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Mark Warren: “Are We Nearly There Yet?”

One of Younity's Auckland based Co-Founders, Mark Warren, shares his experience during New Zealand's Covid-19 lockdown period, what he learned whilst on the rowing machine and how he's redefining what success looks like in an increasingly recessionary marketplace.

Many of us ‘rat racers’ returned to our offices last week. A few of us got in early, tape measure extended to 1m, moving desks, placing those lovely “80s/90s Hacienda” colour schemed COVID-19 posters on blank wall space and the fridge, wondering why our vat of hand sanitizer purchased in the pre-lockdown rush has turned grey (maybe that’s just us??) and marvelling at how well the plants have done. It was great to see the team; taking the p#ss out of each other “live” rather than on a VC is so much more satisfying.

Our team of 5 million (officially, as of last week) have given COVID-19 a good leathering. Well done all in what looks like a victory (very clean fingers crossed) in the most important battle – the health one. Ask any of us with family and friends in countries that aren’t doing so well… this thing is grim. Let’s hope the world wins its war against the ‘Rona.

For us in NZ, whilst still coughing into our elbows and washing our hands so much they resemble Cliff Richard’s neck, we move onto our next scrap, the economy. And a scrap it will be. Most pundits are expecting a further wave of sh#teness as the wage subsidy runs its course and the stark reality hits, the recession silly season is only just beginning. It’s going to be tough; some people will lose their jobs or their businesses. It will affect people financially, physically and mentally. I’d say our team of 5 million will still be looking out for each other for a while yet.

I could wax lyrical about “what will get us through” and how you should “invest in relationships” and “it’s all about the team” and loads of other pretty soundbites in quotes. All that stuff works and is true…. but surely most of it is common sense? Never let that stop anyone popping advice/musings/self-promotional videos on LinkedIn from their sunny kitchen with fresh coffee in hand though.

Mark Warren

Anyway, it’s been done to death, so I won’t. Well maybe a little. I do have an analogy; where would any blog be without one?

Whilst confined to home, we decided as a family to make sure that we exercised every day. The kids got on the Joe Wicks videos and my wife was doing Rocky comeback workouts in the lounge with her mates on Zoom. For my part, I went on my rowing machine in the garage and listened to old indie bands. Whilst sweating and cursing a sore back, I noticed a habit that was the difference between a good or a tortuous session. Clock watching.

I row to a set time; I load 30 mins and try and row as far as I can. Now whilst I try and be mindful of my timings as I go, if I focus purely on the clock I lose rhythm, I’m slower, I don’t enjoy it and the time goes by at the speed of, well…. a level 4 lockdown. However, if I look at the countdown at intervals (end of a tune can work), then I can see if I’m on track for my goal and if I need to speed up (always do, standard). The difference is massive. If I limit my clockwatching, somehow, I become more fluid, looser, quicker and stronger and the time passes so much easier. I check how I’m doing, whilst not getting so caught up in how long I’ve got left that I don’t enjoy the ride. A watched pot never boils as they say.

I think this relates to my current challenge, (and I’ll pop the disclaimer in here, this is relevant to me and by association us at Younity. Also, hopefully some of you who can be arsed reading it. One size definitely does not fit all, and some will be in situations that bear no relevance to mine). Yes, we will track our various performance indicators, I’m still a contract recruiter and we are a target driven breed, and of course most businesses work to achieve set goals. Good financial management of your company or your individual performance means that you monitor your businesses health which of course is of paramount importance. But if we focus solely on figures, we lose so much. If you are only doing your job for the financial outputs, it will show, especially when those outputs are a little harder to come by.

So here is my resolution. Born out of what worked for me during the GFC, and a notion that came to me whilst fighting the flab in my garage listening to the Charlatans….Now is the time to enjoy what I do, to appreciate it and appreciate the people that it brings me into contact with. Enjoy conversations, listen and swap notes on what’s happening out there, share worries (I’m sure many feel exactly the same), share ideas and thoughts on how we will emerge from this…. Because we will.

Mark Warren

Success is not just a number on a spreadsheet. It’s stronger relationships, new relationships, satisfaction that I gave some advice that helped or was just a good listener when someone needed it. We will monitor our outputs, our core performance and be mindful of the clock…but we won’t obsess. We will do the right things and do them well, the rest will come. I want targets and goals to make us faster, not slower.

And we will do this all whilst avoiding phrases like “shovel ready”, “the new normal” and “pivot”. (Couldn’t resist)

Above all, as the good lady said, Be Kind.

Mark Warren is a Co-Founder and Senior Recruitment Consultant for Younity Ltd, based in Auckland, New Zealand.

His specialty area is IT Contract Recruitment, working across a variety of Technology, Digital and Business Transformation roles.

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