Culture4 min read

In conversation: Sir Clive Woodward and Charles Mindenhall on maintaining connectivity from a distance:

We recently brought together World Cup-winning Coach, Sir Clive Woodward, and Charles Mindenhall, Co-founder of Blenheim Chalcot, the UK’s leading digital venture builder, in a webinar where they reflected on their experiences of leading teams through turbulent times, building businesses that have thrived even in recession eras, and their insights curated from their networks of CEO peers.

We’re publishing parts of the discussion as part of a mini-series so you can access their insights in bitesize bursts of actionable learning. You can head back to Part 1 here if you’d like to start at the beginning.

Part 6: Maintaining connectivity from a distance

Hannah Flaherty:

How do we actually keep people engaged throughout this period? And then how do we maintain that momentum and keep up all of the good practice and good ways that we’re encouraging diversity of thought, people coming together and collaborating digitally, for through this period, and then beyond?

Sir Clive Woodward:

I mean, a great question, but again, if you’ve got the technology, the ability at the moment to collaborate and communicate has probably never been better. All I can do is what we’ve done in my small team. We used to meet physically once a week on a Monday morning, 9:00, and have our coffees and our donuts, and we’d have a chat and all this stuff. Now we’re on the call every morning at 9:00, and we have half an hour. We do it Monday to Friday. We’re just almost looking after each other. My first question, everyone okay? Are your families okay? So you get that side of things.

But I think this is the ability, outside of that, is to really move on in terms of some of the learnings that can take place. You mentioned, Hannah … The diversity and inclusion, you can start to … This is one of the things Hive Learning does. It provides amazing content in terms of, just, right, at the end of this month or two months, we’re all going to learn about this. So you create other subjects which maybe you wouldn’t have had time to really engage in. We’re going to spend an hour a day on this subject, and we’re going to talk to each other and post videos and notes.

So I think it’s actually providing some content outside of the normal working job because I think we are, whether we like it or not, we are saving more time by not commuting to work, so we do have more hours in the day. Even when you take off your lunch break and all those sorts of things, we can factor in the time management.

I have this saying about working in and on the business. I think this is the key thing. What working in is, most high-achieving people I meet are normally 100% working in the business. They’re driven by results, they’re trying to win, they’re all this sort of stuff, which is fantastic. What I think the really, really high achievers do is do that for 95% of their time, and they spend 5% of the time working on the business, which is stepping back and saying, “Okay, how can I help my colleagues, how can I help the business, as opposed to just driving results?”

If you get that percentage right, I think that’s starting to get even more engaged. I think at the moment what’s going on with so many people working from home in different working environments, there’s never been a better chance of doing these sort of things. Where normally you maybe haven’t got time to do it, now there’s really no excuse. I’d probably even shift the dial to 90/10. They’re going to spend 10% of the week working on the business, planning for the future, helping our colleagues, and not even on work things, but how can we do things better?

I think the diversity and inclusion agenda is so big at the moment, and it’s such an obvious area where teams of people, every individual can just really become far more knowledgeable and make sure everybody’s doing the right thing now and not making any mistakes they maybe made in the past. So, that’s what I’ve been doing. That’s just my own practical ways of doing it with the team I’m working with.

Charles Mindenhall:

And just to add … I’d agree with all that, but just to add from our perspective, what we’re trying to see, because clearly this is going to go on for a long time, right? It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

But the thing I would really underline is this notion of constant learning, and taking the time, setting aside the time to learn new things with your team. So as a leader or a manager, making the time to work out what we’re going to learn over the next month or two, what time we’re going to set aside to do that, so people can stay engaged, stimulated, learn new things, not just the day-in-day-out of what they have to do in the business, but coming together as a team to do that, yes, remotely and digitally, and using whatever online resources you can get your hands on. But setting aside the time to do that, we’ve found that to be very powerful with our companies when we’ve been doing that, particularly over the last month, because we all realize we’re in this for a lot longer, perhaps, than we thought.

Sir Clive Woodward:

So it’s the on and in work for you, Charles, in terms of how I described it. I just feel everyone is so busy, boom, boom, boom, they just don’t have time. I think it’s a big mistake because if your competitors have found that time, one day you’ll look back and they’ve overtaken you because they’ve moved ahead. Just this 5 or 10% of your working week doing … Just, if you talk about learning, continuous learning is priceless. It really is priceless. And fun. It can be fun, and it gets people working together, Hannah, even in remote situations.

Key takeaway:

In our current climate, streamlining our communications channels, helping our employees remain connected, and enabling collaboration at pace and at scale are critical.

Most people want to find a way to support their colleagues right now, so we just need to give them the tools to accelerate and own the movement they’re trying to drive.

Find a way to do this through peer learning networks or online communities that allow people from all over the organisation to share their learning, stay connected over a common purpose, get support, and enable them to adapt and change continuously.

The crisis has shown that many organisations (even the more conservative ones) are now embracing new agile, digital ways of working because they’ve had no choice. Take advantage of that momentum to shift your people’s mindsets, encouraging them to learn, collaborate and pivot every day. Look to the channels you already have to facilitate this, but don’t be afraid of venturing into new technology too.

If you’d like to listen to the full recording, you can do so here.

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