As an industry, we need to support and protect each other like siblings, even if we’re not mates outside of work

It's another week of working from home for The Hallway (and the industry), and CEO Jules Hall has come to realise that one of his agency's values - the description of which reads, ‘We don’t have to be friends, just brothers and sisters’ - means even more than he thought it did. We don't have to be mates to support and protect each other throughout a crisis like COVID-19.

It was another big week. This really is ‘the new normal’ now. Three weeks of working from home and days in the agency are a distant memory. The living room/bedroom/study (if you’re lucky) is the office.

And everyone is dealing with it differently.

We can start by treating each other like siblings, even if we’re not friends

Compassion is key

I have realised the importance of acknowledging everyone’s unique domestic context. Last week, I started to appreciate how differently we’re all handling this.

The first couple of weeks, we were busy adapting. That was enough of a focus to unite us and distract us. We’re past that now. And minds and emotions are free to wander.

On Tuesday, one of the team shared a heart-wrenching story about a family dinner that ended in an argument. For no particular reason. But the insight was profound. Every person at the table was under pressure. And they were all dealing with it in their own way. The issue wasn’t the point being argued. It was the failure to appreciate that everyone was feeling differently.

And therein lies an incredibly powerful learning. Every single one of us is experiencing stress right now, whether we realise it or not. We’re also human beings. And the way humans respond to stress is to increasingly see things from their own point of view. It’s a natural defence mechanism. But there is a significant consequence: We become less compassionate. And that can have huge, negative impacts.

It’s all so obvious in hindsight, but I can think of countless times where I’ve slipped on this – without even realising.

The obvious examples are easier to understand: Big deadline. Reliance on something from someone else. For whatever reason, it doesn’t arrive as expected. Rant ensues. Both parties leave unhappy.

Not good. But relatively easy to prevent with good self awareness.

The bigger risks right now are the hidden anxieties and stresses – those we maybe don’t even recognise in ourselves. Because if we don’t know we’re feeling these emotions, we won’t be aware of their potential implications. And before we know it, we’re unwittingly acting in a way that alienates, or even hurts, our colleagues. Creating more stress and anxiety. Negative vortex ensues (and workload increases to recover the situation).

We’re siblings, even if we’re not friends

The fifth pillar of our values is ‘We take care of each other’. The description reads: ‘We don’t have to be friends, just brothers and sisters’. I’ve always liked those words. Now, I’m starting to understand just how important they are.

We are in the midst of unprecedented change. There are enormous uncertainties for all of us. It’s impossible not to feel some anxiety. But it’s really important to understand that’s okay. In fact it’s really, really normal.

Just as siblings have a deep-seated loyalty to each other, even if they aren’t best mates, the same should apply to, and with, our colleagues. We’ve always had a unique dependency on each other. The current situation is making that more explicit.

And just like siblings, there is greatness in supporting and protecting each other. Even if we aren’t mates outside of work.

It takes courage to act in this way. And it doesn’t always come naturally. As a bloke who went to an all-boys boarding school, I can assure you I’m one of those for whom it doesn’t come easily.

But what I am discovering is that you can learn these skills. And surprisingly rapidly.

Some of the most fulfilling conversations I had last week were those in which people opened up about how they’re feeling. It’s a brave thing to do. And it’s humbling to hear someone tell you they don’t feel 100%. Knowing how they feel, we have the opportunity to adapt our style. The relationship strengthens, you achieve more, and you both feel better.

On that note, I hope you are all okay? If you want to shoot the breeze, have a whinge, or riff on ways to solve a problem, hit me up.

Jules Hall is CEO of The Hallway


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