The Most Surreal Time in My Career

Overnight I have been reflecting on the week that was and I have to say with all honesty this has indeed been the most surreal and heartbreaking time of my career.

I am the General Manager of People and Marketing for HTG, an organisation founded in Technology, owning and operating a number of Telstra stores and Telstra Business Technology Centres as well as another large technology provider Techwell. In its simplest form, we essentially keep people and businesses connected through technology.

But this week “connection” has been replaced by survival and in times of survival and pure panic, rather than talking about the world going nuts, I wanted to share some very personal feelings on what’s really happening in business and with people right now in this very moment. People are losing jobs, people are hurting, businesses are being closed or shut down, industries are being destroyed and here’s the surreal bit, it’s all because of COVID-19! A virus that has swept across our world, a virus we were not prepared for, a virus that has already changed us as people, as business owners, as parents, as carers and as communities.

Yesterday I witnessed so much pain, heartache, fear, stress, tears and anxiety. It was like looking in the mirror of grief watching almost every emotion pass through the faces of people under strain. As an organisation we had to let some people go yesterday and as I write this it brings tears to my eyes because whilst we are founded in technology, the core and the heart of HTG and all of our business units is our people. As I walked one of my team to her car yesterday I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth… I have to say goodbye because of a virus. How is this happening? Here is a wonderful employee, a hard worker, a good, decent human and I had to say goodbye. Then there was the aftermath of communicating to my team and many teams across our business. Yes the world has gone nuts but this left me feeling sad and reflective.

There are so many messages floating around the world from businesses and government around safety and what you need to think of and do during these unprecedented times. Whilst I appreciate they all mean well I have heard time and time again that people are just sick of the influx of emails dictating what people should and shouldn’t be doing. What I am not seeing is how to communicate with your people, how to check in, how to communicate change effectively again and again and again. We cannot forget the seriousness of the human element in all of us. We are all scared, we are all anxious, we are all trying our best to survive the storm. Please don’t forget the importance of human kindness and to be there for your fellow humans, your partners, your family, your friends, your colleagues, your neighbours. Because now is the time more than ever to remember human kindness.

On the weekend I took our little boy out the front of our house to play with his remote control car. We as a family are being sensible, staying away from mass gatherings, large populated events and basically listening to government advice but let me tell you… it was time to get out of the house. He was delighted going up and down the street with this whippet of a car when our next door neighbour came out. His name is Chris. He has had a tough few years struggling with cancer and for the first time in 11 years we met, actually ‘met’ a neighbour and shared things about one another. His dog’s name is Domino and he has a wife and three beautiful kids. They are going camping for Easter to try to get away from the virus. Why am I telling you all this… because now is the time people!!! NOW! Be kind, talk to one another, connect and not just with technology (even though this is not only important it is VITAL), connect by checking in with people. Are you ok has never been a more important question to ask.

As I woke this morning, thinking about the day yesterday and what I have in front of me today, all I could think about was three things:

1. How do I lift my team today, how do I create a sense of calm and positivity when there has been so much sadness and anxiety throughout the week. That is my role as a leader and by God am I going to do everything in my power for them to enter this weekend feeling a sense of support, calm and well being.

2. How do we move forward from this? We are all very stuck at the moment in a a state of panic and fear (thank you world media!!!), but now is the time to start thinking we WILL come out of this… we WILL be stronger, we WILL be more resilient and we WILL fight on. But what does that look like? What is your plan… I am running a brainstorm today to start working through this plan. It is actually really exciting in a time where there is so much devastation.

3. How can we support small businesses as they are truly the lifeblood of employment in Australia? As a community we must come together and support one another in life and in business. Don’t stop supporting your local businesses. Call and ask questions about your technology to make sure you have what you need. We are here to help, to support, to chat. We want to help. Please reach out to retail owners and keep spending where it is appropriate. We will come out of this and we must support each other to survive through it.

I have been using a hashtag with my team every day which is #wegotthis. Come on Australia, come on small business, come on humanity, support each other, support small businesses, support humanity because #wegotthis.

Come on Aussies… #wegotthis

By Danielle Norton-Smith