let’s be clear – you’re the role model


It’s 2022 and we are emerging from a pandemic we didn’t see coming that challenged us in so many ways.

There’s a lot of debate about going back to the office, WFH, and hybrid working. And Elon Musk’s recent missive to his employees shows us exactly where his thoughts lie.

For me, I know that working 100% of the time in the office isn’t the right fit for me (one look at my Fingerprint for Success (F4S) will reveal I have a bias for Solo Environment, which means you’ll find me trying to block out the distraction of people in my space and I’m drained by having others around me, rather than energised). I just don’t do my best work with others around for extended periods of time.

And many of us have enjoyed getting a fair chunk of our lives back, to do the things that are important to us, since the pandemic forced many of us into a gigantic working from home lab experiment.

Just as I experienced when I moved from the UK to Oz, and I valued the life I got back after swapping a 2 hour commute each way into Central London for an 8 minute local commute, the enforced WFH created similar opportunities for many to get their early morning swim in, or be there for their children in ways they hadn’t been able to before. That has value, especially for those who are looking to flip “work/life balance” into “LIFE/work integration”.

And we all know that healthier, happier team members work better together, are more able to deliver their best work, and deliver more discretionary effort. Good mental health is good for society.

But we also know that not everyone can work from home – the nature of their jobs means it’s physically not possible. And we know that leaders have a disproportionate influence on the culture – a team member may walk past a standard with barely a ripple, but if a leader does the same, then that is the standard that’s accepted. That is your culture.

So what do I like about Elon’s communication? It’s clear. It’s unequivocal. There is no grey area of misunderstanding. And with that you can vote with your feet, knowing exactly where you stand.

Because the worst thing is being in a company where you don’t know where the edge is. We see it with companies who have adopted “unlimited leave” for example. People often end up taking less holiday time, not more, because they don’t know how much is really acceptable, looking for cues on how taking leave is perceived, how individuals are judged and careers impacted (or not). When there is uncertainty, people opt for safety.

And I also like that he is calling out managers to be there, on the factory floor, with those who have no choice but to do their work there. It’s one rule for everybody. Often we hear one rule for leaders and another rule for everyone else, as if leadership conveys privilege rather than duty, a sure way to break trust. You shouldn’t ask anyone to do something you’re not prepared to do yourself.

So whilst Elon hasn’t got a lot of things right, there are some things that we can all adopt.

Be clear. And be the role model.

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