From Isolation to Inspiration

14th May 2020

From isolation to inspiration – Marshalls team pulls together to produce the Manager’s Lockdown Toolkit

We recently launched our new Manager’s Lockdown Toolkit – a brand-new resource to support leaders while managing remote teams during the Covid-19 crisis. Here, we share the story behind how we pulled the Toolkit together in just four weeks and give you an insight into our own lockdown world.

When we consulted clients and consultants we work with in a variety of sectors about the challenges of working from home, we quickly saw an opportunity to produce a suite of short courses that would help our clients as they, too, faced the sudden transition to home-working life. Of course, this isn’t just home-working as we know it, this is working at home and in isolation – separated from colleagues, friends and extended family. There’s more than the practical implications of moving an office-based job into your home, but also the mental fallout from the lack of human contact and interaction.

Mental health in the workplace is pivotal to the smooth running of any business. And in this crisis, the role of the manager is to keep moral up and productivity high, all while navigating individual situations and abilities.

The concept for the Manager’s Lockdown Toolkit was to support managers across all industries with these specific problems to help them get the best out of their remote teams while also managing the complex needs of individual members.

Meeting in isolation

We hold two regular face-to-face meetings at Marshalls: a weekly team meeting led by founder David Marshall, and a monthly social attended by our freelancers and consultants. However, with the lockdown, we had to think fast about how we could replace those meetings. Zoom was the natural choice as it worked well across all platforms.

Adapting to this new way of managing was a bit of trial and error – we had a number of financial and time pressures to cope with – this resulted in our having to take a slightly more directive and formal approach to team meetings. Although the team responded positively to this overall. Our monthly socials which have been running for over ten years – were also held via Zoom and have proven a good opportunity to catch up on a less rigid agenda. We do not use any work tracking technology with colleagues but ensure they are engaged, enthusiastic and those who like to bounce ideas off their colleagues could still do so.

“It was this interlinking and networking of contacts that enabled us to work so quickly on the Toolkit over the last four weeks. It’s about having giving trust to step out of our comfort zones and trust in our team members to own their various parts of the production,” says David Marshall.

In addition to team calls, we found each individual had different requirements, so one-to-one check-ins were just as important. David Marshall adds, “I did feel a need for myself to be more visible and more attentive to everyone.” In fact, it means that the number of meetings had to go up when we went virtual.

Writing in isolation

We consulted Mark Crabtree, a trainer and coach we really like to work with, and former assistant head of HR at Durham University, to give us ideas on what challenges organisations would be facing now. Using the themes Mark suggested, along with input from numerous clients who work in the legal, banking, education and not-for-profit sectors, we developed the Toolkit as a suite of team leadership courses.

Mark Crabtree wrote and developed the first draft of the Toolkit. Then our instructional designers storyboarded this content and worked quickly to script the video dramas in just two weeks.

The actors then developed the content used on the day of filming, with their own suggestions, which worked really well.

Filming in isolation

Hiring professional actors is almost always done face-to-face; but under the circumstances we were challenged with finding the right people using video interviews and auditions.

We contacted our network to see who was interested in auditioning and while not everyone felt comfortable applying given the circumstances, others welcomed the distraction. It was easier to work with people we knew, but we still took a chance on some new faces, which turned out even better than we anticipated.

Casting sessions were taken from footage the actors recorded themselves on their phones, using our scripts. This was difficult and probably very subjective, but the actors all enjoyed the challenge.


Our ‘in-their-own-house’ team then put all the footage together and compiled the course content to create the final Toolkit.

So far, the response has been fantastic. Six organisations have already uploaded the resource to their learning management system. However we are getting a great deal of feedback and clearly we will need to add another unit on returning to work. This will be free for anyone who already subscribes.

If you’ve not seen the Manager’s Lockdown Toolkit yet, contact us today and we’ll send you the details. The Toolkit is available as a FREE version to all our clients and there’s also a commercial version, so you can still make use of the resource without being a client.

Here to help

If you would like a free trial of this course or find out more about our training courses please call +44 (0)845 123 3909 or get in touch using our contact form.

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