Who are you? and why does it matter

I work with people. I work with people in many different, countries and cultures. People from different backgrounds and races. People at different places and stages in their careers and in varied roles. My job is to help them make sense of their world, their priorities, their challenges and make sense of each other. One of the biggest challenge which I encounter, no matter the place or the race or the challenge is that people do not understand each other. But this is important if we are to build effective professional relationships to get work done. It was the celebrated Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung who said “If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool. We understand another person in the same way as we understand, or seek to understand, ourselves. What we do not understand in ourselves, we do not understand in the other person either”.

If we do not understand ourselves we struggle to answer the question ‘Who are you?’ I am not a psychologist but I am privileged to dabble on the edges of psychology helping people to make sense of their situation and of each other. I rely on a wide range of tools including psychometric instruments. These are psychological tools which help us to understand how we think and why we behave the way we do. I also use other tools, such as Questions, coaching, stakeholder analysis, culture mapping and confrontation because different clients gravitate towards different stimuli and different problems require different approaches. People are complex and so to think that a tool that worked well here will work well there is to go on a fool’s errand.

One of my ‘go to’ tools is the diagram on the opposite side of this page. It has the words ‘YOU’ in the middle and two concentric circles of descriptors. I use this tool to get people to talk about themselves. To tell their story. I get them to think about their own complexity. We are awkward. I get them to talk about their implicit ways of thinking. Ways of thinking that were hardwired into them at home. The inner, grey, circle is who you are at your core. Those aspects of who you are will almost completely remain with you from cradle to grave. The outer circle changes but it’s still a part of your make up.

By encouraging the people that I have the privilege to work with, to focus on who they are and to disclose more of themselves to others and to have others reciprocate has proven to be a powerful tool to unlock understanding in groups of people. A health warning here though. Please do not try this at home unless you explain that they should only share what they are comfortable sharing. This is not an opportunity for gossip or ridicule or judgement. So, for example, I often tell people about my humble beginnings. About being bullied at school simply because I was poor and black and my mother made all my clothes and my school bag and for that I was bullied. For that I was excluded. So, the experience of being bullied has become both a ‘blocker’ and an ‘enabler’ for me. As an enabler it has made me thoughtful about how I use power. How I treat with ‘los de abajo’ (Spanish for ‘the underdogs’) the poor and the powerless. Those over whom I have legal authority. I make it my business to use power in a prosocialised way.

I was a timid child but over the years, through my exposure and benefitting from the kindness of people who could influence my life, and opportunities to lead in complexity and in the face of uncertainty and danger, I have become confident of who I am. I talk proudly of my family life. We were poor but we never missed a day of school. Everyone knew that we, all 4 of us, would be on the pass list for the high school entrance exam, when our time came. The confidence I have in myself makes it easy for me to let others have their say because as it is said in the Desiderata ‘ even the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. So, who are you?

‘LET’S NOT WASTE A GOOD CRISIS’ The good side of the Covid crisis! Wot?

‘LET’S NOT WASTE A GOOD CRISIS’ The good side of the Covid crisis! Wot?

A Think piece: By Winston Sutherland – 27 June, 2020

Hardly a day has gone by since February, without grim news about the ravages of Covid. The SARS Covid 19, properly known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 which was first discovered in 2019 has been on a march across the globe from Wuhan, China to Italy, to Spain, the United Kingdom, The United States of America and now Brazil. The epicenter of the virus has waged a grim war. The toll has been high. We have seen the daily reports of persons testing positive for the virus. We have seen the spikes in admission. We have seen the numbers of the dead climb. Higher and higher. We have seen the most extraordinary and appalling and catastrophic leadership. We have seen system failure. It’s been numbing. Frightening. Lonely.

The experience of this pandemic is like nothing we have seen in my lifetime and a lot has happened. Good things and bad things. Amazing things. Exiting things. I have experienced days when the world stopped or felt like it stopped. Days like the death of John F Kennedy. The day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. The release of Nelson Mandela from prison and his rise to the highest seat in the land. We have seen the invention of the iPhone in 2007 which revolutionized the world as we knew it and which quite frankly is a modern day miracle. I actually advocate sainthood for Steve Jobs. If he had given the blueprint to someone to develop they could never have created what we now have. Why? It starts in the mind and only he could see it. So, we had those events and more but we have never seen anything like the Covid 19 pandemic. This has been mind boggling. The year 2020 was proceeding like a normal year January, February and next it’s……………June and fingers crossed to December. Is that a roller coaster ride or what?

But …’every cloud has a silver lining’

But there is a bright side to all this gloom and doom and misery. “Every cloud has a silver lining” Oh? Yes! Er, well…. here are four: First, we have been more productive working from home. We have proved that working from home is a viable way to work. We have upended the myth that work takes place in a place. We now know that work is not somewhere we go, work is something we do. Secondly, we have been more innovative. I grew up in Jamaica where we had the expression, ‘tun you han’ mek fashin’ the literal translation is ‘turn your hand and make fashion’. That means nothing to an English speaker but is the equivalent of ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. We now use the term innovation but it really is the same as inventing new things because just like innovation, every invention starts with an idea.

“I advocate sainthood for Steve Jobs”

Third, we have used technology to get stuff done like never before. From setting up home offices, to carrying out the business of our organisation to getting services from a range of providers. I have seen people who could barely operate their computers now zooming in and zooming out. Popping into this meeting. Hopping off and dashing off to another zoom room. Just like the old normal. We are as busy as ever. Even if we never leave the house for an entire week. Our eyes are wide open to the possibilities.

“We have upended the myth that work takes place in a physical place”

Fourth, Covid has been good for the environment too. The earth has had a chance to breathe. Previously hidden mountain peaks are now visible as the smog clears. Traffic! What traffic? It’s smooth sailing to work? Well, to wherever.

“The earth has had a chance to breathe.”

And one last thing before I run out of space. Families have spent time together. They have had time to have conversations, eat meals, cooked at home, together. And parents are now really clued up about school and have learnt how to enable distance learning for the little ones. It’s been a revolutionary learning experience and there have been instances of inspirational leadership. So, there’s a lot of good that we can take away from what has otherwise been an awful experience. Don’t you think? What have I missed?

Why your name matters “Don’t ask me how I got my name” – A Song by Toots and the Maytals which is more than just a song;

Why your name matters “Don’t ask me how I got my name” – A Song by Toots and the Maytals which is more than just a song;

A think piece by Winston Sutherland
20 June, 2020

I remember this song, by Toots and the Maytals, from when I was a bway (boy) growing up in the 1960’s in St. E (pronounced senti) and means St Elizabeth, a parish on Jamaica’s south coast. ‘Jamaica is the largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean’. Why oh why do they still teach that and why oh why do some Government of Jamaica ads and documents still carry that sentence? It is possibly the most irrelevant factoid ever! Ok, rant over😂. So, the first two verses of the song:

Don’t ask me how I got my name.
Don’t ask me how I got my name.
I told you once, I told you twice,
This time let’s make it quite alright.
Don’t ask me how I got my name.

I told you how I got my name.
I got this name way back in Spain
She called me ‘Mr. Santinavonoribbinanasibbinanaribbinanasib’
Don’t ask me how I got my name

So that’s Toots Hibbert’s version of how he got his name and you will notice that he can pronounce it too. ‘Mr. Santinavonoribbinanasibbinanaribbinanasib’ listen to the song in the link above. That’s a fantastic name. I think.

People who know me as Winston Sutherland are a bit bemused with my online name choices and speculate about my names. Is it because we have a mindset which says your name is what is on your birth certi? (short form of certificate in Jamaica but pronounced cerfitiket lol) Well that is your legal name and I use my legal name where I need to, but I am not restricted to my legal name. I am more than that for many reasons. In fact, my legal name only ties me to slavery. My Surname comes from a Scottish slave owner of my great, great grandfather, in St Elizabeth, Jamaica. My given name is English.

The English tradition is that you take your father’s surname but that limits your understanding of who you really are and that is why so many people undertake family searches on the numerous genealogy sites which have sprung up. Genealogy is not a new subject, doh!, St Mathew’s gospel sets out the Genealogy of Jesus Christ. ‘This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ’ etc. etc. (Jamaicans repeat words. Why? I don’t know but I know when to use it and I just did, i.e. etc. etc.). The gospel of St Luke does the same thing but both accounts are different

and that’s the point. One version is on his father’s side (no comment) and the other is from his mother’s side of the family. So, this is not new. Fidel Castro carries the name RUZ after Castro.

So, his name was Fidel Castro Ruz. Why? Ruz is his mother’s maiden name (although she wasn’t a maiden when she had him). That’s the Spanish naming convention. So, little me, and I am little, 5’ 8’ and 145 lbs for as long as I can remember, I have used several profile names on FB because I can. My registered name on FB is Winston Sutherland but my profile name has rotated through Winston Sutherland, Quashee Sutherland and Blake Sutherland and I have others which I will eventually come to, which is the point of this article. My options:

  1. Quashee = West African boy, born on a Sunday and I was born on a Sunday. It’s a corruption of Quasi or Kwasi. That is how my mother referred to me, affectionately. She taught me a lot about Africa because I never heard the word Africa in any lesson at school. Egypt, yes. Gold Coast, yes. Ethiopia yes, but Africa, No.
  2. Sutherland = My Father’s surname which he got from his father, Isaac Sutherland which he in turn got from his father, William Sutherland which takes us to 1845 shortly after the abolition of slavery in Jamaica.
  3. Blake = the surname of my paternal grandmother and cousin of former south St Elizabeth MP Vivian Blake. But I have other names:
  4. ROWE = the surname of my maternal grandmother which takes us back to her mother Mimi, born a slave in 1833. I am cousin of Jamaica’s former Chief Justice Ira Rowe.
  5. SALMON = the name of my maternal grand-father Joseph and his father which takes us back to 1850, which means his father, like my great grand-mother, was born a slave about 1830. I am cousin to the celebrated Jamaican ENT specialist Dr Barbara Salmon – Grandison.

  6. STEWART= the name of my maternal grandmother (my mother’s mother) from Big Wood (Lennox’s) in Westmoreland
  7. POWELL= the name of my maternal great grandmother (cousin of General Colin Powell)

I have just explained who I am using one element of the diagram which I used in another article a few weeks ago. I have circled the bit I used in the diagram above, self – concept or who am I? And that’s a small insight into who I am. Quashee Winston Anthony Blake Rowe Salmon Stewart Powell Sutherland the first or QuasheeWinstonAnthonyBlakeRoweSalmonStewartPowellSutherlandthefirst

Your name is core to your self-concept and now you know a bit more about me. What have you learned about you?

What useless information do you hold in your head and why? (This article is actually about leadership but that’s boring, so I put a catchy title)

A think piece by Winston Sutherland
20 June 2020

I spend a lot of my time trying to find opportunities to use some of the useless information I hold in my head. For example, I know that the coffin bone, is in the the front half of a horse’s hoof. What I can’t understand is why do I know that? Why do I know these things? I have never used this information. So, why is it using up gigabytes of storage space in my head? But there’s more, I just Googled ‘coffin bones’ and found out this bone is connected to the hoof capsule via the laminae and is also known as P3 and the pedal bone. Wot?

So, I decided to do some more research and found there are pages and pages of lists of things that I need to know, on Google. Things like:

  1. The space between your eyebrows is called the ‘Glabella’
  2. The smell of fresh rain is called ‘petrichor’
  3. The tingling sensation you get when your foot is asleep is known as ‘paresthesia’- What we normally call ‘pins and needles’;
  4. ‘Dysania’ means having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
  5. Illegible handwriting is also called ‘griffonage’.

And I could go on and on, but I won’t. If you are curious go to:

MINDSET: So what is this about? Why do we, as humans, gather ‘useless’ information?
I do not use the term ’useless’ in a pejorative sense. It’s just a way of speaking. The only thing anyone needs to know in 2020 is how to Google. The next thing to say is that this behaviour is a long standing part of our culture. When I was a child you had to know stuff. In fact the mantra was, ‘knowledge maketh a man’ and ‘Knowledge is power’. The more you knew the more doors were opened to you and the greater the respect that you got. People gravitated to you for the knowledge in your head. You gained power because of what you knew. But times have changed. It is no longer BG. We now live in AG (BG=before Google and AG = After Google) and yet I hold on to this store of ‘useless’ information. Information that I will never use except to write this article.

So, the answer has to do with our mindset. Our mindset is at the heart of culture and culture is at the heart of leadership. It is also called the paradigm. We have retained our obsession with knowing things even when we do not need to. A leader’s paradigm is also known as their ‘implicit leadership theory’. What’s going on, unconsciously in their head.

The only thing anyone needs to know in 2020 is how to Google.

Leadership is beyond knowing stuff: Average leaders know stuff. They know the answer to problems. A bit managerial. Good leaders not only know stuff but they also do stuff. Stuff like building the capability of those they lead through coaching and mentoring and providing opportunities for growth through secondments and other developmental activities. Awesome leaders have a way of being. They don’t rely on what they know or what they can do. They listen to your ideas and say ‘let’s do it’ or ‘make it happen’ and then they get out of the way and allow you to shine. They are there when you need them to remove barriers. They know that knowing stuff is not enough.

They know that they are at their most potent when they enable others to act. Kouses and Posner “The Leadership Challenge”. When they have changed through the gears from knowing, to doing, to being. When they let others shine. Because when they let others shine they are celebrated, and their reputation grows and in that moment they achieve greatness.

What kind of a leader are you being?

What’s inside your toolbox? Can you find your tools?

What’s inside your toolbox? Can you find your tools?

A think piece: By Winston Sutherland – 30 May, 2020

We all have a toolbox, whether we know and acknowledge it explicitly or not. If we didn’t we would not be able to do our work. Try cutting the lawn with without a lawn mower or cut the hedge without hedge clippers. About 10 years ago I introduced the concept of a personal toolbox to someone I was coaching and asked them to create one and show it to me. The person said they would give it a try but then they asked ‘what does it look like?’ I did a bit more explaining but it was obvious to me, from their body language that more help was needed. So I promised to send them ‘something’ before the next scheduled coaching session. Yikes! What had I got myself into? Never mind, I went and looked at toolboxes on line and decided to use the old fashioned blue tool-box at the bottom of this article.

The conversation was about tooling up as a leader, but not just tooling up but knowing what tools you have and where to find them. So, it’s no good having tools or a tool box but not being able to find the tools when you need them. Like the unorganised tool box on the right. I did my homework and sent the diagram below to the person that I was coaching and that made all the difference.

All leaders draw on a range of tools whether they know it or not. Having a broad repertoire of handy tools to use judiciously and skilfully makes you a more powerful and effective leader. I draw on a wide range of tools on a daily basis, because I do not have a normal day. I know what’s in my tool box, I know when to use them and I am constantly adding new tools. So, do you have a toolbox and do you know where to find the tools you need when you need them? What do you think?

Rethinking ‘World Class’ and Toilet Paper

Rethinking ‘World Class’ and Toilet Paper

A think piece by: Winston Sutherland – 23 May, 2020

The term world class is synonymous with the countries which are also called ‘developed’ or ‘first world’ and organisations that are described as ‘high performing’. World class is the benchmark term for what good looks like. According to Merriam-Webster, the first recorded use of the phrase was in 1939 and meant ’being of the highest calibre in the world’. Today, every developing country aspires to achieve ‘developed’ status. Many public service systems aspire to be world class, a centre of excellence, or high performing or similar tag. Countries aspire to have economies and health systems and a standard of living that meets the criteria set for world class. Organisations wanting to mimic this epithet go as far as labelling themselves ‘world class’ but as we are witnessing in the current Covid-19 pandemic this idea of world class has failed the acid test in country after country in the developed world. Even organisations specifically set up to deal with this sort of situation did not fare well. So, is it time to rethink world class? Is it time to redefine world class? Is world class the goal? And how would we go about defining and creating a world class organisation? I have set out a few ideas to complete this paper.

Being the best in the world means being the best in the world in good times and bad. Best in the normal day to day run of life as well as in a crisis. But this has not held true in the Covid pandemic. The health system of country after country in the developed world has been overwhelmed in short order. Toilet paper gave us the first indication that the system would not cope under stress and yet no one seems to be able to explain why this happened. The economy of world class country after world class country has been decimated. The toll on the poor and vulnerable has been catastrophic. It has been painful to watch the daily statistics as the death toll climbs higher and higher and as world class country after world class country has buckled in the onslaught of the Corona virus. So, is world class a thin veneer? Emperors clothes? Is this something to aspire to or is something different needed?

‘World-class’ is a pervasive characteristic of developed countries. Systems, processes, services, leadership. Everything looks and smells world-class. World-class runs through the entire system. The justice system; food supply and food quality; law enforcement; sports; education; the rule of law. The quality of the offer is consistent and unrivaled. You get the same high quality in every encounter, in every geographic region of a country. People have trust in the systems and high expectations. When those expectations are not met they are able to resort to and complain to world-class systems; Ombudspersons; Regulatory bodies etc. and they get a resolution. In countries that are not considered world-class, quality is patchy or inconsistent and complaining is akin to whistling in the wind.

World-class has to be able to withstand short term shocks. World class has to be resilient. World class has to have built-in systems and processes that respond to adverse stimuli in a robust way. Any system that crumbles within weeks cannot be considered world-class. The bar for world-class is obviously too low or is there another level to aspire to? ‘Crisis class’ perhaps? ‘Fit for purpose class’ maybe? Those phrases do not sound sexy so I don’t think they will catch on. I will need to come up with something that is catchy. Something understated like ‘iclass’ perhaps?

To end this piece, my suggestion is that world class has to come to mean something different especially as we look at building better public service systems. We have to redesign and redefine world class. Here are some starter ideas/criteria to build on:

  • Responsiveness of the system in a crisis. Developing what could be called a ‘crisis ready culture’;
  • Support mechanisms for vulnerable individuals, families and children are in place;
  • Technology is integrated into business as usual and business in crisis mode;
  • Fluid business models and delivery systems (links to the first point) are in place;
  • The system should ‘fail safe’ i.e. automatic trigger mechanisms are activated. Mechanisms known as SOPS. These would flow out of scenario planning.
  • Scenario planning is a core part of business as usual and a core element of leadership development and leadership practice. Scenario planning is about thinking the unthinkable and planning for it but hoping you never need the plan.

The above ideas, if implemented, would go some way to reducing the scrambling around that has taken place during Covid. What do you think? And what about toilet paper? What about it?

I have an idea or at least a half of an Idea! ‘How do we reopen schools safely and do we really need to go to ‘the office’?

I have an idea or at least a half of an Idea!  ‘How do we reopen schools safely and do we really need to go to ‘the office’?

A Think piece: By Winston Sutherland – 16 May, 2020

I listened the Prime Minister’s presentation on Sunday night followed by the autopsy and I got to thinking about one of the problems that came up. How to reopen our schools in a safe way.
There is quite a lot of anxiety, and rightly so, about class size and how to reopen schools safely. I think that assuming we can get the practical aspects of hygiene right it’s not as hard as we are making it out to be. Traditionally, you have a class of x numbers of students and they come to school, they do their school day and they go home each day. It’s a similar routine for teachers. Well, we can’t return to that world. We should have figured that out by now but no, we are hell bent on reopening schools the same old way. This new Covid world calls for something different.

It calls for a different mindset. A different way of delivering the same high quality service. This is true of schools as it is true of a restaurant as it is true of doing your food shopping. In the case of schools, we (i.e. teachers and parents) have significantly improved our ability to deliver learning online during Covid, so my idea is that we adopt a 2 x 1 x 2 model of service delivery. What do I mean? First, the model assumes that all children have an electronic device on which they can access online learning. Second, it assumes that all children have access to adequate wifi service. After that it’s simple.

All that needs to happen is to split each class into two. One half of the class goes to the physical school building on Mondays and Tuesdays and learn online on Thursday and Fridays. The other half of the class learns on line on Mondays and Tuesdays and goes into the physical classroom on Thursdays and Fridays. That leaves the teacher who teaches each half of the class face to face for two days and has Wednesdays for preparation and marking. So what do the children do on Wednesdays? Homework! Tutoring by Grandma or other trusted persons and of course the children get to mentor grandma on how to do stuff online? A variation of the model might be to have Friday’s as the off day and thereby create a longer weekend or a four day school week. ‘Simples’!

So, in effect the whole class is together for four days but only half of the class is physically in the classroom on any given day. This model should give parents and teachers the confidence that it’s safe for their children and teachers to be in a school where they will get 4 days of teacher-led learning per week. It’s a ‘starter idea’ which I think can work. What do you think?

Another problem the Prime Minister mentioned was the public transportation where demand outstrips supply by 10 to 1 or so we are led to believe. But does it? I mean does it need to?

The traditional way of working is to go to ‘the office’. We haven’t been able to do so for close to 100 days but we have still got a lot done. So, do we really need to go to ‘the office’? The work that many of us are doing does not require us to be in any specific space to do it. My office is wherever I am as long as I have my mobile and my laptop. We need to do work, not go to work and by working differently we can cut the use of public transport by up to 50%.

There are tools like Zoom and Webex and others. I have facilitated several workshops and team builds with people in many different places. I have chaired numerous meetings with participants in numerous different places and in all varying states of dress or undress and the meetings have been just as focused, if not more focused. Both Zoom and Webex have the ability to go into break out rooms, use a whiteboard, share a presentation (Share screen) raise a hand to speak, do a quiz (Poll), chat and you can even record the meeting and share with those who are not in attendance. This technology can also be used to deliver learning and development in a virtual ‘classroom’. About four years ago I was involved as a co-facilitator of a year-long leadership development programme with participants in about 15 countries. I was in the UK, two colleagues in Canada and the participants spread across the English speaking Caribbean and it worked exceptionally well. It was just a different way of doing it. The technology is quite mature and we need to make it work for us.

We are, to a large extent, a knowledge economy although many work in the service industry and will still need to go to a physical place to do what needs doing, but a significant number do not need to do so. Working from home gives us a greater say over when and how we work. The big challenge is for managers to get better at communicating (yes, that word) what needs to be done and by when. They do not need to see anyone doing the doing. When the work is done the individual submits the work. The manager reviews it and gives feed-back on content, on what is missing or what needs to be taken out and stop fiddling with grammar except where it is an essential quality requirement. This will improve feedback because it will require managers to be clear about what they want done and to be able to give specific and actionable feedback. It does not matter if the work was done at 2 am or 6pm.

This approach will allow parents to give their attention to their children during the hours of 6:00 am to 9:00 am and likewise in the afternoons and before bedtime. I can guarantee that managers will get better at managing work and managing their relationships and get outcomes that are just as good, if not better. What do you think?

‘COVID Speak’ – How Covid-19 has influenced the way we speak

A Thinkpiece: By Winston Sutherland – 09 May, 2020

Where did these words and phrases come from? Does someone sit in a room and make them up Justin Case they are ever needed? Just in case a pandemic or some other unexpected event comes along? There are numerous cases that I can cite, but the following two words and two phrases, will suffice as examples:

  • Exponential – word
  • Herd immunity – phrase
  • Epidemiologist – word
  • Flatten the curve – phrase

These words and phrases have come into every-day use and they roll off the tongue effortlessly. What has become of words and phrases like ‘The environment’, global warming, terrorism, daily commute etc.? ☺.

So what do these words and phrases mean?

Word number 1 – EXPONENTIAL in this context refers to the rapid rate at which the Covid virus can multiply in the community if we do not implement strategies that slow down the rate of increase in infection from person to person. The only way to defeat the spread is to achieve an infection rate of 1×1 or lower. We know that 1×1 = 1. So, if you get a spread of 1 person infecting 2 or 3 other per persons then the curve rises. So, for example, 1 person infects 3 others. Each of those persons infects three other persons which gives us 1x3x3x3 =27. Just like that! Now, if that continues then we can see the exponential growth. Try this on your own1x3x3x3x3X3x3. I know my math is rubbish but the number I got was not 1 so I get it. And that is why exponential matters and that is why we need to stay do ‘social distancing’. Another new phrase but I don’t have space to write about it.

One last point on ‘EXPONENTIAL’. If we had ‘herd immunity’ exponential would not be significant but we don’t. Which takes us to phrase number 1. ‘Herd Immunity ‘.

Phrase number 1 – Herd Immunity. (also called herd effect, community immunity, population immunity, or social immunity)

We have herd immunity against a number of illnesses. Measles, mumps, small pox etc. How did we get it? We were vaccinated when we were young. That is why we do not have annual epidemics of small pox and measles and mumps. We have outbreaks but these outbreaks are quickly brought under control. Most of those affected by these outbreaks, to the best of my knowledge, were not vaccinated, but some were.

Word number 2- Epidemiologist. I have always known that word and I figured it had something to do with epidemics and that was that. I didn’t need to know anymore, or so I thought. Well it turns out I really did not realize that these are some of the most important peeple in our communities. They are disease detectives. They investigate each outbreak of a disease, identify people who are at risk, determine how to control or stop the spread or prevent it from happening again and when they are not doing that they use what they learn during the investigation and make recommendations to prevent a future occurrence.

Phrase number 2- Flatten the curve. (not ‘flatten the CURB like I heard someone say) I first came across the concept of a curve in my first year economics class at university and I recall wondering if I was the only one who could only see a straight line. Then in first year university math we were always talking about the ‘area under the curve’ and now, all these years later along come this process of flattening the curve. The value of understanding this is not so much in being able to see the actual curve from the numerous daily data points but more in understanding the implications of a flattened curve. Flattening the curve does not mean that we have defeated the virus. It’s not time to celebrate. Flattening the curve is a public health tool for managing the virus so that the health system is not overwhelmed as we saw in Italy and in New York. Flattening the curve means fewer admissions and fewer deaths on a daily basis, but it means this is likely to continue for a longer period of time.

In a sentence, ‘Epidemiologists think that in order to prevent an exponential rise in new infections we need to acquire herd immunity and flatten the curb’ hmmm!!
Did you spot the three deliberate spelling mistakes and one oxymoron in the article? No?

Habits for a Covid World

Habits for a Covid World

A Think Piece: By Winston Sutherland – 01 May, 2020

What habits have you started in this brave, new COVID world?

What habits have you stopped?

What habits are you continuing?

Habits huh?

What are habits, why are habits important and why now?

Habits are just one more of those unconscious aspects of our lives. Ways of behaving which no longer involves conscious thought; Nail biting, thumb sucking, nose picking etc. One of those things you do without knowing that you are doing it. Unconscious competence, we call it. I don’t know what I know. In our professional life we exhibit unconscious habits, for example, taking care of one’s self and appearance or making decisions. We just make decisions and only when challenged do we talk out loud how we arrived at the decision. In a previous article I have written about the habits of leaders. In this article I want to talk about creating new habits for a COVID world.

First, why do habits matter? Stephen Covey in his book, The seven habits of highly effective people” names the seven habits he thought were important for effective leaders in pursuing a character ethic. He makes the link between values and behaviours. We have identified habits as behaviours.

So, why do habits matter now? Now, meaning in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes that this has caused to our lifestyles. Why do habits matter? Habits matter because they influence how we think, act and feel – which just about covers everything we do. We get into habits of thinking, doing and feeling. Habits are the brain‘s shortcut to behaving and feeling certain ways, it becomes automatic behaviour.

What habits have I stopped?
Since the start of this COVID experience I have stopped:
– Shaking hands;
– Sitting close to other people;
– Hugging / kissing people I meet. One of these things we do for no good reason;
– Touching my face. This one is quite difficult to not do, so it’s work in progress. Not quite a habit as yet.

What habits have I continued?
– My daily exercise routine. I have actually written it out on a sheet of flip chart paper and put it on the wall in my workout area as I no longer exercise outdoors, except for walking to the office. The best part about it is that I get to listen to music as I work out. All this in addition to using a standing desk.
– Washing my hands.
– Eating small portions;
– Drinking water and abstaining from flavoured drinks

What habits have I started and hope to continue after COVID?
– Keep practising social distancing ;
– Bumping elbows instead of a handshake;
– Writing down the names of people that I come into contact with. – I might need to help disease detectives (Public Health officials) do contact tracing if I were to become infected;
– Paying attention to how I am feeling when I awake and throughout the day;
– Researching every new word that I hear. Words like co-morbidity and epidemiologist;
– Wash hands with soap for 25 seconds. This is different from washing hands in the previous paragraph. Why? In my research I found out that the virus lives in a fat bubble and so just like washing greasy dishes, it’s soap that breaks down the fat pod in which the virus lives and eventually attacks the virus and kills it. Before I found that out my hand washing was five seconds, if that.

What causes anyone to start a habit?
First, there is a trigger, a cue: it might be a location, time of day, emotional state, thought, belief, other people, a pattern of behaviour. In the case of COVID the trigger is the fear of getting the virus;
This then triggers a routine, the behaviour itself. Washing hands for 25 seconds;
Then you get the reward. Feeling safe and protected from COVID.
How do I start a new habit?
Identify the behaviour that you want to become a routine subconscious behaviour;
Identify the benefits;

In my own case, in the current situation, I wanted to be able to trace people that I have come into contact with and so I have started to make it my job to pay attention. The time, the place, the person etc. Next, I started writing this information down. I developed a habit of keeping a notebook when I was about 19 years old in my first week at Sandhurst and now that habit is coming in handy;

The next building block is to repeat the behaviour at every opportunity until it becomes an unconscious behaviour. Remember, it will take some time for this to become a routine behaviour. A habit. Do not read any further.

Space filler – I have completed the article but the columns are not symmetrical. I am filling up the space with words. I could increase the font or change the column margins but I decided to do this. You couldn’t help yourself, Could you?

Well there you go! One habit that you might want to think about stopping. ☺