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Are you going to be a winter whiner?

Written by Ally Maughan on Monday, 09 November 2020. Posted in Leadership, People

As both business leaders and individuals we need to decide now how we are going to handle the disruption over the next six months – grit our teeth and make the absolute best of it, or whine our way through.

Are you going to be a winter whiner?

It is clear that we aren’t getting back to normal anytime soon. 

As both business leaders and individuals we need to decide now how we are going to handle the disruption over the next six months – grit our teeth and make the absolute best of it, or whine our way through. 

And we are clearly not all in the same boat: some can work from home, others need to go in and face frontline situations. Some have very secure COVID workplaces, others have shorter working hours, or perhaps no work at all. 

Since reading an article on how the Norwegians cope with their long, dark winters, and being relegated to Tier 2 in the government classification system, I’ve been examining my own attitude to the next few months. Looking back on the Summer I almost feel nostalgic about the lovely sun that kept me smiling through the lack of childcare, economic uncertainty and depressing news. 

As business leaders we have a responsibility to our teams to stay positive and optimistic, and to try and find a way through. I think that is why I was so intrigued and challenged by the mindset of Norwegians who every year face a long, dark winter, only enjoying a few hours of indirect sunlight each day. Their mindset impacts not only mood, but also their physical response, included blood pressure, heart rate, and recovery time. 

If stressful events become ‘challenges’ we can choose to rise to the occasion. If difficult decisions need to be made, we can flex our empathetic and problem-solving muscles and see where the possibilities lie. If a threat becomes a break or a prospect we really have reframed the problem – and isn’t that why we do SWOT analyses in business – to see what is possible? After all, it has been fantastic reading the stories that have made it into the press about people opening businesses in lockdown, and many other businesses pivoting to embrace new products, services or routes to market. 

Kari Leibowitz is a health psychologist, who transferred from the US to Tromsø in Norway, where they get 2-3 hours of light a day in the winter. She developed a wintertime mindset scale, to see if it linked with attitude. Consider the two groups of statements:

  • There are many things to enjoy about the winter
  • I love the cosiness of the winter months
  • Winter brings many wonderful seasonal changes

Or

  • Winter is boring
  • Winter is a limiting time of year
  • There are many things to dislike about winter

Leibowitz summarises her findings: “A positive wintertime mindset was associated with every measure of well-being we examined, from life satisfaction to the tendency to pursue experiences that lead to personal growth.”

But maybe it isn’t in everyone’s nature to reframe and recategorize. Often we need a bit of help to do so, with the help of a mentor, a challenger, a leader. And that is where we can come in as business leaders. Of course is hard to buckle in for another 6 months of winter time pandemic – but let’s help each other and step up to the challenge! 

I was speaking with a business owner this week who explained that at the start of the pandemic he video called his entire team, explaining that a storm was coming, the business needed to prepare, and what could each of them do to help the business weather the difficult time coming to retain jobs and deliver a stronger business on the other side. Astonishingly people volunteered pay cuts and to lend the business money – both unexpected and humbling. 

At People Puzzles we have been thinking about supporting businesses through this next period on a number of levels: the business, the senior team, leaders within the business, and individuals. There are many initiatives we can introduce to help our teams, starting with resilience training and a mental health support app for individuals, all the way through to updating business rhythms and structures to enable us to still work towards our business plans, altered as they may be. 

What we can’t do is stick our heads in the snow and assume our team will all last through the winter without some additional support and help. 

So lets get in there now, and do some work to develop a positive winter pandemic-proof mindset, so that we can really live this winter and not just endure until the spring.

About the Author

Ally Maughan

Ally Maughan

Ally Maughan started People Puzzles in 2010 because early in her career she recognised that people problems were often the biggest, single factor holding a company back from growth.

Ten years later, and with her hand-picked team of over 50 experienced People Directors, Ally has personally worked with more than 100 SME and mid-tier companies and is now leading a scale-up business herself.

Results oriented, Ally delivers her own blend of business insight with direct, practical advice firmly based on commercial realities and outcomes. Her specialist knowledge includes people management, organisational structure and high performing teams.

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