The team is more important than me

It’s been 8 weeks of lockdown for me & my family and as I sit here in the baking sun thinking about isolation, I’m reflecting on what has happened and what maybe around the corner.


Draining. Fun. Stressful. Challenging. Shattered dreams. Grateful. Just some of the words that spring to mind.


One of the hardest things for me personally has not being able to see my brave mum who has had round 5 & 6 of her Chemo therapy (thank you Christies). We are all hoping she gets the all clear soon and we can celebrate with her properly (when the government lifts some restrictions).


March 23rd - Boris announces lockdown, my phone goes wild with panic from the team, family and friends. What does it mean? How are we going to cope? Are we going to survive?


The week or two following the announcement was terrible and effected so many people. My team panicked like never before and my first reaction was shit, but my second reaction was to fight, stay positive and to not let Covid beat us.


2020, the 10th year anniversary for MRJ, was meant to be a year of celebration. We had started better than ever, we were in a great place AND the team even said I’d become Happy Jode overnight (my nickname is Miley: Apparently I come in like a wrecking ball”)


We had grown to 12, new clients had come on board, we’d taken on an advisor, the plans in place for the year were set, we set out our MRJCharity10 events for the year (which have now been pushed back for obvious reasons) and we continued giving back to the community by sponsoring a few great events (MancJS, TechLeadsNW & MCR Digital Festival).


I remember coming home one night in early March and turning to my wife and saying: “You know what, it feels for the first time in ages that we are going places and I’m happier than ever”.


AND THEN bloody Covid19 hit the world and the UK hard.


Boris announces lockdown and within 48 hours, 90% of our clients stopped recruiting overnight. Half the recruitment industry was made redundant or furloughed. “The shitty recruitment industry is getting what it deserves” said one, “it’s about time everybody realises that recruitment companies are not needed and they are cheating a living” said another. Nice!


The days that followed were draining for me and for so many of the UK population. My team were panicking like never before, and my wife was worried for my mental state that 4pm glass of wine very quickly became a ritual.


I could have panicked. I could have thrown the towel in. It definitely felt easier to give up. BUT I owed it my team to step up and most importantly I wanted to ensure that my staff (and their families) were ok before me (meaning no pay for myself and family for the time being) and this has been the theme for the last 2 months.


We are not quitting through this and my goal is to keep the team strong and together through this pandemic. I’ve been through recessions before, it’s not fun, it’s definitely a fight and we are ready for the challenge.


We are finding ways to keep the spirits up, we have created a new MRJ Power Base, we have launched new recruitment models and I personally have found out more about the team in the last 8 weeks that I would have done in the office.


Every day starting at 10am, the team (+ the kids) comes together for a zoom chat and we set out the day. We have introduced daily HiiT sessions at 12pm (clients and contacts are now joining in), coffee and chat sessions (not work related) at 2:30pm (everybody is drawn out of a hat randomly by my boy Beau), a team catch up at 5pm and we always finish the week with beers and a quiz.


People have asked how I monitor the team performance and whether I have suddenly introduced hard KPI’s (we don’t rely on numbers, we focus on quality) to monitor the team (especially as they are at home) and make sure they are working: “How can you trust your team?” I was asked. Simple! I trust them 100% and they repay me with my belief in them. You can make 100 calls (because someone says you need to make 100 calls) and get nowhere OR you can make quality calls with a purpose and succeed.


We’ve had our wins and losses. I’ve had a few breakdowns, my wife and kids too. I seem to hate Wednesdays (don't ask me why, they just don't work). I don’t remember what sleep is without Co-Codamol (I’ve had terrible toothache for the last 6 weeks just to add to everything else). And i'm pretty useless at most high school subjects these days.


It’s been a challenge but it’s been great fun.


I’m delighted now that the team don’t ask me every day if they are being furloughed or made redundant (that was a common theme throughout April which is understandable), they are comfortable knowing that they are more important to me than I am to myself and as long as we continue working together as a one team unit, we will come out of all this positively.


Many have said to me I’m lucky that my wife can look after the kids whilst I work whilst other. Which is true. However, her business (Arts & Crafts clubs and parties) has diminished over night and I would certainly feel much better if all the hours she had put it in building her business over the last few years hadn’t been for nothing as right now it certainly feels like it for her. So I’d certainly prefer her to be busy than not.


It’s been mentally draining, I’ve drank a lot (A LOT), I’ve slept little but I see a lot of positives moving forward and I’m sure our clients and candidates will benefit from the extra hours of learning (and working) we have all been putting in over the last 8 weeks.


More than anything I have learnt that family is more important than money. Money buys happiness? Maybe, but the time spent with the kids and my rock of a wife recently is something I will treasure. Being able to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with the kids every day has been special and I, like many I’m sure, will definitely be taking advantage of new remote WFH policies being introduced.


I know many are in a worse of position than myself and I/we have seen first hand when candidates due to start have their lives thrown upside down when their offers have been pulled at the last minute which has made me sick and worried for them and their family. I simply hate reading terrible stories or hearing first hand from clients/candidates of what they are going through, but we have to stay positive, and believe that good times are around the corner.


Try and embrace what you have more than ever. And for you leaders out there remember, the team is your priority, they are all going through different problems and you have to be there for them, supporting them where necessary and acting as their mental health coach if needed.


Who knows what the next months and years to follow will bring. The only thing I know is that, my family is my top priority and my team are fucking awesome. 


Oh and I’ve also learnt that my science teacher, my History teacher and my Geography were right 20 years ago - I’m bloody useless when it comes to Solids, Liquids & Gases, WWIII and Capitals of the world but I’m trying (sorry to my 11yr old who is relying on my knowledge for some home-schooling).


*Unfortunately we did lose 3 trainees which I’m absolutely gutted about but everybody else is fine and we have stuck together like never before.*

And I want to say a massive thank you to the NHS workers and those on the frontline, without you none of the above would be possible.