Week Notes: End of 2020
This the last week notes I’m going to do this year. It’s not really about last week. It’s about the team and how they’ve changed, stepped up and grown this year.
There are going to be a lot of ‘things I’ve learned in 2020’ pieces, and I slightly dread them. Not because I don’t understand the impulse (I do write, weeknotes after all), but because I worry that many are going to be written as if we’re at an end point rather than somewhere in the middle.
Instead I want to point at some things that have changed at Renaisi:
- We have always struggled to truly build a sense of us being one company, because of the very different work that we do, across teams and in different locations. I know lots of other organisations struggle with this, and I don’t mean to over-exaggerate it. There are times when it happens, and individuals who push it forward, but as a meaningful and consistent feeling, it’s hard to achieve. Working from home has shifted that, and created more opportunities for conversations across the company, and certain people across the organisation have really stepped up to foster that. Homeworking has created a lot of problems, but it has made it easier to talk cross organisationally among peers.
- A couple of months before COVID hit we set up a monthly development session for our middle managers. It has become a really important place to talk, and broken down a level of too much hierarchy that had been in place before. It’s still new in some ways, but I think it’s got potential to to support managers to drive a consistent culture and be supported by their peers to do so.
- As a team we have spoken about some of the inequities that this year has highlighted. It has not always been easy, and we have certainly not always done so completely successfully, but we have definitely done it with the generosity and respect I have come to trust from my Renaisi colleagues. I was keen that we didn’t rush to a tokenistic response in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the initial weeks of Black Lives Matter. The team also told me very clearly that they wanted to focus on understanding. Understanding is done one conversation at a time amongst peers, in small groups, and it builds incrementally. A number of colleagues have done amazing and generous work to start building a head of steam around us all understanding the different roles we have at Renaisi, the different backgrounds we come from, the different privileges and injustices we have experienced, and the different capacities we have. I am grateful to them.
- We have added some new roles in the last few months, we haven’t made any roles redundant and barely anyone has moved on from Renaisi. There are obvious reasons for this, but it has been wonderful to have that consistency this year. People have grown into their roles, grown into their teams, and developed thicker relationships.
These and a multitude of other things have built up a growing sense of change over the last year. The change I’ve seen is that there are many more leaders in this organisation than there were before. People are starting to notice that in themselves and each other. Some would still baulk at that description of themselves. I see that leadership in the big stuff, but also the people growing into their roles, the kindness that is shown across the team, and the fact that I see more examples of people demonstrating our values. I’m genuinely excited to see what changes it will lead to in the new year. I’m incredibly proud of the team.
In praise of SMT
One of the interesting things about leadership, is that we think of it as the showy stuff but it’s also there in the less noticeable things.
Renaisi’s SMT has had a tough year. Who hasn’t?! But I want to acknowledge much of the work done by our SMT (and others) has been the hard graft of taking on responsibility, working incredible hours, redesigning everything (literally, it felt like everything in April) that you do in a business, reprofiling millions of pounds of income that needs to be accounted for in a different way, and prioritising everyone in your team ahead of your own wellbeing.
There were many stories of sleepless nights, incredibly stress and eyewatering workload. I don’t say these things to glorify unhealthy behaviours, rather to acknowledge what had to be done in an incredibly difficult year. It’s been a lot.
Early on in the year, when I was in a very different state of nervousness about where we might end up, I spoke to a friend in a completely different organisation. We used the line, ‘what will you say you did during the COVID wars’. It feels trite now, an example of the fear and shorthand we were all using for difficult emotions. But what I will say is that I worked with a group of people who held it together, who put their values ahead of themselves, and who built a platform for something even better. I’ll take that.