When we started our business, Visibility Co, we set out to create a work life that worked for us as businesswomen… as well as mothers, daughters and friends.
We felt the divided concepts of “professional” and “personal” were archaic and led people (including us) to feel incongruent. The model needed an overhaul, so we decided to do things differently, taking an integrated approach to our life, leadership, strategy and communications.
Authenticity is an important value for both of us — and a critical element of leadership — so if we were guiding others on their values and leadership we needed to walk the talk.
To some, our approach has appeared unconventional over time, but since COVID-19 has hit, we’ve realised that aspects of our “normal normal” work-life may be helpful to others as they adjust to a “new normal”.
Here’s the top seven elements that have enabled us and our team to have a smoother and super-integrated work and home life.
- We work on our core, constantly. We’re not talking about abs here (but we do love yoga)! We’re talking about having strong strategic foundations: an enduring purpose, a clear 3-year and 12-month vision, and a one-page strategy that incorporates our wellbeing and our relationships, and guides us every step of the way. Last week, as sh*t got real with COVID-19, we went back to our strategy and adjusted it, bringing timeframes forward, and shifting our priorities to see us through the crisis. A strong core anchors us and is also like a beacon in the distance, allowing us to stay calm as we’re making day-to-day decisions.
- We are next-door neighbours! Not everyone wants to live next door to their business partner or colleagues but then, we figured why start a business with someone you wouldn’t want to live next-door to?! That helps us share childcare and meals and have champagne celebrations and directors’ meetings on early-morning beach walks. Taking a communal approach to living helps our work life, and vice versa. In times of isolation this will be super handy!
- We don’t pretend our kids don’t exist. Remember the dad on the BBC segment? That’s us, only that we’ve always been open about our kids and family commitments. We include our children in our work bios. If they interrupt calls, we introduce them… and you know what? Clients love it, because it enables them to do the same — bring their whole selves into work.
- We take naps / meditate: It’s completely normal for us to call time-out during busy or demanding days to go and have a power nap, walk or meditate. In fact, we have an emoji we use (the bell) when we think someone in the team needs time-out. This permission adds to our productivity, overall wellbeing and helps us be better parents.
- We model vulnerability and talk openly about what’s happening for us: Being best friends aids vulnerability, but when hiring new team members we look for people who we feel comfortable being our true ourselves with, and who feel comfortable being open with us. If we’ve got PMT and feel rubbish, we’re open about it. If we need time out to manage grief, sadness, or difficulties with kids, we ask for it. If we’ve lost the plot on a Friday afternoon, we name it and laugh our way through meetings. Authenticity changes the game, especially if it’s a norm.
- We use our own tools: If in doubt about how to tackle a problem, we start with, “What are we good at that can be useful right now?” In the current environment, that’s stepping back and taking a helicopter view, being strategic, calmly thinking through the way we’re communicating, and making fun of ourselves using humour. And always knowing the higher goals.
- We live by the mantra, “ZOG not SLOG”: We worked out a long time ago what our zones of genius are: those areas that we are naturally strong at and can easily get into flow with — aka ZOG. For us, ZOG is eliciting vision and strategy; seeing communications pathways and storytelling opportunities; coaching, facilitation etc. The opposite of ZOG is SLOG: the aspects of work and life that feel like drudge that we tend to procrastinate over. Our SLOG is operational elements like business systems and super-detailed elements of administration. Once we worked that out, we took a deep breath and outsourced the SLOG. That meant at times we have invested before we were quite ready, but it’s repaid us many times over, including now as we manage more turbulent times.
We know our work-life is somewhat unconventional, but there are elements that you can incorporate into your own work life right now:
Create a simple vision to guide you. A simple formula to get started is “By [XXX date], I will feel [XXX], have [done], in order to [effect XXX/achieved XXX]. (For our more detailed vision template click here)
Nurture relationships with your neighbours. Think creatively about how you can support each other through these strange times: e.g. suggesting social distancing coffee dates (on the kerb) or alternating cooking as you juggle work and home commitments.
Ask your team what they need to function well, particularly at home, and be open about what you need. This might be ducking out for a run every day, having a 5-minute check-in at the start of each meeting or having a power-nap.
Ask good questions of those around you, and really listen to the answer. Many people are anxious and scared. If people are struggling, ask what they need and refer them to mental health resources such as Beyond Blue.
Ask yourself: what am I good at that might be helpful right now? You might be surprised at the answer!
Get clear on what’s ZOG and what’s SLOG. What are your strengths? What tasks do you get easily lost in? What do people tell you you’re good at and seek you out for? That’s ZOG. What do you dislike doing, avoid and know you’re less strong in? That’s SLOG. Wherever you can, work in ZOG as much as possible and ask for help on the SLOG from people who love doing what you hate!