None of us saw this coming
Our businesses today face one of the biggest challenges we have had for decades, and it’s something we could not have anticipated. With the second wave of Coronavirus, our people are fatigued. Some are really stressed. They are surrounded by unrelenting news broadcasts and social media feeds that give us more bad news every day. Media seems to have lost sight of the impact of constantly presenting the bad news in the world and neglecting to share the good.
Our people are feeling drained and lacking in energy. They’ve stayed too long at home, some working from their bedrooms. There is seemingly no end in sight. Even when a vaccine eventually arrives, we are told we may need multiple versions and the virus could be here for years.
It reminds me of the Stockdale paradox the Jim Collins talks about in his book, Good to Great. Admiral Stockdale was the most senior US military person in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ jail during the Vietnam War. He was tortured every day and didn’t know when he was getting out. When Jim Collins met Stockdale he asked him: who were the ones who got out? Stockdale replied that it was the realists, not the optimists. The optimists thought they’d be out by Christmas and died of a broken heart when they found they were still there in January. The people who were able to confront the brutal facts of what was going on and have faith in the future we’re the ones who got through it, as he did. He referred to his time in prison as the defining moment of his life.
Many of us are now facing the defining moment of our lives. The world we live in now is volatile and uncertain; we’re balancing health issues and our businesses and we’re faced with moral dilemmas daily. Leaders face a massive task. Leaders have to really show up now. We are the ones who must bring energy back to the business, we must inspire our people with a new vision of the future that will give some hope and purpose in our businesses and to people’s lives. We need to be creative and take chances, we need to challenge the way we’ve done things in the past, look at new products and services we could sell. We need to engage and motivate our people to step up and contribute to our recrafted vision.
There are some amazing stories of companies that have pivoted into new worlds, they knew little about before. Fusion, a fast casual sushi chain based in Ohio in America, has pivoted to grocery delivery amidst mandatory restaurant closures. Deskmate, a London-based portable standing desk company is sourcing new suppliers to meet rising demand for its product as people are forced to work from home. Pets in the city, a pet care company based in Los Angeles is adjusting to social distancing measures by experimenting with virtual dog training and digital content. Finally, we can all be impressed with Jo Wicks, the ‘Body Coach’, who started a free on-line “PE with Jo” at the start of lock down and has had over 60m views around the world.
As a leader you can’t wait for things to change, for the environment to get better, for sales to pick up and for our people to get energy from somewhere else. Now is the time for leaders to stand up and stand out, to throw themselves with energy into their business, to energise and engage their teams, to focus on the controllables (not what they can’t control) and forge a new future that just might be their defining moment.