In partnership with Ford
Without change, there is no progress: if we want to evolve – personally, professionally, globally – we have to learn how to not just accept change, but embrace it, whatever challenges that might bring.
That was always the thinking behind Driven – our standalone series in which Marie Claire and woman&home partner with Ford to deliver inspiring, thought-provoking content with the aim of actively encouraging you, our readers, to not just seize the day, but to begin carving out and creating a new future, both for yourself and the world we live in.
Which, as it’s turned out, couldn’t have been timelier. To say 2020 was challenging is an understatement – there can’t be a single person who hasn’t been affected by the sudden shifts and ongoing fallout from the global health crisis and, yes, changed by it in some way. So how to make the best of it?
Of course, we all understand in theory that change will happen – is happening – all around us, all the time. Often, however, it’s so gradual it feels more like an evolution than the sudden shock we tend to associate with it – as Claire Killwick, Head of Customer Communications for Ford of Britain and Ireland, knows all too well.
Claire has been with Ford in various capacities for almost three decades, which makes her perfectly placed to reflect on not just the challenges of change, but the benefits it brings. She first joined the company in the early 1990s – a time when (shock, horror!) ‘there were no PCs and no mobile phones in the office’. This is something, she says, her children continue to find ‘really funny and impossible to imagine how anything got done’ – which, in its own way, perfectly illustrates our point.
Over the years, Claire’s both enjoyed and benefited from working for a company whose general reputation for technical innovation has long extended into the workplace. She credits the shift to open-plan offices, for example, as ‘contributing significantly to the feeling of collaboration and partnership we now have as a team’.
The company’s ‘forward-thinking’ maternity policy, meanwhile, allowed her to take a year’s (paid) leave after each of her daughters were born (in 1999 and 2001 respectively), and then return to work part-time before resuming full-time in 2007. Claire concedes this ‘may sound unremarkable now’ but was, she notes, quite radical at the time. To this day, Ford remains committed to supporting the challenges working mothers face with a maternity policy that’s one of the best in the market.
Again, you might argue that changes that have taken place over decades are hardly comparable to the succession of rapid changes that have marked more recent times. Take the widespread pivot from office-based to home-based working in 2020. Sudden and dramatic it may have been, but the concept itself is far from new. Even so, the individuals and companies that managed it best were those more attuned to and willing to change in the first place.
Ford, for example, were actually pretty ready for it when it happened. The company has in fact long offered flexible working to office-based staff in departments such as marketing, long before the first lockdown. When the sudden drive to working from home took place, they – like many other businesses with similar policies already operating in one form or another – had all the tools in place for a seamless pivot to virtual working from the get-go.
Of course, it takes more than tools and technology to make such changes work. As an organisation that has always placed equal focus on people as product, Ford was able to manage a rapid shift in supporting its team as well, such as regular company-wide virtual meetings and an extra focus on leaders connecting personally with team members to ensure everyone was kept up to date and felt as supported as possible.
Life is never static and even the smallest changes have the power to be positive ones. Adjusting our collective mindset to see change – good and bad – as a challenge or puzzle to solve, can make even most challenging situations serve a positive purpose from the outset.
At Ford, the need for ever-more nimble thinking over the past months has ‘highlighted an opportunity to work closer together to achieve the right outcome for the customer, more quickly’, says Claire. ‘We’re excited to be working on a number of projects in an accelerated fashion [that will] further enhance a rich digital product experience for our customers.’
Other projects, such as the launch of Ford’s first all-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E – which will start arriving in the UK in early 2021. It has, of course, been years in the planning, but it’s release – at a time when our awareness of the world that surrounds us and, by extension our place within it, is arguably at an all-time high – couldn’t feel more of the moment. Another product that the Ford team are excited about is the all-new Ford E-Transit which has recently been announced.
Maybe then, just maybe, we’re better equipped to deal with change than we give ourselves credit for? Look at the way that, even in the depths of the first, tense, lockdown when, in practical terms, we’d never been more isolated from one another, people pulled together.
The same technology that was keeping us so well connected at work saw friendships and family relationships renewed and made stronger – not just between the generations but across far flung corners of the world.
Meanwhile, with dealerships closed and production halted, Ford used the period to support the incredible work being done by the nation’s frontline staff by loaning out vehicles to key workers.
Several months on from those dramatic early days and we’ve all settled into a new rhythm, more or less and those small but powerful positives are still there.
Claire speaks of discovering the easy pleasures of ‘spending time in the Cotswolds, Norfolk and the North East’ rather than heading abroad for mini-breaks and holidays, as so many of us have so unthinkingly got in the habit of doing.
Even socialising in smaller groups has offered unexpected delight, she says, citing the stronger connections that can occur as ‘a really positive social dynamic’. So yes, change can be challenging – but perhaps not as much as we think.
If we’re able to adjust our mindsets to embrace the changes life throws at us – or at the very least allow ourselves to turn them into a journey of discovery – we might all be pleasantly surprised where they lead us.
So here’s to embracing a present in which every day, every moment, every interaction – and every challenge – counts. Because the path to what’s ahead doesn’t lie in some distant future. It starts right here, right now.