In the first week of January, I set out my watchwords for 2022: self-awareness, purpose, kindness, connection, tolerance, acceptance, knowledge, innovation, care and learning. As the year comes to a close I thought I would reflect on my hopes and hunches to see if it all panned out or did it all go to pot…..


My hopes and hunches……

Internal self-awareness… will mean awareness of not only our changing thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, strengths and abilities, it will also mean awareness of our physical and emotional health. With covid still very much with us, we need to be aware of the ongoing impact that not being able to be around people has on us

Internal-social self-awareness… will mean that our ability to recognise how we are received and perceived by others will continue to be tested, as virtual meetings dominate and we have to work in a world that’s predominantly 2 dimensional rather than the familiar 3.

External-social self awareness… will mean continuing to learn how to best respond to others and regulate our behaviour and communication when we too are viewed in 2 dimension by our colleagues. 

Panned out or went to pot?

The move to hybrid working has taken the pressure off that forced introspection that social distancing foisted upon us.  We’ve moved from a position of questioning our beliefs, values and how best to take care of our emotional and physical health every minute of every day to balancing it with some perspective created by our change in environment, our return to movement within our communities and a glimmer of familiarity of our old life.  It feels like we’re in a time of a healthier occupation with getting to know ourselves rather than the less healthy preoccupation and rumination which the lockdowns created


My hopes and hunches……

To seek out, find and firm up your purpose will be a challenge, when the environment around you is changing and flexing in response to covid. So, your purpose needs to be ‘up close and personal’. It will be that specific thing that allows you to flourish regardless of where you’ll be and who you’ll be with. As leaders, this might test us. Our people will be guided by their purpose in a way that they haven’t before. They will question whether their role fits their purpose and whether the organisation facilitates them to work with purpose.

I don’t see a quick end to the great resignation or the great re-evaluation, but I do see greatness in people seeking, finding and firming up their purpose. In making a change that allows them to bring their whole selves, their passions, their creativity, their skills and their ideas into the workplace, we will all benefit eventually. What we may find is that there’s an undercurrent of change what will sweep us along until one day we will realise, more people are working with purpose than ever before.

Panned out or went to pot?

During the Spring, Summer and warm early Autumn, people were definitely pursuing their mission to work and live more purposefully.  Covid had forced us to really think about the things that were important to us and to move towards them with greater clarity and speed.  We’d had more time to think than we’d have wanted and the threat of an early demise made us realise that seizing the day was the only way to approach life.  

But then Autumn went out like a lamb and Winter came in like a lion and our choices were again limited by circumstance.  The cost of living crisis meant that our purpose then, as it remains now, is to secure the base of Maslow’s pyramid. Transcendence, self-actualisation and the aesthetic needs are of less concern than the psychological and safety needs.  Heat and eat trumps intellectual tweet and fashion on the street right now.  


My hopes and hunches……

Kindness feels like such a fundamental human behaviour that it’s difficult to consider how we move from what we know kindness to be in our hearts to what kindness looks like, feels like and sounds like in the workplace. My thought is that we need to start by reflecting on our own definitions and descriptors of kindness and the same at a team level, then an organisational level. Once we’re clear about what we collectively mean when we say kindness, we can work to ensure we create work environments to enable it. Kindness should be woven through what we do so as to influence the way we do it. We need to generate the conditions for the virtuous cycle to flourish.

Panned out or went to pot?

The kindness longed for by each of us in both the receiving and the giving, endures.  I think our need for kindness in our day to day lives and in our workplaces continues to drive the work that we do and the way that we do it.  What I haven’t seen, in recognition of that is an amendment or updating of very many workplace policies and procedures to weave that sense of kindness into the language and their implementation.  What I have seen though, is broad leader and manager interpretation of those unchanged policies and procedures. Interpretation has been filled with flexibility, understanding and a genuine appreciation of the impact of home life on work life.  Kindness has woven through the intuitive interpretation even if it hasn’t found its way on to the page.


My hopes and hunches……

When I think about connection, three things come to mind: home, work and covid.We need connections in our personal life to nourish us and feed our soul. It’s a fundamental human need to connect and an essential component in making us whole, fulfilled people, able to function in the world of work. We need connections in our work lives to give us the psychological safety to try, grow, fail, learn and succeed. We need to use our self awareness and emotional intelligence to build connections to function effectively, and accept, some connections are just stronger than others.  We need to consider new ways to connect as we learn to live with covid. We need to capitalise on digital connection in a time of physical disconnection and maximise the opportunity to connect with people from across the globe that we would never have met, if it hadn’t been for zoom!

As we move into 2022 with a renewed hope for a return to normality, we should take with us our newfound skills in digital connection to battle loneliness and isolation, maximise  international learning opportunities and good practice sharing, and maintain our important connections, regardless of space and time.

Panned out or went to pot?

Our need for connection has absolutely been realised.  We’ve come out of the Covid lockdowns with a greater understanding of what connection means to us and in many cases, connection has been synonymous with physical contact.  Where our organisations have been more in tune with the need to balance the benefits of physical connection with the benefits of home working, we’ve been able to increase and decrease our physical connections with colleagues as our work and out mental wellbeing has needed.  Hybrid models of working definitely capitalise on the human need for connection as well as the human need for space.  We’ve adapted our working methods to add digital connection to our repertoire and now it’s viewed as an additional way of connecting, not an alternative.  

International connections abound. Jack is out of the box and there is no putting him back; which is a delight for those with a thirst for learning and a joy for those who value the contributions of thinkers from far off shores. The technological capabilities that allow us to connect between the study in South Wales, the office in Southern California and the studio in Sydney is a modern miracle and now accessible to all.


My hopes and hunches……

For me tolerance has two parts: learning when to listen and not speak, and developing the confidence to speak and be heard.  

We are often too quick to judge. When colleague come forward with ideas that are different, unexpected and out of left field, we often react first and mull later. Tolerance would give us that breathing space to change reaction into reflection and in turn, reflection into an amazing idea. Let’s be more tolerant of new and different. It might just be the answer to the problem we’ve been grappling with.

There are also times when we should be staunchly intolerant: poor behaviour, incivility, disrespect, bullying, verbal abuse. You know the times. We often acquiesce and tolerate because we are worried about retaliation, negative consequences and long term employment impact. Let’s build our confidence and rely on our organisational policies to support us when we need to speak up and be heard. Let’s be respectful and clear that we will not tolerate language and behaviour that makes us feel sad, angry and fearful any more

In 2022 let’s be tolerant so that we can hear, understand and learn, and be intolerant so that we can prevent, protect and do better.

Panned out or went to pot?

We continue to grapple with tolerance. As a society, it feels like our tolerance of differences are becoming less bearable and more overt.  We’ve seen the fascist-right rise up and been given a platform in politics, and we’ve seen the liberal-left rise up behind them once the realisation of the potential impact crystallised.  We seem to be becoming more vocal and aggressive in our intolerance and one loud intolerant voice gives confidence to another and another.  Organisations are operating against this tide of racial, sexual and religious intolerance with policies that seek to instil the opposite. But the tide outside the office door is strong and for all the messages organisations are trying to engender, they’re battling with the realities outside the front door that batter every worker through the radio, the TV, the newspapers and the social channels.


My hopes and hunches……

Acceptance is a friend of tolerance. It’s about knowing what’s within our gift to change and within our power to influence. It’s about knowing when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em, when to walk away and when to run.  It is not about accepting our fate without a fight. It’s about tolerating the decisions that have been made through open and transparent discussion and debate. When a decision has been made that we don’t agree with, but acknowledge that it was made through honest and  democratic means, we should accept it and move on. We should work with the decision that’s been made and ensure the service or the product or the system that’s created is the very best it can be.

The serenity poem tells it like it is:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”

I suspect 2022 will be a year of big decisions, as we start to see a glimmer of light at the end of the covid tunnel. No doubt, that light will go out of view from time to time and difficult decisions will need to be made. Then, we will have to decide for ourselves about the honesty, transparency and democracy of the decision making process and take a stance on whether we accept the consequences or we challenge the decision

Panned out or went to pot?

The second half of 2022 has seen workers from a number of sectors rise up and strike for improved pay and conditions. The rising cost of living is in no-way compensated through salary increases. Workers are loudly demonstrating that their acceptance of their lot is waning and a sweeping reform is needed. Where sector capacity has been reduced in misalignment to demand and worker effort is not translated into pay, the wick that is burning at both ends is becoming dangerously close to burning out. The working masses have accepted their lot for as long as they can bear and now their situations are being given a voice, a platform and a placard. As one sector raises its voice, it gives courage to another sector to do the same. The workers of the UK are no longer accepting of the political ideology of trickle down economics. When the trickle is but a drip and the wealthy stockpile their money, change is inevitable.


My hopes and hunches……

As leaders we have a responsibility to increase our own knowledge and the knowledge of others. The world is awash with information, research, data and opinion that helps to build up our knowledge base. Everything is accessible at our fingertips and research is no longer a quest for only those with journal subscriptions. In increasing our own knowledge, LinkedIn and Twitter are helpful resources that flash up snippets of information that allow us to dig deeper, if we have the inclination and the time. It’s good to broaden our horizons by keeping abreast of what’s going on in the world beyond our organisation, sector and country.  

As leaders, in sharing knowledge with others it is incumbent on us not only to share data and information but to ensure that the environment facilitates knowledge building and sharing, and that structures support the flow of knowledge within and beyond our organisations.  I suspect 22 will be a year when we start to see greater analysis and evaluation of qualitative and quantitative covid data. After 3 years of life with covid our knowledge will become more reflective and we will be better able to consider it from a perspective of increased wisdom.  Knowledge is power and by sharing it, we increase the power of all our colleagues to make informed decisions that put us all in a position of achieving more

Panned out or went to pot?

The chasm between those of the finite mindset and the infinite mindset seems to have grown.  The gap between science and the loudest notion is widening and misinformation thrives.  The Twitter takeover has opened the floodgates to free speech regardless of its information base and the devil-may-care attitude to truth and lies provides no help in the furtherance of humanity. Organisations continue to promote their discoveries and developments where the leadership is forward thinking and open. But it’s the closed door that needs to let this knowledge in, to enlighten, educate and enthuse. The open door is already welcoming and minds are already to absorb.  Organisations with finite leaders worry about the shareholder profits of this quarter without a fleeting gaze towards the horizon. Knowledge is one thing.  Understanding is quite another.  


My hopes and hunches……

From the digital explosion in virtual communication to the exponential increase in online services, covid has, we must admit, been a generator of transformational change. When we reflect on the last two years, the things we had planned and expected to take years were created in weeks and technological advancements giving us human proximity whilst social distancing happened over night.  2022 will, I expect be a year when all of the new tools and systems born in the covid years will undergo a process of innovative adaptation and refinement to support hybrid home/office working. I have this vision in my mind of a conference room with screens in the headrests. You either physically sit in a seat or you virtually appear in a seat via the screen. I can’t wait for virtual reality meeting rooms like this to become mainstream. Did you ever see the 1993 Stallone film, ‘Demolition Man’? You’ll spot one in there!

Panned out or went to pot?

The mainstream use of digital media in the workplace has moved on very little since the virtual communication explosion of Covid.  We’re still very much struggling with hybrid meetings – who’s laptop do we use for the mic and the speaker?  Do we plug into one main screen from your laptop or mine?  Are we including all of the digital attendees in the discussion or is someone missing out? Surprisingly, the digital developments have not moved as fast as the decisions on hybrid working were made and tech-consumers are waiting for the tech-developers to catch up.  I was hoping for virtual reality headsets and meetings in the metaverse by now, but the tools aren’t available to us in the mainstream or even appear to be an option in the suppliers’ list.   

I’m a little disappointed that the pace of digital development didn’t keep up with the pace of human expectation. I’m sure the innovations and expertise are out there, but taking it from the catwalk to the high street has always been the challenge. And maybe my expectations were too high, maybe retaining that pace of change beyond the unprecedented times of Covid was simply not achievable, from the perspective of human and environmental resources. Maybe it was a little quantum leap, a glitch in the matrix, a perfect storm for change that was confined solely to that strangest of times that now feel so far away.


My hopes and hunches……

Care seems to me to be an umbrella term for putting others before yourself and behaving in a way that makes human relationships effective. Care is about emotional intelligence, understanding, sympathy, empathy, respect, compassion, tolerance, patience and so much more. The covid years have seen people reprioritise and refocus. 2022, I suspect, will be a year when those priorities will undergo a reshuffling. Those at the top of the list might move down a rung or two, but they will remain higher than they were in 2018 and before.

In the last two years, the world of work has acknowledged the fears, needs, wants, hopes and aspirations of colleagues, and recognised that personal values take precedence over organisational ones. To make an organisation attractive means raising up the value of human effort and commitment over profit and productivity and showing a genuine care for others. We need to retain that fundamental behaviour of caring for people and making sure it weaves through everything we do. Living through covid with our colleagues has given us a window into their lives and living rooms and the care with which we need to repay that privilege is infinite.

Panned out or went to pot?

Covid undoubtedly taught us about the need to care more and show more care to our work colleagues.  The organisational emphases on wellbeing and flexibility have evidenced the shift from an ‘implied caring culture’ to an explicit ‘caring out loud’.  However, the organisations led by the finite minded leadership team have seen a backward roll towards the presenteeism of the 90s and the long working hours of the 80s.  Bringing your sleeping bag to work for a nap under your desk flies in the face of what we learnt about caring for our fellow humans in Covid and evidences a regression to the days of burn-bright, die-young office politics that no longer meet with the purpose of today’s workforce. It’s easy to forget to care when we’re not all having it tough, but we know nothing about the difficulties behind people’s front door meaning that care should be a basic expectation of every organisation and a basic entitlement for all.  


My hopes and hunches……

Learning is a friend of knowledge, but it’s not the same. Knowledge is active and learning is pro-active. Learning is about going out there to seek knowledge, skill and practice. It’s the quest to transfer what’s been learnt by others to your situation. Good practice becomes best practice when we learn from the experience, guidance and recommendation of others. Best practice becomes exemplary when we take all of that learning and innovate with the knowledge we already had and the modelling we’ve done for the future, peppered with the brilliance of forward thinkers and the curiosity of radical disrupters.

2022 will be a year when knowledge, innovation and learning will collide to generate a perfect storm for creation. We will learn from what has gone before and we will be better prepared to learn about what will be. We will prepare our environments to make learning a constant so that our knowledge pool is deeper and clearer than ever before. Covid caught us unprepared. We were lazy and complacent and didn’t broaden our horizons to learn about what the science had been telling us for decades. In 2022 we will better learn to learn and prepare for the next tsunami of that will undoubtedly crash down on the human race.

Panned out or went to pot?

The capacity for societal and organisational learning has been stymied by the cost of living crisis and the ensuing recession.  Job losses in the tech and bitcoin industries have been gargantuan and have ricocheted across the globe. As I said earlier, when individuals and families have to make a choice between lamp light and learning the former will take precedence for survival. Learning from Big experiences is not a top priority for every organisation but for those with an infinite mindset, an eye to the horizon and a leadership team focused on the next generation, Big learning will be recognised as an essential component to survival, not just for jobs and organisations, but for the planet, as a home to us all. 


Did 2022 pan out or go to pot?  In reflecting on my ten watchwords, I think organisations and companies made a promising start to the year, but the unexpected weight of financial burden towards the latter part of the year has pressed down on us all, meaning that our innovative and lofty aspirations for our teams, organisations, businesses and sectors have had to be paired back.  We’ve had to shift our focus from the heights of Maslow’s pyramid to the very base.  Maintaining our foothold and retaining our solid foundations have become our priority as we exit 2022 with a quizzical sideways look at a future of difficult times and a horizon of choppy seas.