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Try this at home

try this at home
Published: April 2, 2020
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It is an occupational hazard as a leadership consultant. You're chatting to a friend over coffee, and suddenly you find yourself quoting a leadership theory or tool. My sister jokes that whenever she is in a dilemma, she can just ask: ‘Have you got a model for me, Pen?’

Well funny you should say that. Because I do. One such model that I pull out at the best of times is MVS, the brilliant offering from Impact. It's perfect for leadership, life in general, and especially for these Covid-19 times when individual and collective agency is more critical than ever.

Leadership as action

Impact are experts in developing the capacity for leadership agency. They take the inspired view that leadership is not related to position, knowledge or power. Rather it is an action – something you do or say – that can be provided by anyone, at any time.

Leadership action fills a vacuum and provides meaning, value or structure where it is absent. It is perceived as sincere, well-intentioned and reasonable in the circumstances, and mobilises others in a collective goal. MVS: Meaning, Value, Structure.

Defaults of groups

When we ask participants on our programmes to reflect on the challenges of group working, they generally identify three areas where vacuums appear.

  • Confusion: when there are unclear or disputed goals, interactions are rife with untested assumptions, and people are asking ‘why are we doing this?'
  • Exclusion: when there is an apparent disregard for individual inputs, needs and feelings, creating a sense of alienation or domination, and a lack of cohesion.  
  • Drift: when there is a lack of timelines or milestones, role confusion, or failure of resources. When there are no rules, or too many.

But look at this list.. could this also apply to your current living conditions? Is any of this happening in your family group?

In Covid-19 lockdown life, the boundaries of private and professional life are blurred, with people juggling full-time parenting, working, home-caring and homeschooling all in a confined space for 24 hours a day.

Meaning, Value and Structure

Any act of leadership that will help a group starts with noticing. Once there is awareness, there will be a decision about what is required and, with courage, the leader will act. Notice. Decide. Act.

So, in the context of these three areas:

  • Confusion requires MEANING: an action to help make sense of purpose and strategy, to provide a compelling vision, or to clarify and support communication.
  • Exclusion requires VALUE: an action which brings people in, gives value to them and their contributions, and amplifies neglected messages.
  • Drift requires STRUCTURE: an action to address uncertainty and maintain movement, to restore roles and resources, and to define space and pace.

Try this at home

So is there confusion, exclusion and drift in your household at the moment? Not sure what this period means? Is it an extended vacation? Furloughed – what? Quarantine? Or does it all feel so surreal that anything goes?

Are you like the majority of the 200 participants on the recent Impact webinar 'Leading the new normal', who identified as feeling tired and anxious? Do you feel that nobody is getting quality time? Is it difficult to cope with every individual family member’s variable emotions?

Or maybe there is some drift: the days are moulding into each other, the wine comes out on a Monday, and things feel out of balance. If so, do what you would do with your team at work. Try some Noticing, Deciding and Acting. For example:

Meaning: maybe this involves talking about the quarantine. I loved it when my niece and nephew sent me a ‘happy quarantine’ message. What is this time for you personally? Or as a family? How is it changing?

Value: maybe this is about slowing down, really being with each other, listening at deeper levels, and sharing emotions with compassion and without judgment.

Structure: maybe this is about putting in boundaries and providing routine, such as dividing roles in the household to share the load. Before the lockdown began, a friend of mine, a single mum with twins, went out to purchase a whiteboard – now it is their anchor!

MVS – a great way to move things in a positive direction, collectively, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

What are your examples of providing Meaning, Value and Structure in the #stayathome group mix?

Penelope Mavor from Earth Converse collaborates with Impact as an Associate.

Her writings can be found on