I’ve been working with several non-profits whose funding streams have been critically damaged. I’ve been advising start-up founders who are trying to figure out how to weather this storm.
And I’ve been feeling the weight of friends who are on the front lines of the healthcare crisis along with the macro global implications, the likes of which I can barely wrap my mind around.
Yet, amidst all of this, I remain heartened. Time and again, I have seen acts of kindness, generosity, compassion, resilience, determination, collaboration, innovation, and grit that inspire and lift me.
As I reflect upon the themes from this week and this unusual time in general, I offer these practices that can serve us well:
1. Acknowledge and honor our emotions.
It’s important to acknowledge our emotions and give ourselves grace and space to work through them, recognizing, as Scott Berinato reminds us in his recent HBR article, that working through the stages of grief is not a linear process. I was moved by Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie’s spontaneous and authentic exchange on live TV, as emblematic of how this affects us all.
2. But, don’t wallow in grief.
It’s important to mindfully pursue constructive action that appropriately meets us where we are, such as meditation, exercise, other self-care practices, humor/levity, peer support, and/or professional support where warranted.
3. Remember that this will pass.
While the current situation will get worse before it gets better, it’s important to remind ourselves that this is not permanent. While a pandemic of this nature is unprecedented in many regards, we have a long history of resilience getting through other traumatic events from which we can draw important lessons and inspiration.
4. Practice Gratitude
As I shared in another post, it’s more important than ever to take stock of the things for which we can be grateful and to look for opportunities to express that gratitude. Personally, while I’ve mourned the loss of many upcoming activities that have vanished from the calendar, I have experienced a different sense of time and presence with family for which I am grateful.
5. Extend compassion and grace to ourselves and others.
It’s important to remind ourselves that we are all going through this together and that we will be well served to practice compassion for ourselves and others. I’ve seen this in the simple everyday examples on conference calls where technical issues or personal interruptions that would, under normal circumstances, generate frustration and impatience, were shrugged off with grace and patience. And, as Gary Burnison deftly observes in his piece, we’ve moved to a place where the question “how are you” is no longer simply filler.
For companies, it’s crucial to think carefully about how they are treating and speaking to their employees and customers. This has always been critically important, but the stakes are higher than ever. Goodwill and loyalty are being won or lost with each decision and interaction.
6. Be a source of light to others.
We all have unique gifts and insights that can have powerful and lasting impact on others. I’ve experienced many moments of this in recent weeks – too many to count. I’ve seen friends and organizations offering resources, virtual sharing sessions, and other tangible support in creative and inspirational ways.
For instance, my colleague Robert Glazer and his team at Acceleration Partners, created this resource page for those needing to supplement their income and/or seek other employment. Locally, colleagues Dustin Mix and Maria Gibbs (Co-Founders of Invanti) have rallied to put together local resources to support small business including a database of restaurants offering social distance dining options, as well as a database of financial resources for small businesses. Other dear colleagues such as Hélène Scott, Lauren Pawell, and Laura Gassner Otting, have doubled down on their outreach and check-in sessions within their circles of influence to create peer support groups.
7. Reassess circumstances.
In the case of a significant and unexpected personal, job, and business losses, it’s important to take a step back to gain some perspective. Often, this process can be aided through conversation with others.
For my MBA students who have had the rug pulled out from under them on their anticipated job trajectories, many are using this as an opportunity to step back and assess the changing needs in the market. They are considering how they might contribute differently, possibly a different function or industry from which they were originally focused.
For my start-up and non-profit clients, new financial realities have necessitated difficult financial, strategic, and personnel decisions. Larger companies are having to contend with significant workforce and process decisions amid the rapid shift to virtual operations. Necessity is a great motivator, and I’m already seeing positive shifts in cultural norms and expectations about what it means to work remotely.
8. Think creatively.
For those seeking employment, while financial services, consulting, and travel-related industries are taking a hit right now, other industries (e.g., healthcare, tech, CPG, supply chain) have demands that outstrip current supply. This market disruption presents opportunity, but you have to look for it and be open to making a pivot.
Some of my performing arts clients have sought ways to shine their light outside beyond traditional delivery mechanisms. South Bend Civic Theatre has created a CivicLight page to allow performers and audience members to connect virtually. Maple City Community Orchestra has maintained, as part of their mission, free concerts for the community and now has added virtual streaming to future concerts to allow access for at-risk members of our community.
9. Lean into your strengths and don’t limit yourself.
Perhaps now, more than ever, there is an opportunity to reflect upon your strengths and the direction in which you may feel called to take your life’s work. This has been one of my personal passions (having devoted my dissertation research to the topic as well as my vocational calling for coaching and developing others).
On this topic, one of my new friends, Laura Gassner Otting, whom I met through her recent work How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Create Your Best Life, offers significant practical lessons and finding what she coins career “consonance”. (If you are looking for a great read while you are quarantined, I highly recommend her book.)
10. Move to mindful action
Reflection, mindfulness, and gratitude are great. But without moving them to appropriate action, these are of little value to others and the world in which we live. One of my mentors, Todd Herman constantly admonishes us to take our insights and get out on the field of play and actually test them. Recently he shared his perspective in his timely CEO study demonstrating the importance of our mental frameworks and the language we use to create our realities. (Incidentally, his book the Alter Ego Effect is another great quarantine read.)
While it’s important for us to be hopeful during this time, “hope is not a method” as Dr. Bernie Banks reminded a group of executives gathered this week to discuss Advancing Values-Based Leadership in Turbulent Times. J.T. McCorrmick similarly challenges us this week in his blog to replace the word “hope” with “believe”, as this translates to action.
I have found in my own personal experience, research, and practice that one of the most powerful antidotes to anxiety is being able to develop clarity around your sense of direction and what are the most important action steps to take. To borrow from J.T., that is my belief for you.
Co-founder and CEO
Patrick’s 25+ years as a senior organizational leader and consultant, with specialties in change management, systems/process improvement, culture transformation, and employee engagement, spans multiple industries (professional services, government, healthcare, education, non-profits, manufacturing, financial services, insurance, high-tech, and energy), start-ups and non-profits to mergers and acquisitions, global organizations, and Fortune 100’s.