In case you missed it: 10 lockdown lessons

It’s not until the journey’s over that you realise how far you’ve come. Covid isn’t over, but as non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality open, we dare to hope that the worst of it is.

Few of us can remember times of such turbulence and change, as lockdowns consigned carefully constructed strategies to the scrap heap overnight. But in our collective struggle to survive, we have learned and grown as leaders.

Here are some moments from the last year of ORESA newsletters that we thought were worth revisiting.

April 23rd 2020

“The sign on the door to my temporary workspace definitely says ‘do not disturb’ but our dog can’t read. Furthermore he has a penchant for sitting close to me when I am on conference calls and releasing noxious gases, knowing I can’t escape… I am learning to be more tolerant!”

It’s easy to forget how much of a challenge remote working was for many of us in the early lockdown, but amid the chaos we saw it as an example of the accelerated learning that would define 2020-21.

May 14th 2020

“As we enter the 51st day of lockdown, I am finally accepting the notion of ‘living in the grey’. Clarity would be nice, but as Matt Lucas’ parody demonstrated, at a Governmental level we are a long way from that.”

Clarity is a cardinal virtue of communication but, as Donald Rumsfeld nearly said, you can’t be clear about something without first knowing what you don’t know about it. In times of radical uncertainty, you can’t have all the answers, and you shouldn’t try to.

June 4th 2020

“In a week where the US has been set on fire in response to the killing of George Floyd, we’re reflecting on purpose and diversity. For many it seems that posting or sharing thoughts on social media is enough – we don’t agree. Whilst standing shoulder-to-shoulder online is a start, changes must be made on an individual and organisational level, if we really want to effect change.”

As true now as it was then.

June 18th 2020

“Non-essential retail is open and I’m excited about some retail therapy after months of petrol forecourts and farm shops.

“Some have asked questions, understood how customers make decisions and pivoted to meet those demands. Others hope that they can simply cut and trade their way out… in this climate, I am not so sure.”

Businesses weren’t the only ones going through unprecedented times. Customers too were in new territory, and the companies that journeyed with them soon emerged as the frontrunners to thrive after the pandemic.

July 16th 2020

“Sometimes we award titles without a care for what that title confers or what the job entails. As Chairs and CEOs consider smaller C-suites and broader remits, I caution that whilst ‘a rose by any other name may smell as sweet’ — would it have as clear a sense of intent? As we move out of cost-cutting and into restructuring to optimise performance and enable growth, it’s time to consider [that] intent.”

What’s in a title? In the summer we re-examined the need for growing companies to know who does what and why.

October 8th 2020

“In the desperate fight to survive, strategic direction has been lost. Companies stumble whilst firing silver bullets. The problem is that without a North Star, how can anybody or any company be trusted? This is particularly important, in an age when leading companies build communities based on shared values and beliefs.”

As a return to lockdown became grimly obvious, we asked how can you be strategic when the parameters keep changing. The answer? The companies that have the greatest agility are usually also the ones with the clearest idea of their long-term purpose.

November 5th 2020

“Every one of us is considering the implications of the second lockdown. I appreciate for some the consequences are stark, particularly my friends in fashion and hospitality. But just as in nature so in business, the leaves fall and the leaf mould nurtures next year’s growth. There is an opportunity if you choose to see it.”

In his book Good to Great, US author Jim Collins popularised the idea of the Stockdale Paradox, the ability in dire times to hold onto two apparently contradictory beliefs: acceptance of painful facts and faith that you will get through it in the end. This realistic optimism is also at the heart of leadership, particularly when early hopes of deliverance are dashed.

January 14th 2021

“We all find ourselves in situations where we have an option to either stand up for what we believe in, or stay quiet and hope someone else says what we’re thinking.”

When M&S vowed to end forced labour, we asked whether 2021 would be the year of ethical fashion.

February 11th 2020

“With some teams shrinking and business needs adjusting to ‘the new normal’, it seems inevitable that companies will be looking to adapt intelligently and recruit differently.”

Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result. This applies for recruitment as much as for anything else, so to look at how to ‘build back better’ we decided to explore what skills businesses are looking for in 2021.

March 25th 2020

“Recommerce, or second-hand, has become very popular. There is a mainstream opportunity for those retailers wanting to leverage the ‘second time around’ market.”

Sustainability, squeezed incomes, the ease with which platforms enable people to sell to each other without the need for an intermediary… the trends are all converging for a revival in the second-hand market. Here’s what you need to know to capitalise on it.

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