I started this week, like many, back in lockdown.
As I switched the home tech back on and settled into my corner of the dining table I was struck with the realisation that more than a year after this whole mess began I was back where I started. Grappling with my own mixed emotions. Feeling awful for my kids who are losing the entirety of their school holidays. Raging at ineptitude as news services streamed into my lounge room. Slipping too easily back into endless VCs and an entirely numb bum. Yet, simultaneously forcing myself to acknowledge that I’m still luckier than so many, with a job, a house, heating, healthy kids and a husband with endless patience supplying me with unlimited cups of tea.
Whilst in this muddled head space, it dawned on me, probably a little too slowly if I am honest, that if this is how I am feeling, then this was likely also what was going on in the minds of our people, across our business.
So I brushed off my all staff email writing skills and penned something designed to let everyone know that I get it.
This is no wild gesture mind you. No leadership awards are coming my way on the basis of reaching out to reassure people that we have their backs, but it struck a chord. And the chord it struck made me a bit uncomfortable to be honest. Uncomfortable because I got so much thanks for just doing what I considered the minimum required to support and serve my people.
As CEO, in good times and bad, I think of my job as an inverted org chart. An upside down triangle if you will. I’m not on the top. I’m on the bottom doing my best to hold the extraordinary people who work with me and for me, up.
If a little gesture like an email brings praise like ‘beautiful’ and ‘thank goodness for this’ I worry that people in our industry are just too used silence or stoicism from their leaders. That they may too often be being left to imagine that all we care about is the work, the deadline, the delivery.
At Spark one of our values is “Good Humans” which translates to “decency in everything we do”. It’s a cliché to say that people are our biggest and only asset but it’s also true, and right now, actually I would argue forever, but right now will do for right now, they need us to be more than their boss, they need us to be their humans. Good Humans.
For context I have shared a little of my email to staff below.
“I thought my days of all staff lock down emails were behind me, but alas, here we are.
With our Sydney office in full lock down until at least July 9th , and our friends in Melbourne still being asked to wear masks inside the office, I feel a bit like an unfortunate time traveller that’s landed in mid 2020.
Although we are all kind of accustomed to this, it does not make it easier.
I want to remind everyone that we all cope in different ways and that we all cope well, or not, on different days. If we could all keep an eye on one another, reach out, check in and keep being our kind, empathetic and good human selves then hopefully we can pull one another through the next few weeks (ideally 2) and out the other side relatively unscathed.
This includes our clients, Groupe colleagues and media partners. A little extra attention and care might be exactly what someone needs right now and it’s very ‘Spark’ to be there for that.
If anyone is struggling, it’s cool. We did not have our collective heads around this one, nor much time to process it.
For those with little kids. Just keep going. They need you too.
For those with school aged kids. There is no evidence to suggest that a few days of Roblox, Minecraft or even TikTok will do them any permanent harm.
For those with housemates trying to work and sharing a kitchen table. Do the best you can. Throwing things at each other will only mean you lose your bond.
For those at home alone. Try to stay connected. Use video calls. Video on. Even in your PJs.
For those with partners that ‘accidentally’ do undies runs across your calls. I hear you. I too have seen things I can never un-see.
For everyone, if you need a hand please ask for help. Call me. Call your team leads. Call your mum. Call your mates. Call the EAP.
If you reach out we will help. In any and every way we can.”