Reflections of leading through collective humanity.

Authored by: Phiwe Marumo – IDC Head: Continental Coverage

I have always been guarded and deliberate about what aspects of myself I avail to others in the workplace as well as life in general. A skill I hold in moderate regard, it has in many ways served me and provided a ‘safety net’ within which to exist. However, the continued haul and the weight of the pandemic has necessitated a rethink on this posture. Traditionally I would be considered an extreme diplomat, with a built-in ability to say enough without saying much. The pandemic has brought about the inability to physically be together as colleagues for what has now become an extended time. This isolation has triggered mental shifts in how one exists and leads within this realm, let alone extend their person or humanity in the light of an existence via Teams.

The uneasy circumstances caused by the pandemic and life under lockdown have caused time for introspection and reflection. I have realised that we need to share our personal experiences to share our collective humanity. That said, to do this would require an amount of courage on my end, extending a part of myself usually reserved for friends and more intimate settings. I wondered about how extending aspects of my humanness would land with the team.

“I have realised that we need to share our personal experiences
to share our collective humanity. “

Having considered the circumstance and situation, I decided to start our Monday morning meetings with the request that everyone share “where they were currently at (emotionally) as we met?”. To enable the check-in, I would lead, to set the tone and latitude for our space. At times I would start with “This morning I am feeling somewhat anxious, under the weight of this never-ending pandemic and somewhat emotional with the debris it leaves behind it. I am however deliberately choosing to stay in hope today?” that’s me, now where are you at this morning Andrew?”, and so it would go.

My team have adopted this as the format for our meetings moving forward. It allows for a decent 15 minute, thoughtful check-in, that is solely about our human collective. We then attend to the agenda at hand. Previously we would have merely glossed over this human connection with the proverbial “am fine, thank you”. Sharing our anxiety, worry and fear and then consciously choosing to move forward together, has brought about a much deeper human connection amongst our team.

We are living through intensely challenging times which demand greater compassion towards ourselves as leaders and towards those we lead. I am grateful for the opportunity to see the people behind the titles, to see them first before the work and to genuinely take interest in their well-being.

This last year has been difficult, but I take away an invaluable lesson about sharing in our collective humanity.