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With a combined 50 years of experience in senior HR, Safety and Exec level roles in complex organisations including Asda, Royal Mail and railway franchises such as Merseyrail and West Midlands Trains, A Matter of Choice founders Karen Powell and Lesley Heath immediately saw an opportunity to gain real-time insight from senior leaders during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the impact of Covid-19 quickly became history in the making, they sought to hear the voices of organisations, capturing their stories, successes and insights in real-time as we moved from reactive to proactive decision-making. And as senior leaders grappled with the unknown and their own fears, the what-ifs and the what-may-bes, A Matter of Choice collated their experiences and wisdom to share with future generation leaders.

Seeking to capture their stories in the moment of change, rather than with the rose-tinted embellishments of hindsight, the narratives provided extraordinary snapshots through an extraordinary journey. Indeed, hindsight bias is a known phenomenon first recorded in the early 1970s by Baruch Fischhoff, where decision-makers forget the context or finer details of their actions later on. This memory distortion, often called the black swan bias, causes people to believe they knew the outcome of an event before it actually happened - in others words, ‘I knew it all along.’ In a world where pace sees us move onto the next big thing almost immediately, it can therefore be easy to forget all the decisions we make and the context in which we made them. Yet they’ve been recorded here in real-time, giving a unique insight into how the leadership brain works.

Covid-19 has arguably been the biggest, most significant change many organisations have had to deal with in recent years. The impacts on supply chain, people and wellbeing have been unprecedented in peace time. Yet the knowledge gained, the pace of innovation and change experienced has shown a collective mindset common across industries. Whether manufacturing or transport, care or event planning, the diverse leaders who took part in this research have all spoken independently about common challenges, and from this, we can take invaluable lessons.

Our goal was to identify which common leadership mindsets were contributing to success through this unprecedented time of change.

About the Research

Using a robust qualitative research framework and ethnographic techniques, A Matter of Choice used proven methods to collect the data, which was subsequently interrogated using thematic analysis.

This well-respected methodology involves searching for, analysing and interpreting themes from within the data, focusing on participants’ subjective experiences and understanding of their own circumstances and settings to create their own narratives.

This highly flexible approach allows respondents to discuss the subject in their own words, without any leading fixed-response questions that can narrow the response in quantitative studies. As a result, the data is trustworthy, rich and detailed (Braun & Clarke, 2006; King, 2004).

Through a series of structured interviews, A Matter of Choice spoke with senior leaders who were at the heart of strategic decision-making in the context of a worldwide crisis where no one had any real-life experience. Over time, we saw the impact on their decision making in the immediacy of Covid-19, and how they have needed to adapt and saw ten key themes – or mindsets – reveal themselves through the narrative data collected. Further research is being done to capture longer term impacts.

This report explores their narratives, the challenges they faced, the insights they gained and how the expertise of A Matter of Choice can help businesses embed successful behaviours.

Naturally, all interviews were carried out in a Covid-19 secure, socially distanced way.

Leading Through A Pandemic and Beyond

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