I’ve heard many people say the pandemic is our chance at a “Do-Over.”
Although I understand the sentiment, I disagree. That mindset seems backward.
Instead, I suggest this is our “Do Better” opportunity.
It’s not just semantics.
A ‘Do-Over’ mindset suggests that we erase away the past and begin anew.
But the risk of this mindset is that we approach the future from a place of fear, cynicism, and scarcity in an attempt to avoid the losses, hurts, heartaches and mistakes of the past.
A ‘Do Better’ mindset suggests that we build on and use our learnings, losses, and acknowledgments of what was and wasn’t working to get stronger.
It challenges us to accept our mistakes, take a hard look at our beliefs, be thoughtful about our decisions, and honest with the consequences of our actions.
It allows us to approach the future with courage and bravery. To use empathy to connect our differences and to extract meaning and knowledge from our adversities.
As we start to prepare for opening back up, I challenge you to think about how you can take something that has impacted so many people in so many different ways and hashtag#DoBetter in the future.
Let’s make our new normal a better one.
Leadership is hard.
As someone who studies, writes, coaches and speaks about how to develop exceptional leaders, I have seen how a crisis can distinguish the best leaders from the rest.
Never are strong leaders needed more than amid crisis. This is also when it is hardest to be an exceptional leader.
In crisis is where the ‘rubber hits the road’ when it comes to leadership. This is when a leaders proclaimed values are tested. It is much easier to be a good leader when everything is going well. But that’s not when we need leadership. Leadership is tested in the tough times – when the tide goes out.
Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked. ~Warren Buffet
Earlier this week, I had a coaching client who was distraught about a decision that needed to be made about letting people go.
I have heard some of the most beautiful and compassionate stories of how companies have executed this hard decision. Unfortunately, I have also heard other examples that I’ve had a hard time understanding.
Today, I would like to say thank you to all of the leaders who’ve lost sleep trying to figure out how to save businesses and jobs;
Who are sacrificing just as much as they are asking their people to sacrifice;
Who showed up and engaged human to human, even though most were forced to communicate these difficult messages through screens;
Who made sure their people understood the contribution they had made to the company’s success;
Who pushed for their people to be able to say goodbye to colleagues and clients because the decision was due to circumstance not performance;
Ultimately, those who put people over process and did it with care, kindness, and compassion.
In crisis, the majority will over-focus on what needs to be done and under-focus on how they will do it.
It is these leaders, who focus on how to demonstrate their values, who take ownership of their impact, who will make the hard decisions but communicate them in a way where people feel seen, heard and valued; these are the leaders whose positive legacy will stay with us long after the crisis is behind us.
Following our call, my client realized he had been fighting the wrong battle – the decision that had to be made.
Accepting it was leadership of the business.
But his leadership was on full display when he started fighting for how he was going to communicate it – that is the leadership of people…even after the tide goes out!
Biases influence us all. The funniest part is that we are biased towards believing we aren’t biased, or at least not as much as other people. Unfortunately, this is one reason “flattening the curve” is so challenging.
To address this challenge requires all of us to recognize how our beliefs influence our decisions. There is one particularly misguided belief that seems especially prevalent at the moment. And before you shake your head in agreement, make sure you haven’t fallen into it.
1) People believe that they represent the “exception” rather than the “rule.”
For example, on a walk yesterday, I came across a group of six people standing close together talking. As I approached they said, “Don’t worry, we’re all good, we know each other.”
Because they knew one another (exception), they excluded themselves from the suggested social-distancing practices (rule).
Adding to this is that we then have a biased tendency to discount and even rationalize our actions, BUT we then judge the collective actions of others.
Consider this conversation, “People need to take this seriously; they should be fined for not following the rules… I’m going to call my hairdresser and see if she can squeeze me in an appointment before they close.”
Do you want to know how I know this conversation happened? Because it was ME!
I did catch the hypocrisy of my comment the moment I said it, but it is also why I wrote this.
At the end of the day, it is because we are uncomfortable, we feel inconvenienced, and we want our lives to remain as normal as possible. We are human.
We are also part of a society trying to stop a pandemic, and as the saying goes, “We need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves!”
Perspective matters. The desert is made up of specks of sand and oceans are the individual collection of droplets of water. We are the collective, not the exception. The combination of our small, but positive actions to socially-distance will have an out-sized impact on flattening the curve.
And just for the record, I did not get a haircut!
This is not the time to compare yourself to others, although I appreciate it is a very tempting thing to do.
Instead, use this time to look inside and ask,
“What will serve me best?”
“My family best?”
“My company, team, clients, patients best?”
My community best?”
“Our society best?”
There is no wrong answer; there is only your answer.
My request is to let this moment, this crisis, be of service in some way.
It’s the start of another week in the midst of COVID-19. I suspect it will feel different, but that doesn’t mean it will be any easier.
This might sound counter-intuitive, but I’d like to ask you to start by doing something difficult.
I ‘d like you to reflect on one of the hardest events in your life (outside of the current situation), where the outcome wasn’t what you wanted.
Knowing what you know now, and accepting that you can’t change the outcome, what would have helped you better cope with that situation?
Now, write down how can you apply that wisdom today.
In 2016, my mother died from breast cancer. When her cancer came back, it rapidly spread throughout her body. I spent the first couple of weeks obsessively trying to figure out how long she would live.
I felt that if I had this answer, I could make the best decisions around her comfort and treatment, when to notify family and friends, how much time I would need to take off work etc.
I believed that I could handle everything, if I just knew when my mothers death was coming.
I’ll give you one guess what my learning was?
I can’t predict, control, or force the future to unfold as I would like, not matter how hard I try.
I needed to increase my uncertainty tolerance and move on not knowing.
I needed to learn to make decisions on incomplete information.
I had to accept some decisions were right and some were wrong.
I had to learn to trust that I was doing my very best, with the resources I had in my most difficult moment.
I did get there, but I was overwhelmed, heartbroken and mentally, emotionally and physically drained by the time I got there.
Today, with my entire business future uncertain, I have experienced the same emotions. The good news is, I went through that phase much more quickly this time. I am more comfortable sitting with uncertainty and trusting myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I want answers about when the pandemic will end, I want certainty in what the world will look like, and I’d love to know I am making the right decisions at the moment…but I feel like I’ve been training for this.
I suspect you have as well!
How to handle COVID-19 working from home.
With all of the uncertainty everyone is facing, there are three guarantees that you should expect :
1. Everything will take longer. Conferencing everyone in, trying to call into a customer service center, or waiting in line at the grocery store, expect everything to take longer.
2. Emotions will be running high. Everyone is facing uncertainty, but each person’s circumstances are different. It serves us to remember that as empathy is often the first causality in stressful situations. Even if you can’t see emotions, they are there and will influence people’s effectiveness and productivity, hence point number one.
3. Your colleagues, employees, and direct reports are TRUSTWORTHY. Please don’t make people earn your trust – start by giving it. Even if you can’t see them at their desk, even if they don’t respond immediately to your email, assume that points one and two are contributing to any delays, not that they are slacking off, untrustworthy, and lacking commitment.
It’s natural when dealing with sudden change and uncertainty for our brain to look for shortcuts via assumptions and expectations.
Shift these positively to strengthen relationships and help people be at their best.
We owe that to one another.