Week beginning 26 October

The only thing harder than managing the response to a cyberattack during a global pandemic? Doing so during half term week. A week that started slowly but gathered momentum towards the end. We finished with a management team meeting that left us all wanting more; quite the achievement on a Friday night. 

Starting well

For the second week running, I barely worked during the weekend. In contrast to last week, I started this week badly. It was a bit like the first 15 minutes of Liverpool against Villa. A bit slow; passes a bit sloppy, frustration all round (it’s all too raw to consider the analogy of passing the ball to the opposition striker). I reckon it’s exacerbated by working from home. You can’t get energy from others. 

Next week needs to be better. Our goals are very clear but maybe feel slightly too big and distant to organise a week; so I will need to make sure I set specific key results that I can work to. And maybe my own resolutions were a bit esoteric. So I’m going to try to set some clearer goals for this week and use those to start the week well. 

Preparing well

I twice used my new checklist on preparing for big meetings. It’s just long enough that I had to check it, which in itself was useful: it prompted me to think about questions I hadn’t considered. I also had my first and second adrenaline rush before a Meet. It usually happened before conference speeches (and it’s a bit disconcerting when it doesn’t). But it just wasn’t happening for video calls. I’m pleased it’s back. It helps me make sure I’ve prepared. 

Knowing when you don’t know

I made two obvious mistakes this week. On both occasions I’d started talking about topics that I knew a little about but not enough. If I’d have been smart, and thought more quickly, I would have deferred to someone else and drawn attention to the things I didn’t know. But I soldiered on and instead made the mistake. On both occasions members of the team stepped in, which is really positive. But I need to be wiser than that. 

What Responsible Leadership means in a crisis

Last year, I did a course on Responsible Leadership. I’ve been thinking about that a lot in the last week or so. Crises typically bring more command and control, less room for doubt, and drive at the expense of understanding. So this week I’ve adopted three practices: seeking out more diverse opinions, finding time to think critically about what I’m doing and leaving spare slots of time for others. There’s a fourth which I’ve been doing anyway and is actually easier in a crisis: being more open about how I’m feeling. But I’m still a long way from the practices and goals that I set myself earlier this year.

When it’s not a project

I realise I’ve spent almost my entire career doing projects – research, marcomms and consultancy are project-based work at the core. Local government technology is well-suited to projects. Councils operate such a wide range of services that we don’t have the resources to do an equally good job on all of the things all of the time, so working on a variety of projects as needs arise helps make sure no service is too neglected for too long. But our best work at the moment is happening in our areas where we’ve got the best relationships and the deepest understanding. So we’re thinking about how to capture this so it becomes routine. 

Next week

Three weeks in, and we’ve got a much clearer understanding of the work that needs to be done, the context in which we’re working and what’s going to be challenging. So I need to get a bit more out of my head and codify some of the things we’ve been doing so that we’ve got a reference point for how we’re working and to make it easier for our teams to work smoothly. And I’ll need to keep an eye on my energy levels, which would be easier if I could dream less about work.