My time as Exec Lead – in a Pandemic
By Hannah Bevan
9 months on, and a little lost for words of how to explain the experience.
9 months ago, I stepped into an executive lead role with a well-articulated handover and with, what I thought was, a full understanding of what my months would consist of.
How wrong was I?
In my first few weeks many people said to me ‘you’ll look back in hindsight and be grateful of the enjoyable experience and the amount you have learnt’. Yes, that was partially correct that in hindsight I would look back and be grateful of what I have learnt, but I would question the ‘enjoyable experience’ part.
The 9 months couldn’t have been any more unpredictable, but I have got through it, and this is purely down to the team around me.
Something that I acknowledged very early on was that it’s so easy, and a nice thing to do, in thanking people at the end of something or, after a certain period of time. But for me, I have been thankful everyday of their support and, throughout the whole experience I have made sure to make it known to those who deserve it.
People have the power to drag you down or pick you up. If you have the right team around you, you’ll feel like you’re lifted off the ground the whole time.
Even though this sounds like a joyful ride, it’s been tiring.
I have to admit that it feels like a full time job in itself to ensure team morale is kept in the right place, picking people up when they’re down, sparing the time from your very busy schedule to just listen and ensure that everyone is felt looked after and worthy as part of the team. But it is worth it.
My biggest learning over this time is that if you invest accordingly into the team around you, you get far better outcomes of their everyday work. You don’t feel so bad asking if they can pick up that extra email for you or attend a meeting on your behalf, because you know that they’ll have your back, just like you had theirs.
At Christmas, a member of the staff said at our virtual get together “at a time where we should’ve felt furthest apart, we are now closest together”. No more words are needed. That is the truth. That’s the team we have developed. The death by zoom, the endless COVID discussions, email after email – that was all worth it, just to hear that.
So, what else have I learnt 9 months on? I’m not one to go on about ‘age being no barrier’ but this is important and hopefully a message that other young people can learn from.
At the age of 19, I got told ‘don’t bother applying for that job, you’ll be wasting your time with no experience’. To which I’ve always questioned who is responsible for providing you with that experience in the first place.
At the age of 24 I got told ‘if you walked into the room to mentor me, I’d leave. What life experience have you got to support me?’.
At the age of 26, the trust was put in me to be the Executive Lead for a National Governing Body during a global pandemic. Age will only be a barrier if you allow it to be – and judgement based on this alone is only ever other people’s problem.
So, my final learning to share with you is – if you need help, ask for it.
Out of the last 9 months, it did take me about 5 months to realise that this was the case. And still then I probably didn’t ask for it as much as I should have, but it has made the difference at the times that I did.
Asking for help is a strength not a weakness, and that applies to all aspects of life. Work and personal. If we existed to do all things alone, then we wouldn’t have relationships, friendships or the desire to make connections.
People are around you to help. Some more than others. Some far more approachable to ask for help than others, but that’s ok.
Identify your network and know who you can go to for what. A learning for me is find someone who you don’t necessarily have to be overly keen on, but you know they’ll be brutally honest in their feedback to you and for that you will respect them.
Secondly, find someone who has no judgement with you. Who doesn’t even have to say anything, but you know you can just talk at them and, that’s enough to help.
It can get lonely in these positions, so make sure to find your ‘go to’ people very early on.
That’s it. My main learnings shared. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be jumping at any Executive Lead roles in sport or business anytime soon, but I am extremely grateful for the experience and am now feeling refreshed to get back to my Head of Development role.