Change! - Six Months On
Change! - Six Months On
https://asa1cadmoremedia.blob.core.windows.net/asset-03d781b1-c759-4ee1-b8ac-865d0fc3b53e/Society Street Webinar 4.mp4
TRACY GARDNER: Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us. Welcome to Society Street. This is our fourth webinar. I'm just going to take a moment for everybody to get logged in and settled down. And so just give everyone a moment, so we don't launch right into it, because I know, sometimes it takes a while for everybody to get their tech sorted out.
TRACY GARDNER: So yes. Thank you for joining us. As I say, this is our fourth webinar that Society Street are running. We had a bit of a break over the summer. We had August off. Quite a strange break it was for many of us, I know. But for those of us who've been with us before, welcome back to Society Street.
TRACY GARDNER: For those who are new to our webinars, we're really glad to have you here. Welcome. I hope you enjoy this one. So just to give you some background, for the people who haven't joined us before, back in March we were planning to hold an in-person event, a conference in Washington, D.C. It got canceled. We flipped it quite last minute actually, quite late in the day.
TRACY GARDNER: We realized we had to move it. We flipped it to an online event. And although we tried to replicate the program as best as we could, we didn't really have time to cover all of the topics we wanted to in-depth. So we decided to launch a webinar series and this is the fourth one in that webinar series. We also knew that a lot was going to change between March and September.
TRACY GARDNER: Now that may be the understatement of the century. But we knew that the world would look a very different place in September to the one that we left in March. So we were really keen to invite Cindy and Mary, who were our keynote speakers back in March, back to speak to us again so, really, we could hear more on their thoughts of how the last six months have been, how it impacted on all of us, on the way that we run our lives and our businesses.
TRACY GARDNER: And what their crystal ball is showing for the future. So I'll just ask Cindy and Mary in a moment to introduce themselves. But first, I really want to just say a note of thanks to our sponsors. It really is down to the continued support of our sponsors that we have been able to offer both the online conference in March and all of these webinars for free.
TRACY GARDNER: So they're available on demand for free. They're available to join for free. So we would really like to thank Elsevier and Wiley, who are our Gold sponsors, alongside Silverchair, Consort Strategy, ALPSP, AJE, Cadmore Media, Atypon, Cactus, and Renew Consultants. So thank you very much to the sponsors and that continuing support and generosity. Just on a housekeeping issue, we'd really like to hear your questions.
TRACY GARDNER: We don't have presentations today. This is just a conversation. And we'd really like to hear your questions and have your input, so we can discuss them. And we invite you to chat as we go along. We have muted your mics, but you can chat via the chat function. And if the chat window hasn't opened as a default, you can find-- there's a blue button somewhere that you can open at the bottom of the screen.
TRACY GARDNER: Try not to close the chat function, as I always find I can never find the blue button to open it again. So just a word of warning from me. So we met last week to prepare for this session. And we had a very lively time and a great chat, so we can assure you that we have quite a lot to say for ourselves. But we would really like to hear from you.
TRACY GARDNER: And so we are all hoping that you will also help shape the conversation. So as I said, please jump on the chat. Introduce yourself. Start asking questions. We've got Simon Inger and Sam Burrell on the chat as moderators. And they will help sign post your questions and comments to us as well.
TRACY GARDNER: So without further ado, a few brief introductions. I'm the chair today. I'm Tracy Gardner. I'm a consultant with Renew Consultants. I've been consulting for about 12 years, and I've been involved with Society Street from the start. I work with many societies, helping them with their strategy and their communication and their engagement with their community.
TRACY GARDNER: And of course, over the last six months, it has brought some very interesting projects to our door, as we all try and figure out how to operate and adapt in this new way of living and working. So that's me. That's my experience. I will now hand over to our speakers to introduce themselves. And then we'll kick off with some questions.
TRACY GARDNER: So Cindy, can I come over to you first, please?
CINDY SPARROW: Of course. Thanks, Tracy. And thanks for having me back on. I'm happy to be here with everyone. I'm Cindy Sparrow, and I am a partner and consultant with Consort Strategy. So I do a lot of work in strategy, in leadership development, and essentially, in a lot of human transformation, whether it's on a personal or professional level or an organizational level.
CINDY SPARROW: I do have a background in emergency services. For the past 24 years up until March, I was in a senior leadership role for the last 14 years within emergency services. So I certainly have a lot of experience with change and crisis and some of the impacts that we have on that and how to recover and move forward. So I'm happy to bring all of that stuff today to our conversation and happy to be here.
TRACY GARDNER: Great. Thanks, Cindy. Over to you, Mary. Could you just say a few words about yourself?
MARY WILLIAMS: I'm Mary Williams. And I'm a features editor with the American Society of Plant Biologists, which is a professional society for plant biologists. I was invited way back before COVID to talk about the exciting things we've been doing to bring early career researchers into our community and help our community evolve through these changing demographics. And then of course, we sort of laugh now about the fact that all of a sudden, we had to talk about change in a different way.
MARY WILLIAMS: And of course, now we're back again. Still talking about change. It's been a crazy time. And I'm delighted to be back and learn and share and hear from you about the last six months and what it's been like. And what we have to look forward to.
TRACY GARDNER: Right, Mary. Yes, thank you very much. Cindy, I know when we talked last week, we kind of opened the conversation. And I know a lot of the things that you said very much resonated with me and I think resonated with Sam as well, as we were discussing through this. I'd like to revisit that, if we can. And so if I can direct the first question to you, Cindy, about if you could talk us through what's happened to us, really, in the last six months.
TRACY GARDNER: And why we may be feeling the way we do right now. What's happened to us as individuals and as a society? I think to set the scene, I think that would be really helpful if I can hand that over to you.
CINDY SPARROW: Of course. So for those of us that did join us six months ago on our first webinar, if you remember, it was all about change. And I talked about the psychology of change and how change impacts us. So we talked about the grief cycle and how as we go through changes, the change cycle actually mirrors the grief cycle. And we have had, if anything, tons and tons and tons of change in the last six months.
CINDY SPARROW: And I want to talk today a little bit about surge capacity. So in a crisis or a disaster, we are equipped with surge capacity, which is a set of mental and physical qualities that help us cope through this abnormal circumstance when we're going through a disaster. The constant change that comes up at us. It gives us a chunk of time and ability to be able to manage that.
CINDY SPARROW: But we are far beyond a disaster. If we were recovering from a natural disaster or a crisis, we would already know kind of what everybody's calling our new normal is. We'd be well into it. We'd be well into recovery phase. And we'd kind of have solid ground under our feet. But a global pandemic has not offered that for us. We're not done yet.
CINDY SPARROW: We're still right in the middle of it. Things are changing all of the time. And in fact, many of us have sent our children either back to school this week or started homeschooling them again. We've had change after change after change. So amongst all those different changes and that grief cycle that we're constantly challenged with, we've depleted our surge capacity, which is our ability to handle that for a short term and to cope well.
CINDY SPARROW: And so I think it's important that we talk about that today, because I want people to be able to understand that the ways that they're maybe reacting to this or experiencing this are completely normal. And you're not broken. It can feel a lot like low-grade depression, where your motivation is not there. Maybe it's tougher to get up in the morning. Or we're not sleeping well at night.
CINDY SPARROW: We feel-- really, for me, what I'm feeling is sometimes the extreme lack of creativity and productivity I have. I feel like I should be doing better. And I mean, I know who our observers are right now today. And I know who we are on the panel. We're high achievers. We like to get things done. We like to make our difference in the world.
CINDY SPARROW: And it's been tough for us to do that. And it's felt really tough for us to do that. And it feels like we're doing less than, so we can beat ourselves up for it and feel really terrible about it. It can feel like we're not achieving what we need to. And that's simply because if you really take a step back and think about it, we're in this constant change cycle where we're relearning and learning again.
CINDY SPARROW: And what we did yesterday, we're now doing different the next day. And if we just think about all of the things that we've gone through and our ability to only manage it for a short term, we're actually all doing much better than we think we are, even though it feels really yucky right now. It can feel really yucky at times. Yeah.
TRACY GARDNER: I think that's interesting what you were saying there, Cindy, actually, because I know one thing that I started to do is to try and list the things I had achieved in a day, rather than keep on thinking about all the stuff I hadn't got done or hadn't achieved or hadn't done well. And you're right. You're sort of thinking about all the things that you should be doing, because you don't feel that you're doing the best job that you can be doing.
TRACY GARDNER: Because of course, we're not cutting ourselves-- so you're basically saying we're not cutting ourselves any slack for the fact that we are all going through an unprecedented time. And we are all under an undue amount of stress.
CINDY SPARROW: Absolutely.
TRACY GARDNER: Essentially.
CINDY SPARROW: That's absolutely right. Because we often set the bar so high for ourselves. We don't expect others to jump over it, but we expect ourselves to jump 10 or 20 feet past. We're not able to operate at our usual capacity. But these aren't usual times. You're absolutely right. So I think just acknowledging that it feels yucky right now and there's a reason. And it's not anything that you're doing.
CINDY SPARROW: And that if people aren't necessarily talking about it, most of us are feeling it. And it's OK. It's just part of the process.
TRACY GARDNER: I think it's quite reassuring to hear that, actually. Because you see people nodding. And when I'm talking to people about this, I think everyone is feeling it in a very similar way. And I think it's the reassurance, actually, that we're all in this together and we're all feeling the same. Mary, does that resonate with you at all, anything Cindy has said there? Have you kind of got any similar thoughts or feelings or anything to add there?
MARY WILLIAMS: I think, personally, having been walking the dog the last few days through the leaves that are coming down, it's really hit me that the good part of the season here in northern Scotland is behind us. We're getting ready to enter winter, what I always call the season of the long dark. And the idea that I can't talk to anybody inside a closed room for the next six months and I can't spend any time outdoors either.
MARY WILLIAMS: Yes, I can go for a walk with the dog. But it's cold and rainy and horrible. And I'm certainly not going to sit outside in a cafe and talk to friends. I'm finding that this is a much harder time right now. This equinox period when the days are getting rapidly shorter and it's really hitting me. What I didn't see so much in March, where we knew it was a catastrophe and everything was horrible.
MARY WILLIAMS: But I certainly didn't expect that we would essentially still be in the same place in six months when we met. I was hoping that we would talk about the past, not the future of this pandemic.
TRACY GARDNER: Exactly. I think that's a really interesting point, Mary, is that six months ago, I think we-- and actually, we put this in place for six months' time, thinking we'd be out the other end of it by then. And then we can reflect back and think about what we've learned. But actually, as both you and Cindy are saying, we're actually still in the middle of it. We don't know quite what's coming next. So I mean, from both your experiences-- you both work-- Cindy, I know you work with clients.
TRACY GARDNER: Mary, you've got internal clients. And in your jobs, how do you think individuals that you both know have responded? I think this is kind of a question for both positively and negatively. And I think it's important that we talk about the negative as well as the positive, because I think we can't sugarcoat this. We have to talk about the negative things that have happened and how people have responded.
TRACY GARDNER: But also, there have been quite a lot of positives. So I'd like to talk organizationally. But I think it's really important that we also talk about individuals and personally, because obviously we all as individuals make up our organizations. So if you could share some experiences you have about how either people you've met or yourselves have responded both individually and negatively to what's happened here.
CINDY SPARROW: Sure. I'm happy to start if you'd like, Mary. I can think of myself. I can think of people I know. And then the things that I've seen going on in our world. Really, COVID has brought us a lot of loss. A lot of loss in the way we manage our daily lives, in the way we take care of ourselves. We can't go out to a restaurant. We couldn't get a haircut for a long time.
CINDY SPARROW: The outlets that we normally have for recreation were no longer available to us. Like Mary says, we can't really sit in a closed room with the people you care about and have a conversation, because it's too risky. I think that those have had negative impacts on our psyche quite a bit. The way we school our children. We had to homeschool them.
CINDY SPARROW: We have people that we care about that may be getting sick or we're worried about getting sick. I mean, we've had so many of those things go on. And so, I think it's really important to acknowledge the negative as well. I mean, it would be easy to sit there and not move forward. But what I have seen a lot-- and what I've experienced as well-- is personally, if you remember me sharing in March, I had retired from emergency services at the end of February.
CINDY SPARROW: And I had began my career with Consort as a partner, as an international consultant. And I landed back in Canada after being in the UK for two weeks on March 12th. And six hours later, they shut the borders. And they were restricting travel and all of those kinds of things. I haven't been anywhere else since. I could have chose to decide, well, that's it.
CINDY SPARROW: Let's pack it in. Obviously, I can't travel anywhere, so this isn't going to work. But that is absolutely not what happened. My business partner and I and our team just decided that we were going to take a really good look at how can we serve people in this time of need? People need help and support to be able to get through.
CINDY SPARROW: They need to know about techniques and have tools and have somebody to lean on during this time, so they can get themselves and their teams through this. Because the people we work with are in the association sector. They're in the non-profit sector. They're in the public safety sector. They're in the professions that help others do their best work, too. They're very critical roles.
CINDY SPARROW: And so we decided, OK, we're going to lean all the way in. And we're going to roll up our sleeves and we're going to do everything we can to help people get through this time. And at the same time, we're going to find new ways to serve our clients. If it can't be face to face, how can we just help them get through this? Not thinking about necessarily the business aspect, but just thinking about how do we help move things forward together and we can all be OK.
CINDY SPARROW: So we've had a lot of great successes in that regard. And we've realized some of the other things that we want to do on top of that. And while other people are shutting their doors during that time, with the mindset that we decided to take, we've added two people to our team, because we're busy enough to do that. And we're able to help support and serve others. So I have to say, what could have been negative really turned into a positive.
CINDY SPARROW: And if you look at that across the globe, I mean, people can't go to gyms. But they were having outdoor Zumba classes where somebody would stand on their balcony and everybody else would join in. I mean, people found ways to connect and serve different ways and be involved different ways and have more sense of community than ever before. Because we were in a situation where you can choose not to and not be OK.
CINDY SPARROW: Or you can choose to, and make the best of a situation.
TRACY GARDNER: Yeah, and do you also think that-- I mean, I've now seen the inside of all my colleagues' houses. I've met quite a lot of my client's children. I've heard a lot of their dogs. I mean, it happened. We were chatting last week when one of my children came in. And actually just before this started, we had surprise things going on in my background. So do you think the fact that some barriers have come down in our lives between the professional and the personal, do you think that has impacted?
TRACY GARDNER: And I know, Mary, you had some kind of interesting thoughts on this. So I'd like to-- after maybe Cindy's commented on that, I'd like to come to you. Because I think that you've got an interesting take on what's happened with you and within your organization in that as well. But I do get the sense that now the barriers have come down, it has an impact.
TRACY GARDNER: And are they going to go back up? Has this been a change that is unlikely to be dialed back? Is this going to be something that we just see now? And what impact do you think that's had? Because I think for me, it's made everything much more-- it's personalized a lot of my work, actually. Because the boundaries and the barriers have very much become blurred.
CINDY SPARROW: I agree. So you've made a perfect point. We have become much more human in our work together, because we had to. And I hope that doesn't go away. We've seen organizations where we don't work in the same way that we do. Now we are in each other's homes, looking at their backgrounds, their bookshelves, their pictures on the wall.
CINDY SPARROW: Their children coming in, their dogs barking. I hope that mine doesn't.
TRACY GARDNER: Mine's just trying to get in, actually.
CINDY SPARROW: But do you know, it's just become more real and human than it ever has before. And I know we talked about this last week and I wanted to make sure I brought it up today. We bring our whole human to work and to home all the time. I hope that long gone are the days where we decide that I'm at the office. I have to check my personal life. Because that's not real. I mean, there's always the interconnection, no matter what we do.
CINDY SPARROW: And it impacts us wherever we go. And when we can show up and be real and treat each other with that kind of respect and understanding, I feel like there's much more trust on teams. And because of that, more psychological safety. Because of that, more innovation, more moving the needle forward on the issues that matter and impact us, because we're able to work together and know each other better.
CINDY SPARROW: It just really improves relationships and realness.
TRACY GARDNER: Yeah.
CINDY SPARROW: Yeah.
TRACY GARDNER: I mean, I would definitely agree with that, Cindy. And I know, Mary, when we talked last week, I think you had some examples of this within your society and your organization as well. Can you say a bit more about that?
MARY WILLIAMS: Sure. I think what we really saw was a difference in vulnerability. We originally are-- the message we were hearing about public health was that older people were vulnerable and younger people were less vulnerable. But professionally, what we really saw clearly was that younger people-- and because most of our people in our society are in an academic sort of track, they go through a period anyway of professional vulnerability where they have to be striving through PhD and postdoc and hoping one day to land a permanent job.
MARY WILLIAMS: Well, of course, this is not a time to be hoping to land a permanent job. Universities are broke. Most hiring positions have been frozen and are unlikely to happen. Yet, the government hasn't necessarily decided to extend everybody's grant by an infinite amount of time while people sort things out. More critically for the early career scientists, most of our scientists are experimental scientists.
MARY WILLIAMS: And they've been--
TRACY GARDNER: We've got an air base nearby and I think they are training. [LAUGHTER] Sorry.
CINDY SPARROW: Just a flyby. No big deal.
MARY WILLIAMS: They lost access to their research. And if you're a senior professor, you're probably writing a book. Or you've got some papers on the go. But if you're a PhD student or a postdoc, suddenly you're excluded from not only your ability to do anything productive, but also the model that you're moving forward towards a publication which will eventually land you your next job. So we really found that although the public health experts was claiming that these people were less vulnerable to the virus, they were vastly disproportionately affected by the stress of the inability to go to work.
MARY WILLIAMS: And so one of the things that came up-- and when we talked last time back in March, I talked about the need for societies to be quick and resilient and able to take up opportunity. So my analogy was don't be a dinosaur, be a bird. So we were asked to mid-March, right when the lockdown happened, if we would launch an online webinar series with distinguished scientists, speakers, as well as early career scientists, who would talk about their work.
MARY WILLIAMS: And we would broadcast to anyone in the world who wanted to attend. And this would, in a way, give people something to do, as well as an opportunity maybe to give a talk. And kind of give this sense of normality and you were still part of this community. So it was posed to us is something we might want to organize.
MARY WILLIAMS: It was clear that the people who were proposing it were going to do it anyway. So we had a short amount of time to decide, do we want to be involved, or not? And so we made the decision that we would be involved. And by April 1st, we launched our first webinar. And these have been very, very, very successful. We've had many hundreds of people attending live. We've had many thousands of people watching the replay on YouTube.
MARY WILLIAMS: Everything is made free. And we've had endless thanks from people in the community for having done this. So I think it's been a hugely beneficial thing. But the decision to do it was made in record time. I mean, I don't think our professional society has ever made a decision in less than six months. And we made this in about six days. We did, at the time, think that we would only be doing it for a few months.
MARY WILLIAMS: So then we had to make this decision. And again, I was thinking by September we would not need it anymore, because people would be back in the office. So we've actually-- we took a little break as well. And we've now resumed the series yesterday with season two, if you want to call it that. So that, again, I think was a decision that was made largely to benefit the early career scientists who were feeling really at loose ends.
MARY WILLIAMS: The impact it's had has been very positive for us as a professional society. Because we have come across as someone-- an organization who cares deeply about the people we represent. I think we could have played it safe and maybe said, well, that sounds complicated. But by stepping up-- as Cindy said, stepping up and showing that we could pitch in and do something, we've gotten an awful lot of thanks and praise.
MARY WILLIAMS: And one big effect also has been that because we're plant scientists, our author community is very international. We have people doing research all around the world that publish in our society journals. And yet they often are unable to attend some of our live events, because it's obviously quite expensive to travel to the US. So we also had our conference as a virtual conference. And one man came from South Africa.
MARY WILLIAMS: And he brought his entire lab. And he said never before would he have been able to bring his entire lab to a conference. But now that we'd made things virtually, we've sort of torn down these borders that prevent people from working together. And we've really seen-- I think that the younger people were well aware that there's an international community that you can collaborate with.
MARY WILLIAMS: But some of the more senior people weren't really tuned into the fact that you can actually do your entire job online in many cases. And so they've now suddenly discovered, hey, maybe we can have a webinar about science policy. We can talk to people without actually having an auditorium. So there's been benefits to the young people, to the older people, to the more established.
MARY WILLIAMS: I think there's also been a lot more communication across borders and across generations. So I've actually seen a good amount of positivity coming in.
TRACY GARDNER: And I think one thing I'd like to pick up on, actually, and I'd quite like Cindy's input on this as well. Because I think that you said something that was really important there, Mary, about how your organization normally takes six months to make a decision about something. And actually made the decision really quickly. So I think that very, very neatly led us on to what I'd like us to talk about next, which is how organizations respond to the need to change and have change forced on them.
TRACY GARDNER: And you know, culturally, what does this mean for an organization? How do they do it? So how did your organization go from an organization that normally takes six months to make a decision, to an organization that can actually just do it? And what does it mean if you're working in an organization that doesn't do that and can't do that? And how can you-- so there's basically two questions here, really.
TRACY GARDNER: One is that I'd like you to share some experiences that you have, Cindy, with your clients, and Mary, about how organizations do-- how they responded positively to this change. And if we're working within organizations that aren't responding as positively as they perhaps can do, what sort of things can we do within those organizations? And I know that's a big question and that's quite a tricky question.
TRACY GARDNER: But I think there probably are people on this call now who are listening, thinking there's lots of things we could do and I've got lots of ideas. But how do we get our organization to actually implement them and go with the change and be innovative, rather than being very cautious? And being how, typically, a lot of societies are, which is very cautious and taking a long time to make a decision.
TRACY GARDNER: So I don't know, Cindy, if you've got any thoughts on that.
CINDY SPARROW: I really do. Actually, Tracy, I picked up on the same thing Mary was saying. And I was itching for a chance to contribute. What I love is when you talked about your organization normally takes six months to make a decision on something and it took a short amount of time to get it done. What I've seen and what I've experienced in some of the associations that I sit on the boards of, is that that's exactly what happened. People decided that you know what, we cannot get tied up in the red tape.
CINDY SPARROW: We have to do the right thing by people. And it has to be quickly. And so when I reflect on the organizations that I've worked with or the international associations that I'm a part of-- particularly in the public safety one that I'm a part of-- we mobilized quickly to make sure that we were sharing information and data and case studies and all kinds of information.
CINDY SPARROW: So that we could absolutely advocate and influence. Public safety communicators, the men and women in the 911 centers, the 999 centers, or whatever three-digit emergency number centers, they aren't always considered an essential service in the countries that they work in. And that meant they did not have the same access to protective equipment. Personal protective equipment, like gloves and masks and those kinds of things.
CINDY SPARROW: And they're in a very close quarters room where there could be tens or hundreds of them, depending on the size. So we have to keep these people safe while they come and do their work to keep the community safe. And so the strides that we made, just in that one association alone to make sure that we're sharing information, and get that taken care of all the way across North America, Europe, and Australia and New Zealand, was unbelievable.
CINDY SPARROW: We actually just had a session on it last weekend, where we're writing our lessons learned for COVID. So that's one example of how people have just leaned in and done the right thing by the people they serve and not got caught up in the red tape. And why I think-- there's other organizations who have also had policy changes really quickly.
CINDY SPARROW: And done other things to advocate and influence to help their members that they serve be able to do their best work out in the communities as well, in a very short order. We've changed the way we offer events in education, like Mary said. Instead of one or two people being able to afford to come to a conference, now hundreds of people can join in on webinars in an organization. And everybody gets the shared learning.
CINDY SPARROW: And everybody gets to put that into play. And that makes us stronger together. We get to reach more people because of this. I hope that's one thing that never goes away. I do agree that in-person events are definitely beneficial. But let's not stop the access to the information and education that we've had and that we've seen through COVID. I think that's imperative for everybody growing in the right direction.
CINDY SPARROW: Yeah, when I think about the organizations that we've worked with and served, I just am so impressed with how they have leaned in and absolutely made those changes. And like I said, I hope that it doesn't go away. I hope that we continue that practice in the long run. Hand it over to Mary, sorry.
TRACY GARDNER: Yeah. Mary, do you think it's because-- I think, Cindy, what you're saying, do you also think it's because all of a sudden, we are in a crisis point? And so people recognize that they have to set aside a lot of their processes and procedures and maybe internal politics that we all battle with all of the time. You have to set that aside.
TRACY GARDNER: So a period of great change and a period of great disruption actually gives you the opportunity to be able to move beyond some of what kind of holds you back within organizations. And what maybe lots of people find frustrating about their organizations, about getting held back, is that that all becomes irrelevant in times of great crisis. So Mary, do you have anything else to add on that with how your organization-- I mean, I know there's been lots of positives about what's happened.
TRACY GARDNER: But I'd be interested to get your view on how that's happened organizationally for you.
MARY WILLIAMS: Well, we also had our annual meeting virtually. And much of that was pre-recorded talks. We had a fee. So it was, in some ways, modeled on the model of an annual conference in that it was accessible to some people. But we had more than twice as many people attend as normal. The fees were lower, because we didn't have to pay for the conference center. And we had some really nice events.
MARY WILLIAMS: I think one of the things that we're doing now-- we've kind of had our first wave of the webinars. We've had our annual conference. And now we're going to take a little time to reflect. And I think even though the crisis isn't over, I feel like change has slowed down enough that we can pause and think. So what we want to do is we want to think about, OK, what will we have next year?
MARY WILLIAMS: Will we have a meeting? Will we have a hybrid meeting? Probably. Even if the best case scenario, I think we've learned that by having the availability of the lectures online-- which we've never done in the past. I think we realize that that is a benefit. We had nice Zoom social events where people were randomly assigned into breakout rooms, and I had a chance to meet lots of different people that I would not have met otherwise.
MARY WILLIAMS: And I think we'll definitely continue with that, as part of our ongoing activities, including our annual meeting. And just having small demographic or topical organizations and groups who want to get together. That's my dog. Sorry. My dog's outside with the kids. But you know, having added this webinar series, now we have to say, OK, we want to continue it.
MARY WILLIAMS: People would like us to continue it. But is that at the expense of something else? And that is, I think, the question we have to do now. We can't do everything. And we have to think, what are our priorities? Maybe we say we do this until x point in time. Or maybe we say we will always do this. But we'll do something else that we won't do. Maybe we'll have to evolve away from doing something else.
MARY WILLIAMS: So yeah, I don't think we know the answers yet. I know that we made the right decision. And as I said, we are continuing to do these webinars. We will continue to have a hybrid-- at least a virtual aspect to our meetings. Hopefully, an in-person aspect as well. I think we've learned from those as well. So yeah, we'll see what comes next. It's not entirely clear to me.
MARY WILLIAMS: But I'm looking forward to figuring it out.
TRACY GARDNER: I think actually that brings us on to another interesting question, actually. Because I think in some ways, we've been-- for the last six months, we have been in crisis mode. We're firefighting. We've been able to, as an organization, have set aside some of those politics and those internal bits of bureaucracy, because we are in crisis. I feel that we're clearly not out of the woods and we are in this new normal everybody keeps talking about.
TRACY GARDNER: So perhaps, we don't feel that we're in crisis anymore. Our old habits are going to kind of draw back in. I suppose the question really is about how do we handle the continuing change? How do we plan for such uncertainty, when I think the last six months, we planned by just going, we're just going to give it a go. Because everybody is very forgiving. I mean, I think we found that with Society Street.
TRACY GARDNER: We just said, well, let's put it online. And everybody was very forgiving. And everybody was really encouraged and excited about us doing it. So it didn't really feel like much of a risk at the time. Because we just thought, well, let's just do it. I think we've moved on. We're six months on, aren't we? We've been through that period.
TRACY GARDNER: So what now? Because we can't constantly be in the, well, let's just do it and see what happens. Because we've got some long-term planning to do. So how do organizations cope with the uncertainty of the next six months to a year? We know there's going to be change. We don't quite know what that's going to be. Do we want to be cautious?
TRACY GARDNER: Do we want to be pushing-- is it the time not to be cautious and throw it to the wind, because what the hell, we should just do anyway? I mean, I don't know the answer to that. I think sitting six months on, that's quite difficult. It's quite difficult. From a management point of view, how do we plan? So I suppose my next question is, what next? We've had some exciting times.
TRACY GARDNER: We've seen some negatives. We've seen some positives. We understand a lot more about ourselves. I think we've got barriers that are broken down like you said, Cindy. But what now? Where do we go from here? It's kind of an open question to both of you, really.
CINDY SPARROW: I'm happy to start I like what you said about how people absolutely-- they leaned in. And they just got things done. They didn't let things tie them up. I think that comes because you're right. It's the urgency of a crisis that happens, where people are like, OK, let's get our heads together and figure this out quickly. I can tell you that working in emergency operations centers during disasters, that's exactly how it went.
CINDY SPARROW: People would come from all over different departments of organizations, different government or municipalities. And they would work together to help stop whatever emergency was going on and get to the recovery phase and take care of people while they did it. So you could have somebody who might work in roads and maintenance being in charge of ordering equipment to build a road to a new spot. There's all different kinds of things that we do, where we wouldn't normally operate under those functions.
CINDY SPARROW: And much like we're not operating under normal functions of what was, we're all figuring it out and co-creating it as we go forward. And the one thing that is really similar to an emergency operation center in a crisis-- and what we've been going through in COVID in our workplaces in how we get things done together-- is that it doesn't matter what was before or what you do or don't know.
CINDY SPARROW: It matters that we all get together. And we tackle the objectives in front of us, so that we can keep moving forward. And take care of the things are standing in our way, so we can get our good work done moving forward. Now, in the emergency services department that I just came from, after really talking about how well we all worked together in those times, we had the same question.
CINDY SPARROW: So why aren't we doing that afterward? When we all go back to our respective places in our offices and our departments and our different buildings, how come we're not still working like that? Because we really know how to get things done well together when that happens. And so I think we have a unique opportunity that all of the ways we worked-- we cannot be afraid of failure.
CINDY SPARROW: We have to try things. We're going to be researched enough, when we try them on, that we can see if they work or not. But it's better to fail small and quickly than to put a whole bunch of energy and effort into something that doesn't end up working in the end. And I feel like-- and I've seen-- an awful lot of that. Failing forward quickly, is what they called it.
CINDY SPARROW: Or building the plane while we fly it. Figuring it out as we go. Because we are still on uncertain ground. We don't know-- everyone's talking about a new normal. But there's no normal yet. There's no normalcy in what we do. And so I think that if we can make sure that we think about the ways that we worked really well together to get things done and make good decisions and have great outcomes and help people, and we continue to as a team understand how we can continue that in the future, that's where we recognize great success.
CINDY SPARROW: In the emergency services department. I worked in previously, that's what we decided. As a team, you might be responsible for a certain portfolio. I might be in charge of the 911 center and fire prevention. Somebody else might be in charge of ambulance and fire service. But all of the issues on our plate in the department were for all of us to help solve. And we prioritized them and we worked on them together.
CINDY SPARROW: Because that's how we got things done quicker and better. So I just offer that to the listeners. That's the best way I can see of hanging on to the things that have really worked well for us. Don't let that go. Don't let it take six months to make decisions when we can do it in six weeks and do good things together.
TRACY GARDNER: Yeah, because we've shown the precedent is set, isn't it? Many organizations have shown their ability to pivot and make those decisions quickly. So why would we go back to the same old ways? Mary, what do you think your-- the same question for you, really, about the future. How are you going to harness some of the positivities? And how are you planning for still a very uncertain world for the next 12 to 18 months?
MARY WILLIAMS: Well, in science, they usually say that the most exciting things happen at the interface between two disciplines. So the interface between biology and chemistry or chemistry and physics. But if you look at a university system, it's got a biology department and a chemistry department. And it's hard to have these kind of interfaces, because everybody's stuck in their ways. And I think-- one of the things I didn't mention yet.
MARY WILLIAMS: But one of the big changes we've had in our organization was in response to the protests about the killing of George Floyd and other black Americans. And this was really taken up by many people in our organization as an indication that our efforts in terms of diversity and inclusion and equity were inadequate. And that yes, we've always had a minority affairs committee. And we've always done our best.
MARY WILLIAMS: But it was clearly time to do more. And I think that's another major change we're seeing in our organization. We're taking away the minority affairs committee. We're making an equity and diversity and inclusion committee that's going to be drawing people in from all the different committees. So we're really going to start making some sort of transformational changes across conventional departmental lines.
MARY WILLIAMS: And I think, really, this is an opportunity. This is an opportunity to evaluate everything we've been doing and ask is this the best way to do it? Are we able to make an incremental change, or can we make a truly transformative change? And so to me, this is our opportunity. We're not going to have a year-- I hope we're not going to have a year like 2020 again in my lifetime, please.
MARY WILLIAMS: So this is the time. This is when we need to make these changes. If we don't make these changes now, we will go extinct like the dinosaur. We have to say, OK, let's look ahead. What do we want to be in 10 years? What do we do now to get to that point? And I think that everyone has been taken away from their complacency.
MARY WILLIAMS: We no longer feel secure in anything. So this is really when we can convince the people who are the most resistant to change to consider it, because I think they realize-- I think one of you mentioned that change happens when things aren't working. I can't remember. Was that one of your lines, Cindy?
CINDY SPARROW: It was.
MARY WILLIAMS: So things aren't working in the world. Let's make changes. It can't get worse.
CINDY SPARROW: Yeah.
TRACY GARDNER: And how do-- this might be one for Cindy, actually. But Mary, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. There may be people listening and engaged with us today who work within organizations who are very resistant to change. That may be the dinosaurs that Mary talked about, in kind of hanging on and not making decisions and not doing anything, because it's too risky or because they don't have the decision making process.
TRACY GARDNER: I mean, it's very frustrating to be working in an organization like that. Have you got any thoughts or advice, apart from leave and get another job? But it's very difficult to work in organizations that are resistant to change. Have you got any techniques or ideas for people to kind of convince their organizations that they need to really step up and do what other successful organizations are doing right now?
CINDY SPARROW: I do think that it's really-- I realize there are people who are risk tolerant. And typically, when it comes from a leadership-down focus, it's tough for people in the organization who aren't in positions that can make decisions to influence that change. Or to impact that change. But they do have influence. I think that what is really important for leaders and organizations to remember is that-- and Mary, you kind of talked about this a little bit, where people are resistant and uncomfortable.
CINDY SPARROW: But as leaders, we should always be living in that zone of discomfort where things are always changing. We're always-- I've heard it called-- we get so caught up on the dance floor and in the day to day operations. But as leaders, we need to be able to step up on the balcony and look at what's going on and see the bigger picture. Now is a time ripe with opportunity for all kinds of innovation.
CINDY SPARROW: And showing up to serve and do things differently. And for an ability to really, really influence positive workplace culture in ways that we haven't before. We're creating our new way forward. And if we are resistant to that change, we are going to be the detriment of our organizations. We're going to hold it back significantly. And we've seen this for many organizations, where they become obsolete.
CINDY SPARROW: They do good work and now they can't, because they were resistant to that change. Now is not the time to be able to just sit back and be nervous and not do anything. Indecision is not going to get you where you need to be. And so when you are someone who isn't in a leadership position, you can influence that by taking initiatives forward and starting to do that work anyway. Organizing with your teammates.
CINDY SPARROW: I mean, whether you have a title or not, all of us is a leader in figuring out how we move our organization forward, when we really think about it. I mean, that's my--
TRACY GARDNER: So have the courage, really. Have the courage to try and push things forward yourself. If you have ideas, if you want to innovate, talk to your colleagues and your peers and other people within the community. I also think that's a great thing to be demonstrating, if you have a leadership that is actually resistant to change. I think one thing you can do, if you are working within those kind of organizations, is also demonstrate how other people have done things.
TRACY GARDNER: So show some of the positive things that have happened. And actually, look, they took a risk. They took a leap into the dark. And not only are they still here, but they're thriving. And I think maybe some of the examples you've given about what you've done in your organization, I think they're very positive in these sort of situations. So I think this is probably also about building your own personal resilience and building organizational resilience as well.
TRACY GARDNER: And as you say, it's very hard if you work with leaders who are resistant to that. But there are things that you can do.
CINDY SPARROW: I do have just one thing I want to add, Tracy. And this is important for leaders to really recognize and understand. I think that one of the things we've also realized out of this pandemic is the flexibility that we are required in our workplaces. And also, the fact that we've taken a chance. We've taken an opportunity to pause and see if our values are in alignment with the organizations we work for.
CINDY SPARROW: So if leaders are resistant to changing and to being nimble and to making sure that they're adaptable and supporting their teams, they're going to lose really good employees. High performing employees. Those employees that want that change are going to go and work somewhere else. And now that we know that we can do good work from any corner in the world that we live-- we don't have to be in the same office to do it-- those opportunities are greater and greater.
CINDY SPARROW: So that's another thing that leaders who feel resistant need to really recognize. They're going to be the detriment of their organizations if they don't, because there are lots of opportunities for people all over the place. Much more now than there ever was before. And that's really important to remember. And you hit on something about resilience, as well. Personal resilience and professional resilience, it comes right down to mindset.
CINDY SPARROW: It's that growth mindset that we talked about before. While this is temporary and it's going to be a longer temporary than we expected, remember that we've gotten through really hard things before. And we will get through this. But also that mindset of making sure that you are reaching for the positive. And we do have opportunities to do that.
CINDY SPARROW: We're not stuck in the workplaces we are in today. I know there's been furloughs and job losses, but there's still massive opportunity out there. I see it everywhere. Many of us see it everywhere. So remember, we're not stuck there. We're not.
TRACY GARDNER: Yeah, we're not stuck. Absolutely. I'm just noticing the time. And the time has whizzed on past. We've only got about 10 minutes left before we finish. So probably, I'd quite like to ask you-- maybe this is an unfair question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. So if we were to do this again in six months' time-- so we're revisiting change all over again, in 12 months from when we first had your first presentations on this.
TRACY GARDNER: Your crystal ball's out now, I suppose. I'd quite like to know final thoughts from both of you on what we might be talking about. I mean, we might be talking about a lot of the same things. But how will we have moved on, do you think? Where do you think we'll be?
MARY WILLIAMS: Well, I wanted to say a second ago that for leaders who think that they don't need to change, they need to talk to the early career people in their field. And we had a Society Street webinar a few weeks ago where you had early career speakers. And one of them said, we want to belong to a society that reflects our values. And we're in a world where people are changing. The values of people in their 20s are very different than the values of people in their 50s.
MARY WILLIAMS: And it's because of their education. It's because of the world they're growing up in. I mean, when I was in my 20s, we were worried about dolphins and maybe a little bit of the ozone layer. But now they're looking at climate change and everything it's bringing. And they have different values. So I think that we are in a time where the older people who have a different mindset are learning from the younger people, I hope.
MARY WILLIAMS: And that our professional societies and hopefully, our world will start to listen and hear their concerns and adapt to what they're asking for for their future. I mean, it's time for them to be able to call some of the shots and steer this Titanic away from the iceberg. Or maybe that's the wrong analogy. No more icebergs. Anyway, so I would like to see in six months that we have been listening to people who have a stronger need and interest in change than we do.
MARY WILLIAMS: And we are moving into a direction that will open up societies, increase opportunities, increase flexibility, increase resiliency. That's what I would like. Hopefully, we're talking about the fantastic changes that have come about because we're listening to people, more than we used to do.
TRACY GARDNER: Yeah. [INTERPOSING VOICES]
TRACY GARDNER: And I'm really glad, Mary, you brought up the webinar. Because the webinar we held with the early career researchers was one of my favorites that we've done, actually. Because again, I think it's like listening to people. The early career researchers, they are the ones who-- they're the future leaders. They're the ones who are going to be probably dealing with the fallout of what's been happening for a very long time. And so I think providing space and opportunity to listen to those people-- and not only listen to them, but actually to give them accountability and responsibility.
TRACY GARDNER: So not just interview them and say, what it is you want. But actually get them very much involved with running their own organizations, rather than it being a very top-down-- from a leadership, from a board. We know what governance is like with societies. It's very-- you've got your trustees and you've got the management. And it can be quite hierarchical and quite bureaucratic. I think we need to be moving to a time when actually, we are flattening a lot of that out and listening to people and giving them the responsibility to do that.
TRACY GARDNER: So I'm glad you mentioned that, Mary. Cindy, any thoughts from you on that?
CINDY SPARROW: Mary said it beautifully, actually. And without repeating some of the pieces that she said, I would love to see-- I mean, if I had a crystal ball-- or a magic wand maybe is better, because I don't know the future. But what I hope it can look like is a lot of what Mary has talked about, where we're leaning on each other. You're right.
CINDY SPARROW: Our early careerists, those are our future leaders. They think differently than we do. A lot of our organizations are all about social change and sustainable development and climate change and equality. And you know, all of the things that really matter in moving our world together forward. And so I think that if in six months' time, we had organizations that were focused on not only making themselves stronger so that they could serve better, but that we had a much more systemic focus on how do we make our difference in the world and make the world a better place while we do it, that's a win for me.
CINDY SPARROW: I think that you hit the nail on the head, Mary, when you talked about all of that. That's what I hope we talk about next time. [INTERPOSING VOICES]
TRACY GARDNER: I agree. And given the work that we've done and we do for our new consultants and what we've been hearing from people from Society Street, I think that's coming through really clearly that that needs to happen. And I think this whole situation has been a catalyst to achieve that kind of change. Because I think you need a lot of disruption and great disruption to shock the system to make those changes.
TRACY GARDNER: So yes, I agree with both of you. Perhaps we'll do that in six months' time. And we'll have another chat to both of you, as well. So thank you very much. I think we've probably come to-- that's brought us to a nice natural end. So just a few minutes, really, for me to wrap up. Just to remind people to basically thank you, Cindy, and thank you, Mary, for your time once again.
TRACY GARDNER: You've given your time to us very generously. So we really do appreciate that. And as always, it's been really interesting talking to you. Thank you to all our delegates for joining us, our listeners. Recording of the transcript and the webinar will be available. So as we said, all of our events are freely available, thanks to our lovely sponsors who are on the screen right there. If you go to society.st/webinars, you will find recordings and transcripts of all of them.
TRACY GARDNER: So, well worth going back to listen to Mary and Cindy from last March as well. We've got some webinars coming up. So we have got Leading Through Turbulent Times in October. In November, we've got Surviving In a Financial Downturn. And then what would have been our in-person event in November, which is a virtual event with conferences and meetings has The Pandemic and The Mother Of Invention. So all on a similar theme.
TRACY GARDNER: All hopefully very inspiring, but also very relevant to the world that we're living in right now and the world that we're trying to operate and work in. So I hope you will join us. Please feel free to share all of our events. If you would like to, when this comes out on demand, we will put a message up. It will be on Twitter. We'll email all the delegates to say it's there.
TRACY GARDNER: Please do share as openly and freely as you'd like to. So thank you very much, Cindy. Thank you, Mary. Thank you to all our listeners for joining us. And hopefully, we'll see many of you back in October. Thank you.
CINDY SPARROW: Thank you.
MARY WILLIAMS: Bye-bye, thank you.
TRACY GARDNER: Bye. Thank you.