• Mark Topley

Lockdown 2.0 means back to basics

The announcement by the Prime Minister on Saturday night came as no surprise to many. With cases, and critically, hospital admissions rising, it looks inevitable that a new lockdown for England will start tomorrow. With apologies to my friends in the other home nations who have been or are already in a greater level of restriction, and with sympathy for my clients in health and fitness who will once again be forced to close, the announcement creates an urgent task for leaders - to go back to basics.

The big difference this time of course is that many sectors will remain open. Education, healthcare and food retail among them. But that doesn't mean there isn't a need for these sectors to respond quickly to the coming restrictions.

There are four things you should focus on this week to prepare for the next phase. If you commit to these things, you will go into December with a healthy, trusting team, positive reputation, and with yourself in one piece.


This really was the game changer for businesses in the first lockdown. Those that did it effectively came out with teams who were more ready to get back to work, and patients who trusted that the practice had their best interests at heart. The exceptional ones communicated well with the community at large, cementing their place as a trustworthy contributor to their locality.

It was great to see template messaging appearing in my dental social media feeds over the weekend. Already people are getting out the message that for dentistry it is business as usual.

Show Up for your team

Simon Sinek puts it well in his book 'Leaders Eat Last' when he highlights an important aspect of team engagement - building trust:

"As humans , as social animals , we are hardwired to constantly assess the information people give us and the actions they perform . It is a constant and ongoing process . We do not trust someone after they tell us just one thing , even if it is the truth . Trust evolves once we have enough evidence to satisfy our brain that a person or an organisation is , indeed , an honest broker."

And so as much as we should communicate clearly with our teams, we also have to back that up with action. What ways have you shown your team that you have their backs in the pandemic so far? What can you do now for them and for their families? Another lockdown brings uncertainty. Not so much perhaps for your immediate team, as you remain open, but perhaps for their families and children. How safe are their jobs now? Will schools have to close? What will I do about childcare again?

If you can step forward and 'show up' at a time like this, you are creating an emotional investment in your team that you will be able to draw upon in the coming months. Not only is it the right thing to do, it's the wisest course of action for the long term health of your business.

Show you are FOR people

Your patients and the wider community will respond positively to your efforts to serve and engage. We saw it in the first lockdown, with practices looking for ways to engage with patients, to provide them with useful information, to care for the elderly and those who were isolating. The results were overwhelmingly positive, not just externally but internally as well.

Horst Schulze, co-founder of Ritz-Carlton once said

“ The number one question customers are asking about a business is , ‘Do they care about me ? ’ ”

Jeff Henderson expands on this in his book 'Know what you're FOR' when he talks about the importance of community engagement:

"Who really cares that you think you’re better than your competition? Show us what you’re doing for us . Show us who you’re FOR and not who you’re against . Give us a reason to talk positively about your organisation because when you do , we’ll become a sales force for free."

The primary reason you rally around people in your community isn’t to get them to do business with you . You rally around the people in your community because they are people in your community. Again, not only is it the right thing to do, it's the wisest course of action for the long term health of your business.

Look after yourself

For anyone who thought that we were now on a steady and direct journey back to normal, the announcement is a huge disappointment.  I cant over-state the importance for you as a leader of avoiding the fall into the rabbit hole of despair. I've been there myself in the past, and it's not a pleasant place to be. With the rates of depression and most sadly suicide dramatically increasing over the past 6 months, it's more important than ever that we do everything we can to protect our own mental and physical health, and that of our teams. Here are just three things to help:

Simplify - over the weekend I made a list. I like lists. This list was 'things I can do to protect my physical and mental health'. As well as exercise, getting outside, and drinking enough water, I also had things like read a novel, play games with the kids, and limit news and social media. It's really important to identify what you know will make a difference, write it down, and make sure you are attending to it regularly.

Control the controllables - elite sport has for a long time highlighted the importance of not worrying about what you can't control. There are many things that may be true for our situation, but they're irrelevant. Lawrence Dallaglio, winner of the 2003 World Cup with the England Rugby Team said:

"We have to concentrate on the elements we can control. We are only human, some things are beyond us: I can’t control the weather, I can’t control the referee (although sometimes I may have tried!), or the bounce of the ball. But what you can control is your own performance."

So be careful how much time you spend thinking and talking about things you can't control. With your team as well, when you meet together, try and ensure that you stay off topics which are outside your 'circle of control' or 'circle of influence'. By all means stay informed, but don't get sucked in to worrying about things that you can have no impact on.

Rest and have fun - finally, avoid the trap of thinking that you can just keep going. If we fail to rest and replenish, physically, mentally, emotionally, we will burnout. And on the way there we may burden ourselves with all kinds of long term health problems. We aren't machines, and we can't behave like we are. Sooner or later we will be found out. So take time off - it's critical.

Now you know the four things to focus on this week, you'll be able to jot down a plan of how you're going to implement them. Good luck. You'll find more Lockdown Leadership advice on my website, as well as my archive on dentistry.co.uk

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