Zoe Lewis, Director of Coaching here at The Leadership Coaches, had the pleasure of interviewing Kosta Christofi, Head of Leadership and Management Development at Reed In Partnership about how he led through the pandemic and how they are emerging through the current phase.
ZL: Tell us a little about Reed In Partnership and your role…
KC: Reed In Partnership is part of Reed Global Group, we include Reed In Partnership and Reed Wellbeing. We work with many of the government commissioners to help people look after their health, for example, we look after the National Diabetes Prevention Programme and we also work with organisations such as the DWP and National Citizens Service where we help people build life skills and gain long-term employment.
My role here is as the Head of Leadership and Management development. I have an all-encompassing role, some days I work on our leadership and management development strategy with our board of directors, other times I’m designing, delivering and implementing those programmes across the whole business. I love working for a purposeful organisation; putting something back into our communities means a lot to me.
ZL: How did you handle the impact of the pandemic on you and your colleagues?
KC: Like so many, we had to move at pace. We normally operate in an office environment where we serve our clients. Swiftly this transitioned to working from home and that meant finding a way for all of us, ourselves and our clients to be able to work from home.
There was some sterling work achieved by all; our IT team were incredible in helping our colleagues transition to be able to work from home. People had to adjust to new ways of working and they did an admirable job; all credit to our people for their effort here.
Our colleagues’ health and safety were our priority, we provided targeted and specific support to managers and team members. We did a lot around mental wellbeing – we are fortunate that one of our businesses is Reed Wellbeing so we could tap into that to immediately support our colleagues.
I also knew that there were a couple of key questions being asked across the business:
- How do I lead my team remotely?
- How do I work from home effectively?
In my role I was able to help by creating some ‘just in time’ masterclasses that I delivered virtually over 2 weeks to 300 colleagues. I’m proud to say that these were really well received and gave timely support when it was needed.
Although the pandemic hit everyone hard, we were impressed by how our colleagues were so committed to our purpose of improving peoples’ lives.
ZL: What steps are you taking now that the government has lifted restrictions further?
KC: We are now delivering virtual courses on how our colleagues can deal with the transition back into the office.
We are conscious that this is not going ‘back’ but moving forward, so it’s not going to be as simple as “let’s go back to what it was before”. We have to remember that this is different, it still has a lot of unknowns and, as you know Zoe, the human brain craves a degree of predictability, so naturally this will drive a variety of responses from people.
We are mindful about helping people in the right way and with this in mind, we want to bring people together and allow them time to discuss and share their experiences and emotions.
We find it helpful to guide people by explaining a bit about what they are going through and what might help. For example, we might be very aware about the change curve and how we transition through this, but we do this without needing to share the formal Kübler-Ross change curve model, we simply guide people about what they might be experiencing and some insights as to how they might move through this.
We are taking a phased approach, so we are moving with our colleagues first and then when it’s right we will start to invite the public back into our offices.
ZL: What lessons are you taking forward from this time?
KC: We are reviewing what worked well and less well. We are being strategic in our approach so some of this will be about identifying what has worked well virtually and which services are better experienced via face-to-face delivery.
The learning opportunity that the pandemic has given us has been immense and although we’ve learned so much I think we need to spend time consciously reflecting on questions, such as:
- What have I experienced?
- What have I handled well/less well?
- What have I learned that I couldn’t do before?
- How do I take this forward?
Once we do this reflective practice, we will no doubt notice that we are more resilient than we thought possible, we are more flexible and able to adapt when needed. I want to help people see that and embrace how they have led themselves and others through this.
ZL: What 3 leadership tips would you share after this experience?
KC: 1. Communication is key in a situation like this; silence is deadly.
2. Bring people together as much as you can and let them know it’s okay to be honest about how this affects them.
3. Be vulnerable and let people know that you are going through the challenges as well, let them know you’re in it together.
ZL: Kosta, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with us for the benefit of others. We wish you lots of luck with the onward transition to whatever the new world looks like for us all.
KC: Thank you, I’ve enjoyed sharing this with you.