the theory has been proven in practice. There is no donour like the existing donour. We have found donours to be responsive to our appeals and appreciative of us reaching out offering up information. In the future, we will invest more in loyalty.
  • We have launched increased digitalization on the ground. It was already the case that WhatsApp was the easiest way to communicate, but we are now broadening up to also find ways to communicate with the older children digitally. It may be our only means of communication  now, but it will no doubt stay there for the future. Moreover, we have replaced transport expenses with data allowances to ensure we can keep the team there working, even if very limited in their day to day without visiting children or with closed schools. Ultimately, we may be able to get laptops to our key locations. That will be a great leap (if funding comes) and one that will stick beyond covid-19.

If you support a charity, they are likely to be going through these processes of re-discovery. Send them ideas, help them innovate!

Growth in Your Family

This is arguably the area where I have had the most growth. It is almost hard to choose where to start. First and foremost, I have spent more time with my children than I ever had before, perhaps excluding maternity leave. And arguably, I had not spent as much time with hubby B since we met over 10 years ago.

I finally know about what my kids do during the day, and I know what they are learning in school. I can be involved and present whilst still having a relatively full working life. Sometimes I hold them in my arms and I can’t help but say it out loud “this crisis was the best thing that has happened to me“. I know it is scary, even cheesy. I could have chosen to spend more time with my children without the world being threatened by a pandemic. But really, I couldn’t. Here are my current favourite things we have grown together:

  • We have designed new rituals – the morning circle time, the cuddly bedtime stories, family sports together in the weekends, Action Amanda, cosmic kids yoga, Friday night home-made pizza, colouring, weaving, going on walks, you name it. Some we will keep, others we will replace. But all have become our special things that I try and note down not to forget.
  • We have found closeness – we have always been close as a family. And granted, the first few weeks all together in the house under the pressure of lock-down, first days of home-schooling, me recovering from covid-19, hubby B feeling like everyone invaded his workspace and the kids wondering why we were not going outside, it was not all roses. But as anxiety eased and we found pleasures in our little rituals, we have become more loving, more playful. Baby S will break into the room in the middle of the day just to give me a hug. He won’t go to “school” without giving Little Girl C a “squeezy hug and I love you”. When we came home earlier from the park on Sunday, he lowered his shoulders as we entered the house and said “Mummy I am really missing C. and Daddy”. The emotions have been running more freely and more positive for all of us.

Growth in Myself

That is usually a forgotten area. Especially with everything that is going on. But after the first few weeks where there was no space for myself, I knew that would not last. Since then, I have invested in me in new ways and I will highlight 2 significant changes that I want to keep:

  • I feel less guilt and therefore make better choices. I don’t feel like I am always letting someone down. Or always short on something. Even though I am still awfully late in so many of the things I try to do, I know that I am slowly and steadily doing the best that I can while balancing all that needs to be balanced. And because I am with the kids, more than half the guilt is gone. Way more.
  • I feel more open to working on myself. I go for runs, I do more yoga, I hula hoop, I take respiratory/yoga lessons, I do puzzles, I sleep later on weekends. And I journal more, I feel more grateful and therefore more open for more.

There are a lot of mores in there. But indeed, I have grown.

Finding your growth

Uncertainty clouds our judgement. Our response mechanism enters in fight mode and we are in survival mode. However, as phase I of this crisis comes to an end, we need to now recognise a new normal that may be with us for at least a year. So we need to refocus our fight mode into a constructive mode, one where we can build roots and expand from where we are. What will that mean for you?

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

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