#WorkingOutLoud on Remote Working Survival Guide: Caring for Each Other

I am aiming to complete the text of this short Guidebook this week, which will be called ‘Finding your Campfire: the Remote Working Survival Guide’. Today, as part of #WorkingOutLoud, i am sharing a section on ‘Caring for Each Other’. This work is not proofed, nor complete, just shared as i go.

Caring for Each Other

Silent Voices – who can’t you hear?

Social Leaders have a responsibility to their whole community: reach out into the silence

Within any system we find loud voices, which can carry the dominant story: voices that other aggregate around, stories that are amplified. These may be stories of confidence and success.

But a Social Leader is able to take themselves beyond the noise, to stand outside at the edge of the campsite, looking at those people gathered around the fire, and then listen to the silence.

Think of your whole team, the wider community, and who you have not heard from this week: then reach out into the silence.

When the Adrenaline Wears Off – it’s all fun till it ain’t

The journey into the wilderness represents change, which is engaging. But what happens when the adrenaline wears off?

When things are new, we rattle through: we make do and mend, we draw upon our reserves, we clear a corner of the table and have a go. But running on batteries won’t keep us going forever.

Right now we are tackling the logistical aspects of the journey, making sure everyone is set up with technology, that everyone can communicate, but in three weeks time, or three months, some people will be sinking.

Every day we must ask if we are running in credit, or at a deficit, and every week we must find space and time for shared storytelling: not just stories of success, but stories of fear and failure too.

When the adrenaline wears off, some people will be shivering on the hillside: a good expedition leader ensures they check in with everyone, and do so for the long haul.

Uncertainty and Doubt – sharing when you don’t want to

It’s easy to share aspiration and hope, but what about uncertainty and doubt? Share your vulnerability to inspire others.

We have grown up in systems that encourage us to project success, to see uncertainty as weakness, and to view doubt as indecision.

But why would anyone have all the answers? Indeed, a rush to ‘make sense’ of things too fast is a key component of failure, when our initial assumptions turn out to be invalid, but we are trapped in stories of our own writing.

So ensure that you share your uncertainty and doubt: not to add noise to a whole system, but perhaps in individual conversations, or at certain times.

It does two things: firstly, the trait that we most value in leaders is authenticity, and an authentic leader can share their uncertainty. And secondly, if you do so, you may create the conditions for others to do so too: you lead by example, and have the humility to listen to the fears that others share.

Then find ways to pull them into a shared story that you can own together.

Remember: creating space to hear uncertainty can come with high reputation or social consequence for some people, especially those who are more junior. So work to create safe spaces for them.

Respecting Failure and Moving On – when you trip

Our leaders in this wilderness should not just respect visible success and achievement, but also honest failure.

At the end of the week, when we look around and recognise those who have succeeded, we should also recognise with respect those who have struggled.

Similarly, in our own story, we should recognise when we trip, and not anchor our story to those moments. Some days will run away from you, and for many of us, we cannot do as much as we did before our added responsibilities of family, community, and care, were so ramped up.

So cast recognition and respect around your team, and into your own story, but do so with kindness, and recognise that failure is just as valid an outcome.

Then move on from it.

What you Need to Do

  • Create Your Space and Sanctify It – separation is key
  • Start Each Day Fresh – walking and working
  • Sustainability is Key – seek out silent voices
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#WorkingOutLoud on the Remote Working Survival Guide

I am working flat out to write the Guidebook to go alongside the ‘Finding your Campfire’ webinars. Through this week i will be #WorkingOutLoud to share my progress. Today, part of the first chapter, on ‘Packing your Backpack’. Please note that this is not intended to be perfect work, and is shared un-proofed and at speed.

Part 2: Packing Your Backpack


The weight of the move to remote working will be carried by us all, as individuals: organisations will see an impact in terms of productivity and profit, but the emotional and social cost will be carried by the team. As we set off from the office, with laptop tucked under one arm, and our pot plant held in the other, in this section we will explore the foundations of successful remote working.

Creating your Space

Without an office, we must create our spaces for work, to avoid working in our spaces to play.

One of the most important things for us to do is to create our space: space for work, and space for home. We must separate our spaces.

Offices are curated spaces, which separate space by power, and function. When you ‘join’ an organisation, you are typically ‘given’ a ‘space’ to work in. And you pretty quickly learn which spaces you cannot work in (e.g. the Boardroom or CEOs office).

So it stands to reason that as you remote work, you may wish to do the same yourself: give yourself your working spaces, and decide which spaces are forbidden to work in.
When work happens in the office, and family and Netflix happen at home, our lives are segregated, and aside from emails on our phone, it’s reasonably easy to maintain a perspective and separation.

But now all that has gone: and without deliberate effort, we may end up swamped in a grey space where nothing is truly ‘offline’, and everything tastes of work.

The risk of this is that there is no ‘up’, and no ‘down’, we just grind away and forget which day it is.

The Importance of Separation – no sofa surfing

Separation allows us to work and play: it gives us purpose, and the foundations that will allow us to achieve that purpose.

Having an office and a home is one way of separating the spaces: geographically. But when we are all remote working, geography is not an option. So what will we have instead?

Start by creating separate spaces: for example, if you are working at your dining table, choose a chair and place to work. But make it different from the chair and space that you sit in for dinner. Create separation.

Of course, our home spaces are small, so we cannot physically separate them very much at all, so some of the separation will take place in other ways:

  • We can separate space by naming it
  • We can separate space by time
  • We can separate space by artefacts
  • We can separate space by ownership and control
  • We can separate space by membership

For example, i am writing this from ‘The Lab’. The Lab is not a high tech, white floored space, which i don a lab coat to enter. It’s just an Ercol dining chair at an oak desk. But when i say to my family, or to my Sea Salt Crew Mates that i am ‘going to the Lab’, then understand that it means i am working. So work rules apply. This space is separated by name.

Similarly, you could separate things by time: so maybe 12:00-13:00 is always lunchbreak, so the kitchen table becomes the canteen.

Separation by artefacts is super important, and can best be summarised by your laptop cable: when you are working, have your laptop and papers out, and when you are done for the day, physically remove it, box it up, and put it out of sight. Don’t leave your laptop on the bed, on the kitchen surface, or next to the TV. Separate your space. Perhaps you even have a ‘work mug’, and a home one.

You can give your children control or ownership of their school desk or space, and you can create separated spaces that require membership to enter. For example, one friend has created ‘Security Badges’ for the whole family, and they wear these to enter what used to be the dining room, but is now the school/office.

All of these are small things, but small things are what create culture, tempo, and momentum. And stick to them rigorously. Separation of space may keep us sane.

I am running the ‘Finding your Campfire’ webinars for at least the next three weeks: you can sign up on various timezones here.

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Finding your Campfire: Creating your Space

This is an extract from the work i will be sharing this week as part of the ‘Finding your Campfire’ series of webinars. This is new work, pulled together over the last few days, as a free offering to any individuals or teams who are thrust into the world of Remote Working.

The first session is about us all as individuals, ‘packing our backpack’ for the journey into remote working. It covers the four topics above.

This week (w/c 23rd March) i am running all three sessions below. You can follow the link to register.
Next week i will shortly publish a schedule on EST, then the third week back to GMT, and the fourth week Pacific time. If there is demand, i will run Asian times too.

You can register for Webinar One [Foundations of Remote Working] here.

You can register for Webinar Two [Building Virtual Teams] here.

You can register for Webinar Three [Finding Your Campfire] here.

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Finding Your Campfire: Being Together Apart

The office is more than just a building: it’s a place where we carry out the rituals, and tell the stories, that hold the social structure of our tribes together. As we move to work remotely, how will we manage to remain together, whilst being forced apart, and what is the cost if we fail? With the imposed shift to remote working, i am running a series of three linked Webinars for newly remote teams, exploring three aspects of this change, with practical strategies to survive and thrive. In this piece i will share the design of the third session, ‘Finding Your Campfire’, which is about being ‘Together Apart’.

Joining an Organisation is about more than just signing a contract: in the first hours, days, weeks, we join a local tribe, we form bonds of trust, based upon shared experience, generosity, and sharing, which become our most important social units at work. We will start by considering what ‘membership’ of an Organisation or Community means, and how we will help people to ‘belong’ when we are apart.

Communities use many rituals, which are patterns of behaviour with socially imbued value: as we move to online, we may need new rituals, because some of the ones from the real world do not translate. Especially when we lack video, how will we ensure that communication does not crash?

Our colleagues at work do not just fill seats and take up space: they help us to make sense of the world of work, to solve problems, and to maintain momentum. We do this through conversation in informal spaces, and through different levels of storytelling: stories of uncertainty and doubt, stories of challenge, stories of unity, stories of dissent. Where, and how, will we make these stories when we are apart? We will consider the role of diversified technology, and the barriers to this activity.

Finally, one thing that easily gets fractured when we are apart is trust: the trust of our leaders, the trust in each other, the trust we have in ourselves. The final part of this session will be about how we grow and hold trust, and how we thrive being together, apart.

Next week [W/C 23rd March] the three webinars will run on GMT. The following week i will shortly publish a schedule on EST, then the third week back to GMT, and the fourth week Pacific time. If there is demand, i will run Asian times too.

You can register for Webinar One [Foundations of Remote Working] here.

You can register for Webinar Two [Building Virtual Teams] here.

You can register for Webinar Three [Finding Your Campfire] here.

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Leading the Expedition: Navigating Social Leadership

Next week i start a series of three linked Webinars for newly remote teams: these will be free, and i will run them for four successive weeks on different timezones. Yesterday i shared the first one, ‘Packing your Backpack’, which looked at how to set up your space and gain momentum. In this second piece, ‘Leading the Expedition’, i look at leadership in Remote Teams, and the ways that we have to carry power beyond the system.

We used to have one formal world of work, and a social life that surrounded it, separated by both time, and behaviours. Each had their own uniform, rituals, and structures of power and control. There has been a general blurring of boundaries over the last two decades, but the abrupt shift to remote work has left many people in a new space, where neither the rules, rituals, behaviours, or view of success, are clear.

One thing i have learned the hard way is that leading virtual teams is not like leadership in an office: in this Webinar i will draw upon some of the core Social Leadership work to give a potted view of leading outside the system.

We will consider the role of the leader to take a space (the technology that connects us), and create a place (somewhere we hang out). One is defined by technology and time, the other by trust and community.

In service of this we will consider the social currencies of gratitude and doubt are important: understanding authenticity, and considering how our actions strengthen or degrade the system.

A central tenet of Social Leadership is to understand how Social Capital is grown, and how we build it in others: broadly i define it as the ability to survive and thrive in these spaces. Social Leaders have high levels themselves, but help others to find their way.

Finally, recognition and respect are mainstays of remote working: not just recognition of success and long hours, but rather respecting those team members who share their challenge, their doubt, and their failures. Because we all fail in these spaces sometimes.

The final session is called ‘Finding Your Campfire’, and i will share the design tomorrow.

Next week [W/C 23rd March] the three webinars will run on GMT. The following week i will shortly publish a schedule on EST, then the third week back to GMT, and the fourth week Pacific time. If there is demand, i will run Asian times too.

You can register for Webinar One [Foundations of Remote Working] here.

You can register for Webinar Two [Building Virtual Teams] here.

You can register for Webinar Three [Finding Your Campfire] here.

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Reflective Journal #1 – Strategic View of the Pandemic

This post does not form part of my normal work – hence not the usual graphics – and i was unsure about writing it at all, but decided to share as part of #WorkingOutLoud. As we collectively struggle to make sense of the global pandemic, and the rapidly shifting social context, we seek to impose a frame of understanding. So i guess that this is mine: it’s what i’m using to get my own head straight, and also what i am using for business planning within Sea Salt Learning.

Both from the perspective of understanding, and planning, we are operating in six month blocks. The initial block is the ‘Industrial Phase’ – massive disruption, and adjustment. The following two blocks will represent a new and reasonably stable reality, followed by a final block representing a return to a more normalised state. Unless this is all wrong of course… as i say, this is simply my own reflection on a rapidly changing situation. In this piece i will share some thoughts around each of those three phases.

The next six months will see most nations take an industrialised response: heavy disruption to established social norms. Schools and Universities initially shut, then rapidly evolving, first to find their channels, and secondly to evolve pedagogy. Work will move from primarily office based to primarily remote, which will lead to some jobs becoming redundant (but still supported), and a clear skills gap.

We will likely see massive social innovation: bands will figure out how to monetise ‘lounge shows’ at scale, museums and galleries will evolve event calendars, even theatres will find ways to manage distributed performance. Gyms and yoga instructors will innovate remote classes. Coffee shops will adapt to a ‘walk through’ model, and clearly the secondary infrastructure of Deliveroo will thrive.

We are already seeing swathes of legislation that will enforce ‘social distancing’, and expect this to ramp up over time.

Nations will take a war like footing to industrial repurposing, primarily manufacturing ventilators, repurposing hotels to hospitals, and related hygiene and healthcare equipment, whilst probably industry will handle the infrastructure for eventual vaccine production and drug manufacture. Similarly, it seems likely that the food supply chain will be closely controlled, with supermarkets acting as proxies for the State and some form of standardised rationing.

All of this will feel like change, but change will not last forever. Contrary to some political assessments, this is likely to be an 18 month haul until we are seriously impacting the pandemic through drugs, both for vaccination and treatment. So we will see probably a year of a ‘new normal’: new patterns of work and schooling will be established, and whilst we may evolve a ‘wave’ like approach (where we relax controls until the next breakout), most likely we can factor on 60% of the time being more locked down.

I suspect that this is when we will see the greatest level of Organisational failure: service industry, tourism, probably some heavy manufacturing, all of which will simply have the wrong footprint for the ‘new normal’. Organisations that hold on for the first six months will simply not be able to exist in an evolved ecosystem where their costs and footprint are mismatched to market. On the positive side, some of the social innovators will not have solid tech foundations, so we will see the greatest technical innovation to ‘being together apart’. So some winners, and some losers.

I fear that this will also be a time of maximum social inequality, where those with money will find access to services and opportunities whilst those most impacted by a care overhead (elderly and children), as well as reduced income, will lose ground.

Assuming (and it’s far from a certainty) that vaccines are approved, it will be in the 12-18 month period that we will see scaling of manufacture, but that will also most likely be a socially unequal programme of rollout. The return to ‘normal’ (or whatever the new normal looks like) will almost certainly be an uncertain affair, both slower and more unequal than the lockdown has been.

The most interesting thing will be to see which of the innovative measures stick: will Organisations ever go back to a fully office base, or will the cost savings of remote, alongside the social satisfaction of it for some people, be too much to lose? I suspect that those who save $10k a year on the commute will be happy to remain remote.

Regarding education, the outcome is uncertain: if educational entities truly invest in the middle phase, they will retain a mixed model, but that will require significant retooling and training.

I suspect that the return phase will see profiteers: people who are comfortable enough in relaxing legislative regimes to make a lot of money from the uncertainty. Most likely we will also have a legacy of social inequality: those Organisations that have removed a significant cost base are unlikely to re-employ it, and those that have emerged will likely be slimmer and more tech focussed.

As i say, this is a guesswork assessment, but i am sure we are not on a two month journey. From a Business Strategy perspective, i find it most valuable to take a considered and longer term view, because it is easier to pull back from a strategy (focussed on remote and virtual) than it is to try to claw your way out of the mire.

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Finding Your Campfire – Session One – Packing Your Backpack

Next week i start a series of 3 linked webinars for newly remote teams. I will repeat these for as long as demand persists, moving each week between different timezones. The three sessions explore three aspects of remote working. Session One is about ‘Packing Your Backpack’, Session Two is about ‘Leading the Expedition’, and Session 3 is ‘Finding Your Campfire’. So broadly it is about the individual journey, the leadership journey, and how we remain ‘together apart’.

‘Packing Your Backpack’ will explore four central aspects of remote work. First, ‘Creating Your Space’, which is about your home working environment, from both a physical, and family, perspective.

Secondly, ‘Time and Boundaries’, which is about the challenges that many of us will face as we balance childcare, family, friends, and work demands, in uncharted waters.

Thirdly, we will consider ‘Energy and Momentum’, and how we have to marshal our energy, and actively replenish it, when we cannot rely on the momentum of the crowd.

Finally, ‘Caring for Each Other’, which is about the ways that we remain ‘together apart’, the ways we look after ourselves and others.

As with all my work, and these sessions in particular, this is just the starting point: as i deliver the prototype cohorts, i will evolve the content according to demand. This is all part of #WorkingOutLoud.

Next week [W/C 23rd March] the three webinars will run on GMT. The following week i will shortly publish a schedule on EST, then the third week back to GMT, and the fourth week Pacific time. If there is demand, i will run Asian times too.

You can register for Webinar One [Foundations of Remote Working] here.

You can register for Webinar Two [Building Virtual Teams] here.

You can register for Webinar Three [Finding Your Campfire] here.

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