The world comes together to talk of changes with Covid-19 – In a Virtual Panel Discussion
Hi everyone, I am Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. We have received more than 1000 registrations for this event and it is my absolute pleasure to host this webinar in collaboration with Debra Ruh on leadersHum. leadersHum has grown to be a channel of choice for leadership thought and has collected a library of material and interviews conducted over time from some of the most well known names in the industry.
Today we have the opportunity of welcoming the top global minds to our panels, people who the industry and the world follows for their thoughts and knowledge. They represent some of the best in the industry for talks, consulting and coaching assignments and each one has multiple accolades including books they have written or people and organizations they have worked with. We are here to discuss the theme of changes in work, the workplace and the workforce in these pandemic times of uncertainty for which we have the global team here with us today to share their thoughts and opinions.
And now for introducing the Global Team to you.
David Perez (Latin America)
David is a leader, advocate, social media specialist and communication strategist; he has experience in public policy implementation, development, and evaluation as well as consultancy services for NGOs like UNESCO and others linked to the European Union.
Antonio Santos (European Union)
Antonio is the Cofounder of the Digital Transformation Lab and the Community Manager at Atos. He is passionate about Digital Inclusion, Social Media Engagement, Diversity, Future of Work, and Social Business.
Neil Milliken (United Kingdom)
Next we have Neil, Neil is the Global Head of Accessibility, works in Business Disability Forum Technology Task Force and has successfully instigated the adoption of and implemented the Accessible Technology charter for the United Kingdom in his association with Atos.
Debra Ruh (United States of America)
Debra is an inclusion strategist and global leader and has worked with countries, UN agencies, national and multinational firms all over the world helping them create strategies that fully include persons with disabilities.
Himanshu Saxena (India)
Himanshu is the CEO of Centre of Strategic Mindset. He works at the intersection of Strategy, Execution & Executive Coaching to influence change and with CEOs and top teams in shaping their growth agenda. He is also part of the #Top 100 MG Coaches in Strategy.
Reeta Nathwani (South-east Asia)
Reeta is Executive Coach & Managing Director at Atom Global Consulting. She has over 27 years of experience in consulting, covering a range from Leadership Development to Talent Management Strategy. She believes that the transformation happens at a personal level, followed by the team and then the organization.
I am also thankful to our panel moderators which include:
LaMondre Pough (United States of America)
LaMondre is the Chief Sustainability Officer for Ruh Global IMPACT. His dedication to helping people unleash their personal potential has quickly established him as a primer speaker and trainer. He believes that in order for an organization to be at its very best, the people who make up the organization be at their best.
Ryan Hope is the Chief Technology Officer at Coviam Technologies. He has a track record of leading highly performing development teams to deliver successful products to market and create valuable companies
I am excited to be associated with LeadersHum and peopleHum and Debra Ruh for this event today. We are expecting a spirited and engaging conversation with our panel so without further ado, let me pass this on to LaMondre. LaMondre over to you.
Thank you all so much and it is an honour to be in front of this panel. And here’s some notes on how we’re organized today. I’ve got six topics for discussion. We’re going to start with each panel member and then others can jump in once the first response has been made. We will cover six questions in 45 minutes and leave 10 minutes for questions we receive from the hundreds and I mean hundreds of people who are listening to us online right now.
And for those attending, if you need to ask a question, just use the attack channel. An instruction email was sent out to you for reference a couple of days ago. And to our wonderful audience, we will also be conducting flash polls before we can take our questions after the debate. So please help us with your views so that we can understand your opinions and the world around us in a much better way.
So, if we’re all sitting here let’s go ahead and get started. Right. You ready? I’m ready. Everyone else ready? Let’s go. So, this first question is for Rita.
What are some of the things that your country Singapore is doing or should be doing to increase the response to the crisis that others can learn from? I think talking about and learning from what not to do isn’t as important as what we can do.
Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. Good night depending upon which part of the world you’re joining us from. I’m really delighted to be on this global panel talking about the most important thing that we’re all facing around the world today.
So here in Singapore, as some of you may be aware that Singapore was, quite early on during this pandemic by the World Health organization, was given a gold standard in terms of how Singapore was handling everything in terms of keeping the numbers down, making sure there was sufficient amount of testing happening, etc. Unfortunately, that didn’t last for too long. Maybe we were overconfident and the numbers in Singapore had started to go up like crazy.
Having said that, some of those things that Singapore have done, which have really, really helped currently is one of the countries with the least number of fatalities since January. And what we’re doing really, really well is the fact that the contact tracing in Singapore is I think we’ve got it down to a T, to be honest. So, I’m gonna give you an example, during the pandemic whilst everybody else called it the lockdown, can’t go out etc.
Something that played as a psychological ploy for the Singaporean nation here and they called it a circuit breaker so people didn’t feel that closed in. Singapore government and that was Prime Minister Lee himself ensured that everybody had to go and exercise and really focused around the immunity building aspect during this crisis.
Having said that, coming back to the contact tracing, so where I live, I go for a walk on the beach every day and we’ve actually got a contract tracing poll even at all the parks in Singapore. So, even if you’re going on the street just for a walk, you have to tap-in on your phone, that you’re out on the street and when you enter back, you have to tap back in. Now I think that really, really helped us a lot.
The other big thing that Singapore has done is, I would say, in terms of digitalization. So, every person in Singapore gets two WhatsApp messages a day, every single day. I’d just like to share with you like, for example, what today’s message actually says to us, or just to give you an idea of how communication has really, really played a huge, huge part here in Singapore.
So, we get told things like new cases: 123, imported cases: 2, cases in the community: 11. It even breaks it down. Singapore is a global nation, so it even breaks it down. Singaporean 1, 1 work pass holder, 1 permit holder residing in dormitories. Because Singapore has a lot of a lot of workers so residing in dormitories: 110. It breaks down to say 93% of them are linked to different clusters. So, Singapore has formed the different clusters. It then gives you activity of cases. So, we have in the hospital: 183 (men). You have 0 in ICU.
Community facility So I mean, in terms of providing the information, it’s being absolutely fabulous. I would also say that one of the big, other big advantages that Singapore really did do is very, very close monitoring.
So again, coming back to when people go for walks, it was instigated you had to go for your walk by yourself. If you were found chatting to somebody you would get fined and it created a whole army of volunteers, Singaporeans who were actually patrolling all of the public places to ensure that if two were people found actually speaking, then they would get fined, they would get a visit at home, and they were charged, they were actually charged for that.
What not to do and this might sound a little bit odd to people is as the lockdowns open up or in Singapore’s case, as the circuit breaker opened up, so we had one phase of circuit breaking. Now we’re on phase two of our circuit breaker. There is zero tolerance and no leniency. So, if we will go to buy the groceries, for example, you’d have to go into a mall. You will have to check in. You’ll go to the grocery store, you check in again, you come out of the grocery store, you check out, you come out of the mall, you check out again.
The other piece again on a on a very positive way of handling COVID, the whole country was given reusable masks, not once, they were all given them once and then they found a better model of a mask, a reusable mask. So, the whole country was then again given reusable masks. And if you didn’t could go and collect your masks for your home, you would actually get a WhatsApp message from the government to say that your mask is actually waiting there for you.
That sounds like some significant countrywide coordination. It’s amazing.
Yeah, I think it would really go from its right from the top, right? Right from the top. So, the number of times the prime minister of Singapore has actually addressed the nation, his messaging in four different languages. You know, I truly feel blessed that I am based in Singapore and living out of Singapore, even though I believe myself to be a true global citizen. So, it’s great to be on this panel.
Sounds like a great story. Absolutely. It does. And so, our next question is for Debra.
Now, the virus does not discriminate, but some groups are more severely impacted by than others. Which ones do you see are at a social and economic disadvantage and what are the reasons behind it Debra?
Thank you so much and thank you to peopleHum for doing this, and I’m gonna keep my answer a little tight, because I know we have a lot of panellists and we want to make sure everybody gets to speak. But I also don’t want to go after redressing or talking about this because pretty much the United States is doing the exact opposite of what Singapore is doing.
So, I’m not going to go there because I think everybody knows that it’s very, very confusing in the United States. Some of our leaders think that we’re number one in not dying. But actually, studies show that we’ve had more deaths in the world, we’re the fourth largest.
So, but there’s a lot of different reasons why our communities are disenfranchised communities, are diverse communities, the intersectionality of all of our different communities are suffering a lot more, and that’s because of all of the problems that we have in the United States.
It is interesting listening to Reeta on how smart and clever they are in Singapore because they always are so clever in Singapore, but a lot of things they’re doing in Singapore would absolutely not work in the United States. We would be totally offended that our equal rights were being taken away from us, our First Amendment rights and all the things that we’re all fighting about. And I’m glad in a way, even though it’s horrifying that we are doing this because black lives, brown lives do matter. And I know that we’re gonna have other webinars to talk about this.
But we have institutionalized racism in the United States, and we’ve done it from the minute that we started. I have Cherokee blood, just a little bit of Cherokee blood and my ancestry and the were 200 million indigenous Americans all over America, when the Europeans came, the Spanish people came to the United States, and by the time that was all done, there was only 60 million and that’s all of America.
So, there’s a lot of racism. There’s a lot of things like we don’t provide equal education, there’s poverty, they’re all kind of different reasons, that’s why there are there certain types of the population suffering more than others. And it’s pretty dramatic. We’ve seen our African Americans going into emergency rooms and being sent home saying, “No, you just got a cold. Oh, you got the sniffles” when actually they have COVID 19.
We’re not making testing a priority. We’re not making contact tracing, all the things that they’re doing in Singapore, we’re not doing in the United States. We also are making this about politics. We do have a very important election coming up in November. I know who I’m voting for and who I’m not gonna vote for, and we won’t go there. But what we’re seeing is all of the problems that we hid under the covers coming out now.
Somebody said they’re going to clean the alligators out of the swamps. Well, that’s exactly what’s happening. And the good news about America is that we do believe that we should all be equal. Most of us do believe that LaMondre’s right as an American in South Carolina. He is as important as I am, you know. And so, what you’re seeing, the chaos in the United States, is just us fighting about our human rights.
And when our secretary of state recently said or maybe it was our attorney general that, “Well, why don’t we back off on some of those human rights?” This is not the time to start backing off on human rights. Everybody matters, community matters, locality matters. But we also need to get a little bit smarter about doing right things like they’ve done in Singapore. So, thank you, LaMondre.
Thank you, Deb.
All right, so this next one is for you, Antonio.
So, my right to decide if I wear a mask for us is the collective social responsibility of controlling the spread of the virus. What are your views on the split of that opinion? And when does individual freedom become a hindrance versus a situation where the collective scores over the individual freedom and choice? And how has your country been able to respond to the virus in a way that you know, is positive? And what can we learn from that?
I think in the early days of the pandemic, people were a little bit confused about the mask. To wear a mask or to not wear a mask. There was some advice from the World Health Organization. And then country wIde, there were medical authorities that said, ‘Wear a mask’ and then there were government authorities that said, ‘No, maybe you shouldn’t do’.
But I believe that at the time they were doing that because there were not enough masks for health care professionals. So, they were trying to find ways where people wouldn’t just go buy masks and then they wouldn’t have enough for those who needed them.
Now, this is not about you. This is about your responsibility to make sure that your neighbor doesn’t get infected. That the elderly person that you are going to come in contact with on the street doesn’t get infected. So that’s a strong element of personal responsibility on your side.
And I think here everyone is must understand that aspect that is particularly important for you to act as someone that can protect others to make sure that they can continue to serve you. Otherwise, a supermarket might have to close down next Monday, and you won’t be able to buy food because you know, you just infected someone because you were careless and not wearing a mask.
Interesting. It sounds like a very good approach.
David, how has that played out in Costa Rica where you are? Is there controversy there? Is that a fairly standard way of operating?
The only controversy that we’ve seen here is the fact that it started as just a recommendation and that then became like a law. Everyone has to wear a mask wherever they go. So, some people are arguing that if it’s not effective, why are they requesting it? If it’s effective, why didn’t they request it from the beginning? But most people are just doing what they have to do and wearing the mask as much as they can. We know it’s not 100% effective, but we know it’s a way to protect everyone. Costa Rica’s healthcare system was built on solidarity. And that’s what we have done to try to protect ourselves from the COVID 19.
Thanks. Great answer. So, let’s go to Himanshu and we’re going to talk a bit about culture.
Some cultures, like we heard Reeta talk about Singapore and South Korea, Germany, New Zealand and Japan, notably seemed to be dealing with the pandemic much better than the others are. And is this just the fact of leadership or discipline mandates and the clear vision that is the difference? Are there other factors that are actually at play here?
Thank you, LaMondre for keeping the longest question for me. I love that. These are very interesting countries and are being led by some excellent leaders. But that is not the elude that other countries’ leadership is sub optimal or incompetent. Not fair to pass the judgment without understanding the context.
But first, let’s understand what favours or supports these countries’ position in their fight and triumph if he may call at this point of time against the pandemic. See no doubt it is leadership that always will stand out in the bailout scenario. I think a very fast and swift appreciation of the situation or this rapidly spreading pandemic got their attention much earlier than expected.
I think leaders of these countries, they visualized that this is not a small thing. Rulebooks for these do not exist. So, let’s not go and search for the rulebooks, let’s create the rule books as we’re facing now, and let’s be creative about that.
These leaders were quick to re-prioritize their priority and put their money where it was needed the most- that could be testing, contact tracing and isolation measures all put in place swiftly. Every country did this in some proportion, but what really stood out is the communication and the education, both were pieced together and handled very well, marketed with creativity and problems were repurposed as significant challenges, which kind of became a vision for the society and community.
Jessica Ardern in New Zealand said, “We are a team of five million people, and I’m with you in this mission to save others.” A very simple logic, if we are on a mission to save others, we will save ourselves. But see how the communication was repurposed and packaged.
See culture, in my view, is a manifestation of many things; of course, civilization, literacy or better referred as education. Values in terms of self-accountability and personal responsibility. This kind of problems cannot be handled through an enforced mechanism. We need to spend more time in teaching and educating people that how you could take care of yourself by doing certain things right, but not as an enforcement. Values that stood out nation’s pride or pride of people in the nation and as a society, how some of these leaders were invoked and evoked the pride of the nation. The mission became that, can we be the first country to come out of that?
And when New Zealand declared that, you could see the pride in people. See culture is also influenced by prosperity and poverty both together. Sometimes poverty triggers survival instinct and everything goes for a toss. Extreme prosperity- to hell with the world and policies. So, we’re seeing different parts of the world. So, I think the median is a great place to be. And that’s where the middle-class values and a bit of education comes handy.
This is where the role of leadership again becomes supercritical. Leaders who communicate authentically with transparency, often end up soothing nerves and this kind of situation needed someone’s nerves to be soothed.
I’ll take the example of India. We made millions of migrant laborers move, for what? If somebody had calculated the economics and cost of keeping them in a safer condition, while providing food and everything, these millions of people would not have gone and infected others. But there was complete anarchy at that point of time. Then there was a wave of lock down that followed and a wave of unlock that’s following. But there’s a lab in India’s called Thyrocare and they did some fantastic study based on the testing and integrating the findings of all the labs. They came up with an idea that India is going to be the fastest to develop antibodies.
We don’t know in this long game, whose policies or whose game triumphs. So culture brings a sense of discipline, LaMondre and a discipline that begins in every house, more as self-respect rather than an external threat. Because it’s a symbol of a culturally evolved society and is epitomized by top leadership.
Just to conclude, incidentally culture too, is a transient stage. Some extremely rich and civilized societies, known for heritage and culture, have now become insipid. On the other hand, some considered very primitive and impoverish are a shining light in their own word. Culture works best as a medium between extreme poverty and inadequacy. Let’s not ignore the size of the country. There are problems, and a country like India on one side we’re having this huge problem of population and on another side, we’re fighting a war in China. Look at the leadership, what conflicts they’re facing.
So size, scale, scope, everything matters. But these are countries which really stood out in terms of high personal responsibility and high social accountability and hats off to the leadership for having pioneered that. LaMondre.
Himanshu, thank you for such an insightful answer. And I think that it’s so interesting, particularly when we’re talking about how many different facets actually come into play there. So, thank you. Thank you very much.
Thank you so much. That was very interesting. Neil, our next one is for you.
When fear is rampant. It’s usually people that need special care under normal circumstances who suffer even more, senior citizens, differently abled and others. Do you think accessibility and care provisioning was severely impacted during the pandemic? And what more could have been done to help?
Absolutely. It has been affected. We’ve seen certainly in the UK and the US, significant numbers of excess deaths in care homes and buy excess what we mean is the death rate being higher than the average number of deaths that you would have in a given year.
So, the fact that in both countries we’ve sent people from hospitals into care homes where people are vulnerable has exacerbated the problem. We’ve not covered ourselves in glory there and lots of people that probably died unnecessarily as a result of some of the decisions that were taken. In terms of accessibility, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. So, a lot of people with disabilities have been saying for years that we want flexible working and that we can work from home and that’s something that has been difficult to extract out of some of their employers.
COVID 19 comes along and suddenly everybody’s working from home, so we’ve disproven the theory that it’s not possible to do it. We know it is possible. So that’s a real positive.
That said, people are working from home in situations that are not normal. So what’s happening? And I think there was a question on the web chat that was talking about this. Are we taking into account the fact that people from poorer backgrounds, from the economically less advantaged backgrounds, are able to work from home? Sometimes there’s may not be the space, there may not be the facilities, there may not be the connectivity, so as a result of that, either people are forced to go into work, they’re forced into poverty because they can’t work or they are forced to take greater risks.
So being a part of the comfortable middle class with a nice sit at home job and a good, fast internet connection, I can stay relatively safe. Lots of other people can’t. And so, we’re again exacerbating that economic divide. So, I think there’s a lot of work to be done. And then finally, even where there is flexibility and this means not just in terms of having the IT tools to do this, but also the management, mindset to allow people to be flexible, to trust them, to be able to do their jobs so that we’re not trying to control which was the driver of presenteeism for a long time.
There is still this problem we have where people don’t have the long term set up so they’re working from home on a couch, balancing and two kids and a dog and trying to do multiple things, though it’s not working from home in a normal context because they don’t have a normal office. So, we’re potentially also setting up all kinds of problems in later life of people unless we start sorting out that basic stuff like ergonomics.
So as companies start to take advantage of the fact that they’ve realized they don’t need all this office space, what are they doing in terms of helping their employees set up their own home spaces in order for them to remain healthy and fit whilst working from home and have a working environment that doesn’t create undue stress? Because I think, actually, a lot of the time, especially when people are all cooped up together, working from home could be very stressful. So, I think there’s a lot that we can learn. There’s a lot that we still need to do, because actually, this situation is not going to resolve itself very soon.
So organizations like Twitter, where they’re giving people a lump sum to start making changes, I think that’s the beginning of what we may see certainly in richer nations is investment in your home office working environment. And people will start to actually restructure their living environments to take into account the new ways of working and so on. That again creates a divide. And we need to think about how we can bridge that gap.
Excellent. Thank you, Neil.
Debra you look like you have some passion along these lines to talk about the inequities that have commanded this. What are your thoughts on the subject?
Well, I’ve been really chatting over here with attendees but I totally agree with what everybody’s saying. It’s very interesting to watch the countries that maybe some of us thought were leading the way in the future and see those countries, like my beautiful country just falling down and just, you know, mulish on the street. It’s just chilling to watch what’s happening.
Even though I’ve never, ever walked a path like this. I’ve never seen so many people having mental health problems, suicides are way up, domestic violence is terrible, and this is not just in the United States, we’re seeing this all over the world, but certainly looking at it from the lens of the United States is chilling.
But we’ve been preaching, Neil and Tony and I run a tweet chat that is 5 years old called AXS chat. We talked about this every single Tuesday and we’ve been saying it’s very important to make sure that technology is fully accessible, that we have connectivity, that we have good technology, that you know, all the different things that, as Neil noted, if you’re middle class, you get to work from home. I mean, I was working from home before this.
But it is chilling to see the positions that we’ve put people in just get worse and worse and worse and exasperated during these times when, like, you were talking about India and when everybody was sent home, that just exposed more people to that.
So, the leaders need to be a little bit more thoughtful when we need to consider what problems we’re really trying to solve and I think that’s part of the problem, Ryan is that we didn’t solve the problems that we knew were in society. We’ve known these problems have existed for a long time in the United States.
We’re number one, when it comes to incarcerating Americans, we incarcerate more Americans in the United States, and disproportionately, they are black and brown. And there are 65% of our prisoners are people with disabilities. And so, we’re warehousing people in nursing homes and in prisons and guess what’s happening they’re dying.
So I think Ryan and everyone, what we’re seeing is all of these problems with society that we’ve just been hoping would go away and not really addressing and now we’re seeing those are the people that are the most negatively impacted, and I think we really as a society could do much better and I’m not just talking about you and us, I’m talking about as human beings, we could do much better. Thank you.
Right. Yeah, those are great. But both of those were great statements from Neil and Debra, and I believe what we found is that this is an opportunity for reawakening of the way that we see the world, and it allows people who typically have been disenfranchised or left out. Really, now we’ll have the opportunity to stand up. If we as a society move in that direction and I’m an eternal optimist, I believe that we will. So our next question is for David.
David, what systems processes and behaviours can we change to live with or to avoid such an occurrence in the future?
Well, I think that avoiding is a very hard thing to do, if not impossible. I think that we know another pandemic is gonna come, and we need to prepare for it that there’s absolutely no way in the globalised world that we’re living in and how connected we all are right now that there’s not gonna be another disease that spreads to an epidemic level again.
So, what we need to do is take lessons from COVID and what it has done to our economies, what it has done to our health care systems and start implementing solutions that are long lasting and that can actually have an effect for everyone. That, of course, includes investing in research and preparation.
We need to invest more in our doctors, in our researchers that are trying to keep us safe. We need to fund and continue to implement vaccination programs for the diseases that we already know that exists. And we have a cure, right, because a health care system that is healthy, is more able to respond to a pandemic or to focus on a crisis when it appears.
And I think the most important thing that we can start to do is start to address the inequalities that we have as a society and across the world. When I was hearing our first panellist’s answer and she was saying that they gave masks to every single person in Singapore, that’s amazing. I would love that we were able to do that here. But there are economic factors that prohibit Latin American countries to do that. But there’s also the fact that we don’t even know where people are. We don’t know how to communicate with them. There are communities in Latin America that are completely invisible to the government, they don’t exist.
So we need to start by changing that by finding people, giving them their basic needs, giving them what they need so that when a crisis like this comes, we are able to respond in a better, more equal way because right now I’m sure that most of you can agree with me, the people that are taking the biggest burden off this pandemic are the poorest people across the world and that’s simply not for fair.
We can do better. We have the resources. We have been talking about sustainable development goals for a while. I assure you that there’s people out there that are dying of hunger, they are dying of stress. They don’t know how they’re gonna be alive for the next month.
And governments are just asking them to stay inside because we don’t want to overwhelm the system. So, yeah, we need to do better. And I think that the best way to prepare for another pandemic or to prepare our systems is gonna be to bridge the gap in inequality.
Right. That’s a great answer, David.
But I would also want to hear from Reeta regarding was there any mention or conversation about the economic drain that providing those masks would have presented to a particular government. Just single.
Yeah, so that definitely was. At the same time, the messaging in Singapore was very much that lives matter over livelihood at this point in time and that was a constant message that lives matter over livelihood. Singapore government again, it also made sure that it was looking after the small businesses, it was looking after the freelancers, like the hair dresses, like the foot massage people and ensuring that money actually reached their bank accounts.
So, it was really, really focusing on people who were, you know, not economically secure for themselves and that really was an emphasis. Whilst we are talking about this and hearing David speak, I just like to add one point in terms of the pandemic and everything that’s happening around the world. I think there is also a flip side.
I think the consciousness of people has really, really risen to the fact that everybody’s been in their homes and people are beginning to get a different perspective on what really matters, how little one actually, really needs and one of the biggest things that people thrive on is, we thrive on human interaction.
And so maybe one of the biggest outcomes, I would personally hope, would be that human beings had become human doings. We were all in organizations doing doing, doing, doing, doing and now, having to literally reflect in our homes, yes, working to the best of our capability, but really realizing that it’s actually the being that actually matters.
So, I was speaking to a colleague in Vietnam earlier today, which again Vietnam has handled this very well and it was the same conversation. But, you know, we were reading on this individual works for a major financial services organization and they were saying this is the conversation that we’re having that, “Okay, so, yes, we’re chasing our numbers. Do we really need those numbers and can we actually do more for the society around us?” Thank you.
Thank you. Do appreciate that. Right. Excellent.
So, thank you very much. Panelist, for the questions that we have.
We’ve got some other questions that have come in from our audience and that some we got from emails and on social media. I would appreciate it if you guys can all stick around and help us with some of the questions here. Also got a quick poll that we’re gonna be doing here.
Okay, So the 1st one I see here is from Deepak Joshi to Himanshu.
In January 2020 we prepared we prepared a Business Strategy for this decade 2020-30. We know that, the first 400 meters in the marathon are the most important to run the 26 miles and here, due to the unprecedented pandemic situation, we have lost out in the first (400m), so any advice to keep the teams motivated and maintain the rhythm?
Yeah. So, I think most companies’ strategies went for a toss because of this pandemic and the earlier they’re dumped, the better they’re felt because holding on to something which is not working is not the way.
I would also like to say that after every crisis the world will bounce back. There’s World War one, two, or whatever the scenarios and there were some leaders who were thinking not just about the crisis but beyond the crisis. And they were having that bifocal vision that one eye is to handle the situation, how best we handle that? But one eye is focused on ‘this too shall pass.’ A
re we preparing for the future? How much time from our bandwidth do we take out to see when the bounce back and the recovery happens? Because, you know, in this world the greatest competitive advantage is how long you can think.
You can just price them out or time them out just by sheer nature of thinking long. You have an example of a guy Jeff Bezos who invested in a 10,000 year’s stock, millions of dollars. He says, ‘I’m looking at 300 years and it’s not about me whether I will be there or not, but after 300 years when our great grandchildren, when they look back and they say, ‘okay, there was somebody who thought of us way ahead into the future.’’
Coming back to the point of employee morale and motivation, the future always holds hope and positivity. It depends on how well we package the future; how well do we paint the picture of future, how we bring that hope and say, ‘Okay guys, there are some basic procedures and protocols, if we can live that we will survive.’
One of things which I’m talking about in various programs is preserve, reserve and conserve. You have to preserve your health both emotional and physical, you have to conserve your energy to get a leverage, you have to reserve your assets for leverage when things are bouncing back. So, I think it’s the leader’s ability to think way into the future and then paint the picture or vision that will lift the morale and spirit of the people.
That sounds like a very good idea. Okay, our next one is for you, Antonio from Joao.
The use of social media and video conferencing apps has gone up significantly. So you think this streak will continue even after the lockdown is over? How do you see the new habits continue in the future?
First, we will see things going down a little bit, considering that some of us might not work, but we’ll definitely continue to use video more than in the past. Now we’re going to use this more frequently. We have seen organizations making remote work as part of the normal work activities where people have the option to choose: will I work from home or will I work from the office, from the perspective of the employee; so, I can decide today if I go to work or if I stay at home and if I’m staying at home, I will have to use those digital solutions in order to be able to communicate.
So, we will see them becoming more normal in our daily lives in the way we work. But making a point, the thing that you were saying is also particularly important that these options are also accessible for everyone. So, from captions to subtitles to integrate accessibility within the solutions in order to democratize access on remote work. Because, you know what’s the point of having them if we end up getting a scenario where only those that can afford the solution, only those who have the knowledge are able to work from home.
So, it’s particularly important that we make the effort to make sure that the solution that we use are also accessible for everyone and if we’re successful in that, then I think that can also open employment opportunities to make the workplace more inclusive.
Excellent. Good answer. The next one, Neil is for you. From Leonard.
Mental wellness has become the talk of the town. Shelter in place, work from home has aggravated it furthermore. Do you think the negativity is arising out of anxiety or depression or is it just that since we’re not able to step out, it’s causing a ruckus in our minds?
I think there are multiple factors at play here. So, every individual has their own personal preferences. Some people are extroverts some are introverts. So, I know that there are some people actually relishing not having to interact with people, certainly amongst a number of my autistic friends. They like it that they don’t have to interact with people so much.
On the other hand, most of us are social animals, and we like to interact with people. I know that it’s not the same, having a zoom call as it is meeting up and having close proximity with friends. I miss that and I think that that does have an impact. For me, as someone that used to working from home, I have my wife here and I still talk to people. I’m not terribly isolated, but it’s a draining effect.
Again, when you factor in things like job insecurity, financial insecurity, those kinds of things, the nervousness about health and so on, then that’s also going to have an impact on your mental state. So, I think that all of these factors at play are adding to people’s general state of tension and collectively, as a society, we’re noticing that we’re seeing all kinds of stuff happening. We’ve got geopolitical pressures that were already there, we’ve got all of the various swings between extremism because we are more polarized to society right now. So that it is adding to anxiety.
There are all kinds of stuff happening that we’re right to feel a little bit nervous, and we need to be kind on ourselves. So we need to forgive ourselves for not necessarily feeling at the top of our game, as saying goes, ‘It’s okay to not be okay’ and we need to find ways of helping each other, being prepared to listen intently to people because actually, when you can unburden yourselves, I think it’s really helpful. So being able to share your concerns and your fears is really important. And being able to do that for someone else is also really important.
So, take the time to listen to people, take the virtual coffee breaks, the virtual water cooler stuff. Yeah, because we really do need to do it and hopefully someday soon, we can do that over a real glass of water or preferably, a real glass of wine. That would be my preference. And it would be really nice to go and see friends again. But whilst we can’t, let’s just do it virtually.
Okay, that sounds good. Okay, this next question is from Sophie for you David.
Let’s see, in terms of accessibility, how can we bridge the gap between sympathizing vs actually employing differently abled folks especially now when even abled individuals are finding it hard to find a job?
Oh, that’s a difficult question to answer. I think it is very nuanced and I think it depends very much and on where you are in the world, how your economy is looking, what types of jobs are available and a myriad of different factors. It’s, of course, a matter off will as well. If companies put their best foot forward and they actually try and do the right thing with real inclusion programs that are not just blabber, there’s a big possibility for real inclusion in hiring programs across the board, and it’s not about giving opportunities to those that don’t have them, it’s about making opportunities equal for everyone and that’s what we’re trying to do talking about inclusive hiring programs.
So, the best way is to champion it yourself to take the lead yourself. It comes from one person. It permeates the whole organization, and that organization starts making change. That’s the best way that we found to actually make change.
Excellent. That sounds like very practical advice.
The next question that we have here is for you Debra from Ricardo.
Technology has empowered us now more so than ever before but senior citizens still find it hard to access tech and communication is an issue during these tough times. What do you think can be done to help them bridge this gap?
And that’s a very great question, Ricardo. Thank you, Ryan, for asking it. You know, one thing that I’m seeing and I am one of those older people. I’m 61 now, and what I’m seeing is that in our elderly populations all over the world, it’s almost like they’re being blamed because technology doesn’t work for them, because they don’t have good connectivity.
More and more, I hear elderly people saying, “Well, I’m just too stupid to use the tablet or I don’t understand how to use the phone.” And so, the children of the people that are trying to make sure that their parents, their elderly parents, 65 and on, are not getting COVID 19 and sadly there are so many stories like this. But a friend of mine’s mom was in a nursing home where I should say not a nursing home, she’s in an assisted living facility and they stopped visiting her.
They just stopped visiting her for weeks and months and for no reason. Of course we all know they stopped visiting her because a COVID 19, they were trying to keep her safe, but she couldn’t use the technology, she didn’t understand, it made her feel stupid, it made her feel incompetent. And finally, she just gave up. She stopped eating, she stopped drinking and she just died and then they were just mortified that we see this happening over and over and over.
I know LaMondre’s grandmother died of COVID 19. It is chilling, what’s happening to our elderly and technology, it’s such a great equalizer, but only if we get it into the hands of the people with the right connectivity, and it’s accessible, and we’re teaching them how to use it and we stop telling older generations, ‘You’re stupid because you’re not a digital native.’
So, there’s bullying happening with our elderly, you know. The lieutenant governor in Texas saying, ‘Ohh, I’ll take one for my grandchildren. I’ll just die right now.’ So, I think once again it’s like what we’ve all been saying, Neil said it, David said it, you know, all these problems are being mixed into all of this.
The elderly people are dying, there are certainly younger people dying from COVID 19 as well. But the misinformation, the fake information, the fake news we don’t even know where to turn. I hope other countries feel more comfortable, and you look at your leaders and say, ‘All right, they’re giving this information that’ll keep us safe.’ We don’t feel that way in the United States. We feel like we’re being lied to, that all kind of other things are happening that we don’t understand. And it’s putting pressure on everyone but on our elderly, they are in so much trouble and once again are disenfranchised or brown or black lives.
It certainly is taking a look at your culture. COVID 19 is making us take a look at our culture and see what is wrong and what’s really wrong behind the covers. So that’s a great question. Once again, technology could be a wonderful equalizer, but only if we really, truly get it in the hands of the people that need it and we teach them how to use it in a way that makes sense to their brains.
I’ll give you one quick example. My mom has passed over, and I must say, I’m glad my mom’s past over and she’s not walking this right now. She would be so scared. But my mom could not swipe her phone on because she had real severe diabetes and she just didn’t have the finger sensitivity. So, what my mom thought was she was stupid. It’s actually that technology didn’t work for her. My mom wasn’t stupid at all, my mom was very smart, but technology and the way we bring it to people, that was what had failed. Thank you.
Thank you, Debra. All right, our next question, Reeta is for you from Poonam.
What should companies do for the mental wellbeing of their employees?
Right now, I would say a quick and easy way would be to really create programs around mindfulness, well-being and active listening. Because if we feel that people are not being heard, still having to perform, I seriously would say that if we do something around mindfulness, which is going to reduce the stress, so people think that my company is now just wanting to fob me off on something but really showing the neuroscience behind mindfulness of how the different hormones when we start being in the now, when we even just put a smile on our face, we get our serotonin, dopamine flowing through our bloodstream and what the impact of that actually is.
So even a simple thing like I would say, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a strategy, your business meeting, whether it’s reporting numbers. Q1, Q2, whatever it is, but to actually just start the meeting by asking everyone, hey let’s give our best smiles, all of us and see what happens just even now on the screen, right, see it really lifts. So maybe it’s something as simple as that Poonam, thank you for asking that question.
Thank you. Okay, next question is for you, Himanshu, this is from Deepak Joshi.
How are employees in India managing the work from home or hybrid working arrangement models? Knowing employees in India may not have the luxuries at home that allow for flexibility to work from home.
Great question. Firstly, the number of people who have moved to home and work from home is bigger than any country at this point in time by sheer virtue of the size in the population. I think it doesn’t matter as long as you just manage one laptop or a bit of continued connectivity. People and managers are getting used to the fact that it’s okay if your child walks in and somebody cries or it’s the whistle of the pressure cooker. It’s all getting accepted, and managers have to do a great job in assuaging that it’s okay. There’s no judgment, no guilt, no expectation.
Okay, so that kind of inspiration or exhorting message if it comes to, I think people are going to be fine doing that. My relatives, my cousin’s niece, nephew they just have stopped bothering what place they are in. They’re just find a little bit of place, somebody sitting on a staircase, somebody sitting outside and infact in our 100 coaches, Peter Bregman came up with a very fine video where he’s working, and suddenly his daughter walks in, and says, “I need this room” and he goes to the stairs.
Somebody else walks in and he says, “I need this place”. He goes to the toilet and somebody knocks and says, “I need to come in.” And finally, he goes to his car and starts working and everybody comes and joins him. They thought they’re going for a trip and then he rushes back to find his place, though that’s on the lighter side.
I think and I’m talking about large organizations like Tata Consultancy Service 400,000 people and 70% are working from home, out of which 1,50,000 are the lowest associate level of people. Now just imagine the logistic nightmare these companies have undertaken successfully to move within 15 days, you know, same people would say, “Oh, you’re not authorised because this type of laptop or this desktop is not going to be made available.”
This is the new world and everybody worked around and moved around to make things happen. And it’s working fine. So, this is going to stay and this needs to be accepted. This needs to be accepted with grace. And that’s how it’s going to happen. Ryan.
Thank you very much Himanshu, great insights. Okay. I think our final question today is gonna be for you, David. This is from Lana.
Being resilient and flexible as a leader, how would you go about teaching that in a crisis for an organization that is trying to get through the pandemic with as few scratches as possible?
Well, that’s another great question. I think that resiliency can only be taught by leaders with example and I think that even though it might be hard to deal with something that we have never dealt with across the world and in such a massive scale, might be hard, I think that communicating that to your team is gonna make a huge difference, letting them know that this is uncharted territory, that you’re doing your best for them and to make the right decisions, to not get anyone hurt is gonna be the best way to actually have people trust what you’re doing.
And that way your team is gonna have peace of mind, and they’re gonna be able to do that with their teams. Leadership is a chain where if we’re doing the right thing, our people are gonna be doing the right thing. But if we’re saying one thing and doing another, our teams are just gonna grab what we are doing, not what we’re saying.
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I love that idea of authenticity that we lead by example.
Yeah, we need to lead by example and teach what we actually can do. And since I have the luck of being the last one, I just want to leave everyone with a great Greek proverb that I’ve heard and that I think sums up everything that we have been talking about here, ‘A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.’ We need to do things now for the future generations to prepare them for the future that we know is coming. And just to make it better. Thank you.
Thank you David, that was great.
Thank you so much David, I had a great time listening to all the very engaging questions and responses. Thank you for being so responsive and really also thankful to a panel members and to LaMondre and Ryan for accepting our invite and for the high energy engaging talk, especially from you, Debra. I’d also like to thank all of you individually for your support leading up to the panel discussion, thank you so much for being a part of this journey.
Thank you so much to all the attendees here and we hope to see you back on our show again and behalf of our audience, on leadershum and all over the world tied into this panel. Thank you so very much. Stay safe and have a wonderful rest of the day.
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