Episode 65 – Lockdown Leadership | Grace & Kindness

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Across this 5-part podcast series, I chat with Becky Hammond from Isogo Strong and unpack some common leadership themes that we have seen stand out during this crisis. As we’ve coached and worked with leaders over the past several months, themes have emerged that are making the best thrive, and even make changes that they are keeping into the future. These themes include Grace & Kindness, Communication, Individualisation & Flexibility, Clarity, and Taking Care of Self.

In this episode, we zone in on GRACE & KINDNESS, and provide some examples and actionable steps that leaders can take to really ramp this up. We speak about assumptions and how to modify these, kindness towards self first, and how creating flexibility encourages grace and kindness.

Key highlights include:

  • How one leader pivoted his business during COVID-19 which was driven by the need to keep his employees engaged and at work, rather than to just keep the business afloat.
  • No leader should be assuming that their team members can deliver on the exact same work that they were doing before working from home.
  • How little acts of kindness is grace in action, surprise and delight.
  • How we get there matters – focus on the way we work and interact.

Actionable steps to take from this episode:

  • Rather than asking for a task to be done by close of business, change it to being due at the start of the next day.
  • Pause at the beginning of a meeting and check-in with the team’s energy. The team’s wellbeing comes before projects and deadlines, and in turn it boosts productivity
  • Breathe. Inhaling is the act of receiving grace, and then exhaling – letting it out to others.

These conversations with Becky are always valuable, she brings a wealth of knowledge and inspiration from the other side of the world. I hope you follow along with this series here on the podcast as we get into 4 more themes that have shined through the best leaders in this time of lockdown.

If you gained inspiration from this episode then you will love our program, Leaders Who Give a Damn, where we take these concepts even further.
In the next conversation of this series, we will be delving into communication.

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Murray Guest  00:00

So it’s June 2020. And it has been an unprecedented 2020 for so many reasons. In Australia, we’ve had bushfires, there’s been crisis around the world. And of course, we’ve had COVID-19. So many people working from home, their lives and livelihoods impacted. I am so fortunate and appreciative of my health at the moment, and I know a lot of the leaders I’ve been talking to have that renewed perspective. The other thing is, in catching up with my great friend and colleague, Becky Hammond, we’ve been talking about some of those leadership themes that have been shining through right now. And how they’ve been so important in leading teams and leading ourselves to be honest, through these challenging times. And we’re going to explore those key themes in a series of conversations, which I’m so excited to do, because I absolutely love catching up with Becky, and I love the knowledge and insights she brings. So Becky, looking forward to talking with you today. 


Becky Hammond  00:59

Yeah, I’m looking forward to it as well. It seems like this has just been something that kind of naturally, organically came out of conversations that we’ve been having not only together about, you know, our work together with leaders who give a damn, but also with the conversations with leaders that we’ve been having, you know, I mean, I would say since what, early to mid March, and that who have been dealing with world crisis and what that has meant for their individual lives, personally in their families, and then also in their role as leaders and with their teams. So there’s just there been some themes that have stuck out and there’s, I don’t know, what did we decide? There’s five or so themes that we’re going to just kind of have some conversations around and really try to provide some actionable next steps like, Okay, this is what some of the best leaders are doing. And so how can I put a couple of these little behaviors into my own leadership to make a difference now, even as we’re kind of coming out of crisis, those themes are grace and kindness – we did a whole free training on that which man, this is this one’s packed. There’s communication, individualization and flexibility, clarity, and then taking care of self. So over the next five podcasts, we’ll be diving into each of those in more depth. And today, we’re talking about grace and kindness.


Murray Guest  02:30

Yeah, you’re exactly right. I remember a few weeks back, man, I’m losing track of time and weeks at the moment. But yeah, we talked about the importance of grace in our leadership and how important that theme is. And you’re right, Becky, there’s these leaders that I’ve been connecting with over these past eight weeks. And they’ve been sharing with me what’s working and what’s not. And there’s been some real key themes coming out of that. And this idea about leading with more grace, leading with more kindness with their people. People’s situations have been turned, really upside down in so many ways. Companies having to find ways and systems and processes and cultures, to be honest, to have people work from home, and have people feel empowered, trusted and supported to do their work at home in very different unique situations, while at the same time worrying about their lives, their health of themselves, their family, and the people they love. So leading with grace and kindness is just so important. Because you know what, we are talking about people, we are talking about humans. And I want to go back to my first little point that has been so important is this new perspective and gratitude that we have for those people, and for our own lives and those people that we have in our lives. So Becky, I just want to, before we jump into this, when you think about grace, when you think about what that looks like, what do you think when we say leading with grace looks like? What’s your sort of definition there?


Becky Hammond  04:07

Yeah, you know, I think a lot about this concept myself and I, there’s a definition that I have loved and I teach my kids which is unmerited favor. So it’s giving favor where you don’t deserve it. And I think that looks like giving yourself and others a break. And, and expecting the best or thinking the best. Assuming the best I guess is the word I’m looking for, assuming the best in the situation, and giving a break when the best isn’t actually happening.


Murray Guest  04:44

And I think I just also agree totally on that idea of assumptions. And as humans we’re making assumptions all the time. As leaders, we’re making assumptions about people. We make assumptions of our partners and our children and and I think it’s about, maybe honestly, in this time resetting those assumptions and thinking, Okay, what assumptions am I making and are those assumptions filled with grace? Are they filled with kindness? And there was a group I was working with recently, a group of leaders. And I actually, I said something which had a bit of a discussion happened around, it was a bit maybe a bit controversial at the moment. But I said, No leader should be assuming that their team members can deliver on the exact same work they were doing before they started working from home, we just can’t make those assumptions. And later on, of course, we’re going to talk about individualization and now leadership and how important that is. But you’ve had some leaders you’ve been working with who have been doing this really well. And you’ve got a couple of stories that I think would be great to hear about that help you understand what, you know, what this grace looks like in reality.


Becky Hammond  05:54

Yeah, in action. Yeah. Cuz I think it’s easier to say than do and I think that’s the thing that’s been interesting is like, the leaders that I’ve been talking to you say, Yeah, I just, I think my strategy needs to give myself more grace, or I need to give my team more grace. Well, what does that really look like in action? One leader that I was talking to you said, you’re not going to get it right. And just kind of like, it’s been her mantra. And I think that, to me, feels like grace in action, to give yourself a break. I mean, it’s good, that idea of giving yourself a break to know in advance that you’re going to make mistakes, especially in a situation and unprecedented situations that you’ve never been in before, and no one has ever been in before. She said that she was sitting, and that there was a younger colleague who was sitting in a board meeting and said something to the effect of, you know, well, this is my first pandemic, so I don’t really know what I’m gonna do. And she’s like, yeah, it’s everyone’s first pandemic, right? We don’t know, we don’t, we’re not, we’re not going to get it right every time. So I feel like that’s grace in action. And that same leader was, I feel like she was giving her, she had some really tangible stories in her own life of how she was able to live that out. One of those had to do with a project timeline. She’s somebody who is high in the Clifton strengths responsibility theme. And so for her, like, meeting a deadline was really, really important. And one night she had these budgets due and she realized that she could stay up until two in the morning and get them done. And technically get them in on time, because it was in before the next day, responsibility, you share that strength too.


Murray Guest  07:41

So I totally connect with this story.


Becky Hammond  07:46

But she was exhausted. And what she, as she stepped back and kind of looked at her situation, she said, You know what, I’m not going to be giving my best work, there could be errors in this, I could just miss something, I could miss something big. And so instead, she wrote a little note to her colleagues and said, I need to submit this tomorrow. And I will do it with fresh eyes. And it will get in. And so at three o’clock the next day, she submitted something that she was proud of, and that she knew wasn’t gonna have errors in it. But that type of, that type of grace to herself was not something that she was accessing very often, prior to this crisis situation. Because maybe, because she didn’t have to as much, things just weren’t as stressful and weren’t, they didn’t have as much pressure. But also because her life wasn’t as complicated as it is, as it is now working from home with kids and husband at home. And you know, all the different variables that, you know, that we need to give our ourselves grace for.


Murray Guest  08:48

Yeah, and I think, I love that we, you know, talk about our role as leaders and the people that we lead, but there’s also leading self. And here, I’m hearing so strongly that importance of how can I be kind to myself, how can I show myself some of that grace as well, because we need to look after ourselves as much as we do the people we lead. And I actually, the bit that’s popped into my head, Becky, as we were exploring this great example is, there’s possibly I think some things that were happening before, I’d say COVID-19 hit. And as a leader, that’s just highlighted the importance of those things. And what I mean by that is, yes, I had grace in my leadership, yes I was kind, but now I need to do it even more. So now I need to actually think even more consciously about where I’m investing my time. And the messages I’m sending, and the way I’m doing that. So that changing language, as you said, we’re not going to get it right. While that’s so small, in a few words, but so powerful. And, and, and then to extend that to, you know, I’m actually going to have a bit of courage and call a colleague and say look, I just can’t get it done. I’m gonna get to it tomorrow.


Becky Hammond  10:03

Yeah, that does take courage.


Murray Guest  10:05

I was gonna say, similar, a leader I was talking to they were talking about changing their language as well from the expectations on their team from not asking for something by close of business, to start of the next day. 


Becky Hammond  10:23

And how did that make a difference? 


Murray Guest  10:25

Yeah. So, again, I think it builds beautifully off your example of changing the culture and changing it to be okay to work in with some grace of the challenges that everyone’s got in their life, with children or home situation, whatever that may be, to say, Yes, I need this back, I need a report or some data or some information. But I can wait till the start of tomorrow. So what that might mean for this person is I’ve got some things I need to do this afternoon. I can actually get into that a bit later on. Yeah, maybe after dinner, which is something we probably wouldn’t normally do and encourage because we want to, but that’s just become so blurred. But what it created was grace, and also created flexibility. And the team said, Hey, we really appreciate knowing that.


Becky Hammond  11:15

That’s really cool. One of the things that comes to my mind when I think about grace and kindness, too, is not, it’s not the big things. It’s not as much the big things that we’ve seen the leaders do, but also kind of some of the little things, little ways that, you know, maybe don’t have anything to do with the actual business product that you’re producing, but that they are doing to create a sense of grace and kindness to crew to be a leader leader who exudes that I know, you have a couple examples of that as well.


Murray Guest  11:46

Yeah, and another one, which we hadn’t talked about before that I was only exploring this week with a leader. And she was talking about how powerful it is to actually observe the behavior. And she, she just had that reminder around, people will say something like, yeah I’m not going to work all through the night. And yeah, yeah, I’m having lunch. And you know, but what she said, for her kindness in her leadership, she was really mindful of, actually, they’re saying that, but their behavior is showing, and actually, really constructively challenging them on their behavior and showing that kindness and resetting those expectations. So I thought that was really good from her doing that. And of course, the big one, which I talked about in my podcast earlier this year, was a local manufacturer near where I live, who, to be honest, they make big dishwashing machines for restaurants and cafes, and all that. And diners, as you would call them, Becky.


Becky Hammond  12:48

I don’t know if I’ve ever used that word.


Murray Guest  12:54

Their world, their business took a you know, a big hit, a big stop, because all of that just finished. And all those businesses were closed down. And the leader of that business and I had a really good chat. And he said what he was aware of is people in that business had recently bought houses. These were employees that had new mortgages, new families, and they were going to have their livelihoods impacted if they didn’t have a job, if they weren’t able to pay their mortgage, and like very serious situations. And so they pivoted very quickly, and I think it was like 10 days, very, very quickly, and started manufacturing hand sanitizer in bulk and providing that and selling that. The fantastic thing is they’ve been very, very busy. They are now moving back into their normal manufacturing as well because you know, lockdown laws are changing. But what I’m really glad to say is also the leader was really aware of the of the importance of the culture, the communication, and keeping everyone engaged throughout that process. And then another great thing is they’ve been recognized locally, in the media, in newspapers and on the TV just for doing that. So yeah, just a really great story about Yes, it’s a pivot and yes it’s innovation, but there’s a real kindness and grace in that as well.


Becky Hammond  12:59

Right? Because it sounds like it was motivated by trying to keep people employed. Not necessarily even, I mean part of it is the result, right, but not necessarily even motivated by trying to keep their business afloat, which of course, was an equal concern, right. But what can we do to help keep these people employed? And what can we do to help meet a need that the world has right now? I mean, talk about extending grace, for yourself to the people that work for you to the entire world. That’s pretty amazing example.


Murray Guest  14:51

Yeah. And, you know, some people might be listening to them thinking, I can’t do that in my business. I can’t make that that big change. I can’t have that innovation. So I think what it’s also about is thinking about the small little things like some of those examples of the language and the also the very small messages you can send your team. So one I’d love to share is, I know about a couple of leaders who I’ve been talking to recently who have really started to focus in on where’s the team at? Where’s the energy of the team? How are they feeling at the start of their meeting? Because as someone saying to me recently, it was a bit novel, hey, we get to work from home isn’t this great? This is new. I get to work from home. And yet, there’s energy there. And I’m working from home. And next to me is my child who’s drawing and this is fun. And then after a few weeks, it was like, Oh, this is hard work. 


Becky Hammond  15:51

And he doesn’t want to draw anymore. Yeah, you know, they’re like, throwing the crayons and eating them. And yeah.


Murray Guest  15:59

And, and another lady this week was talking about how she often is working, and next thing the cat is on the keyboard. So there’s that our human children, and also the the pet children as well as challenges. Yes. So after the novelty has worn off, and we’ve sort of in the hamster wheel, the importance of leaders of leading with grace and kindness to actually not just push through in an agenda, not just push through this as our standard meeting approach, but actually doing that pause and saying, how are we? How are we feeling? And do we actually need to talk more about that right now than what we thought we’re going to talk about, which is an update on some projects or some tasks, because what’s more important is you and your well being not that project, because you know what, that could slide a little bit because I care about you. And if you think just bring that into your language, and your approach can just have such a big ripple effect, to not just how someone feels, but then their engagement, and you’ll get the productivity as well.


Becky Hammond  17:09

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think it’s sometimes hard to make that connection, right. Like, it’s hard to make that like, you know, what, part of me bristles a little bit when you say, well, we don’t have to, you know, we have to concentrate on that initiative, even though that’s due tomorrow, right? Rather, we should be focusing on the energy of our team and how people are really doing. But just like you said, there’s like that there’s a ripple effect. That, that in the end, you will get that thing done for tomorrow, and you will get it done happy, right? People will enjoy getting those things done, and potentially even show up even more engaged and ready for the next project.


Murray Guest  17:49

Yeah, well, I think the bit there, and I think you’re right, we still have things that need to get done. We still have tasks, projects, goals that need to be delivered on right. And it’s about considering how we are feeling, considering where we’re at, considering how individuals are at, how do we bring that to the table in a constructive, supportive way to then deliver on what we need to deliver on? So do we need to provide more support? Do we need to move resources? Do we need to start to share the workload? How are we exploring it, discussing that instead of just again, making some assumptions? Right? Now I want to know about flowers, and a leader you’re working with who did something which I thought was very, very beautiful, just such a powerful thing to do.


Becky Hammond  18:38

Yeah, and it really is powerful. And so, so simple, so, so easy. Right during towards the beginning of the stay at home orders in the town where this person works, she decided to go to a flower shop. So you know, when that was still open, and supported the local flower shop and bought some flowers, and went and delivered them to each person’s house on her leadership team with a handwritten note, and flowers, and she didn’t even ring the doorbell, she just left them at the door and then sent a text message that said, Hey, something’s at your door. So it was completely you know, at the time, especially because people were, you know, we’re very nervous about being anywhere near each other. They, she just, you know, was respectful of what was going on. But then also recognizing you’ve been putting in a lot of work, you’ve been putting in a lot of hours. In this particular industry was one that didn’t come to a standstill. In fact, they were having to figure out more and more things that they that they’ve never had to figure out before and refunding a lot of money to people who had already paid. And so they were feeling extremely stressed and working days and days and days in a row by that point, and this little gesture this little act of kindness. Just it, it put breath into the lives of the leaders that were working so tirelessly for her and forth for the organization.


Murray Guest  20:14

I love that. And it’s such a great example of grace in action. Because as you said at the start, it’s, it’s without expectation of it coming back to you. It’s without, to be honest, it’s with surprise. So it’s not like she knocked on the door and said, Hey, here’s your flowers, I want you to see that I’m delivering them. It was very much, I’m just doing this as a gift of appreciation, and to brighten your day. And she didn’t need to be there for that. So and you’re right, yes, there would have been some costs there. But it wouldn’t have been, you know, astronomical. But the value I’m sure people felt when they saw that would have been, you know, much more than the cost of it itself. And very similar, but a bit different. A leader I know, they, in their organization, again, very similar, busy, even busier. But they needed to run these Lunch and Learn sessions, which a lot of companies do, where they might provide lunch, or you bring your own lunch. So they’ll running those over zoom, and what this leader did, so everyone’s working from home at lunch and learn. So prior to the lunch and learn, sent everyone a voucher for Uber Eats. So the encouragement was, you know, contact someone in your local area. And luckily, everyone could, and organize something that you want to eat. That’s your thing. So it might have been Mexican or Italian or a bit of pizza, what it was doesn’t matter. But that was your thing, and have that delivered. So everyone’s opening up their Uber Eats bag for the lunch and learn together. So a bit of cost there. But again, it was, Hey, I’m being kind in my leadership. I’m being appreciative in his again, surprise to the team. 


Becky Hammond  22:09

Yeah, no, I love that. I love that. It’s just a special way to be creative. I mean, they, they probably were providing lunches during lunch and learn pre March, right? And now they’re just doing it in a different way, in a way that would be surprising and delighting. And, you know, I mean, that’s the thing with grace, you say it’s like, it’s unmerited. It’s not like, it’s not like the person is expecting accolades, right, but also the person who receives it. They’re just doing their job, right. I mean, at this point, they’re just doing their job. It’s not like they’re, they deserve to have Uber Eats show up, or they deserve to have flowers and a note and a handwritten note, yet the leader is offering grace by giving that to them when it goes beyond it goes above and beyond just recognizing that it has nothing to do with their performance, but everything to do with that desire to kind of operate from grace and kindness.


Murray Guest  23:08

Yeah, and I think there’s a renewed perspective, there’s a renewed gratitude. There’s a renewed engagement, and even connection, if you think of those those flowers, or, yeah just the flowers, everyone in that team thinking, hey, we’ve all got flowers today. Yes, we are working from home, we are miles apart. But you know what, we’re all connected still, we’re all so connected. And same with the Uber Eats as well. And I know that that gratitude has been renewed in a lot of leaders I’ve been talking to and how they are refreshing that in their perspective to help them and help their team. And I know for me, it’s something which I’ve really drawn on in these past eight weeks, around my family, and around the chance to see my children exercising together, the chance to be more creative. Interestingly, Becky, I don’t I think we’ve talked about this, but my wife and I, Tammy and I’ve played backgammon every afternoon for the past eight months, not eight months, weeks, it’s felt like eight months, eight weeks, eight weeks, I think we’ve missed two days. And it’s only just for 15 minutes, you know, and she’s been teaching me and she’s much better than me, let’s be honest. But it’s the simple smallest thing, which, you know, there’s there’s some great benefit for strategic thinking coming out of it. But it’s more of a connection. And that would not have happened out of this process out of you know, what’s happened to us. So I think there’s something about taking the time to pause and we talk about the power of the pause quite a bit to have that gratitude of what we’ve got and how that helps us because that links I think beautifully to that kindness as well. 


Becky Hammond  24:57

Yeah totally. And when you think about the impact That you are having as a leader when you’re operating from grace, this is not something that’s easy to choose. It’s not something that’s really easy to do. Because you might not feel like I mean, even simple things like not feeling like going to the store and getting flowers or writing a note, you’re busy too. You’re just as busy. You are maybe busier than your team of leaders that you’re leading. Yet, yet, there’s an impact that goes that, just goes miles and miles or kilometers and kilometers, excuse me. You know, and when I think about the impact, I’m thinking like, well, what’s the alternative? Do we want, you know, if what we’re trying to build is compassion and trust and hope through offering grace, like the alternative is like begrudging, shame based perfectionistic leadership that’s rigid and presumptive and, you know, like that, when I put those two things side by side, even though grace is harder, the results that you get from grace and kindness are so much more significant and so much more human. That you say, okay, maybe it’s worth the extra effort.


Murray Guest  26:17

Yeah, and I think the slowing down, to be honest, the slowing down, that does come with being a bit more graceful being a bit more kind, and leadership might feel like it’s taking more time, it’s slowing us from what we’re doing right now. But then that, as we said earlier, there’s a flow on effect, a ripple effect from that, and it builds. There’s a leadership quote, that I learned, oh, gee, must have been 10-12 years ago, and I still come back to it quite a bit. And it’s a very simple phrase, how we get there matters. And we are getting somewhere. But how we get there really matters, the way we work, the way we interact, the way we come together as people as humans. And we show that care and kindness for each other is so important. I mean, at the end of the day, what sort of leader do you want to be remembered for? What’s your legacy? And I think, yes, this has been difficult. I don’t want to gloss over that. Yes, it’s been hard, people’s lives and livelihoods have been impacted. But at the same time, it gives us an opportunity for us to look in the mirror and say, Okay, how can I be a more graceful and kind leader? And be a leader others want to follow?


Becky Hammond  27:37

Yeah definitely.


Murray Guest  27:41

Yeah. So just to wrap this up this great conversation, oh, I get so energized talking to you about this stuff. So thank you. What do you think are some simple things? What do you think are some simple things people could do that could help them to really tap into this grace and kindness?


Becky Hammond  27:59

Yeah, I think we’ve shared some really good examples of things that you could do, simple things you could do to add, modify to what fits your team. Another one that I’ve loved that a healthcare leader recently expressed to me and suggested was breathe. Now, that sounds like what does this have to do with grace. But as I thought about it, she was talking about the pause that we were talking about, you know, in order to breathe well, you have to pause, you have to stop. You can’t I mean, you don’t breathe your best. Unless you’re, you know, an elite Olympic athlete, you’re not breathing your best when you’re running a million miles an hour, right? You’re breathing your best when you’ve stopped, you paused, you slowed. And I, I just I had this visualization about the breath that she was talking about. It’s like, the simple act of like taking a breath in like, *gasps* and then letting it out. Slowly, exhaling. The inhale is like the act of receiving grace to yourself. So bringing that into yourself, filling yourself with like, it’s okay, I’m not going to get it right. And then exhale, is letting that grace out to others. I just love what that physicality does. And also the word picture does of like I’m breathing grace in and, and letting it out to others.


Murray Guest  29:24

I love that so much. And I think, you know, there’s so much power in tapping into our breath and mindfulness and meditation, but just that simple connection with grace and doing that, at the start of every meeting at the start of conversations at the start of your day, and you can bring that anytime into your life. But I honestly love that connection with grace as well that bring it in and lending it out to everyone around you in your circle as well. So, yeah, simple, but effective. And as you said, there’s some things we’ve covered, build on that as well around some of those simple messages and tokens and language you’re using with your teams and with those people that you work with, and being more mindful of that and think about, okay, how can I say this with grace? How can I communicate with grace? How can I show that and tapping into that? And I know that as we continue this podcast conversation, we will, in the future conversations, tap back into this and link into this with some of the future topics we’re going to talk about. The other thing, Becky, I think we’ve had some great links to the Leaders Who Give a Damn program. I mean, in there we talk about self awareness, we talk about your well being. But of course, we talk about knowing your people. And we’ve got a great module about how important is knowing your people. And so I know in that program, we we explore these concepts, and they link beautifully to grace and kindness as well.


Becky Hammond  30:58

Yep, in each of those conversations, kind of like today, but even more so, we leave every leader with some real true action, some action planning guides, and some worksheets and things that, you know, you can listen to a conversation and say, okay, maybe I can take one nugget out. But the program itself is designed to be able to help say, okay, yes, you need to take a nugget out. And what’s that going to be for you? And how are you going to put it into play? And let us be the ones that can help you do that. So yeah, so if you’re liking these types of conversations, you will love Leaders Who Give a Damn.


Murray Guest  31:36

So thank you so much for talking about grace and kindness and leadership. And in our next conversation, we’re going to talk about how important communication has been in these past couple of months and some of the insights and stories that we’ve got to share with people from the leaders we’ve been talking to him working with. So I look forward to doing that with you, Becky. Thanks again so much.


Becky Hammond  31:57

Yes, thank you, Murray. Always a pleasure. And I look forward to the next very important conversation about communication.


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