We’ve had some really sobering discussions with our coaching clients around how they are feeling and dealing with the ongoing COVID situation. We can understand why business owners view the current set of circumstances as being outside of the scope of normal events, and possibly what we do as being unrelated to who we are within our typical existences. To be honest, that thought that we should all do what we need to in order to get through this crisis and if that means eating an entire party-size bag of chips in one sitting (just as a completely random example and definitely not pulled from any actual experience) then you should be free to do so for the duration of the ongoing crisis, however long that may last. The argument is not so much that nothing we do at the moment counts (the COVID calories certainly do), but rather that we should loosen the restrictions or pressure we place upon ourselves in trying to deal with the stress we’re all feeling.
While it’s true that the coronavirus pandemic and the measures put in place because of it are far outside anything most of us have ever experienced, it’s arguably not the case that we ourselves are similarly changed during this period. We’re only ever who we are as people or leaders or entrepreneurs, and times of crisis can only serve to heighten or reveal the characteristics that are fundamentally us.
What happens to us during this time, and how we respond/ react to it, can tell us a lot about who we are, in ways we wouldn’t otherwise be aware of, and it’s worth taking some to reflect on those reactions in evaluating who we are and who we want to be into the future. Taking a pause and allowing ourselves some space to reflect is critical as this pandemic is becoming more of a challenging triathlon than a marathon.
During a crisis, people look towards leadership for a steady and calming influence, and in the absence of that, panic and fear will set in as people worry about their job and their ability to care for themselves and their families. For business owners, it’s a leadership challenge unlike any other. Your business may have persevered through hard times before, but it’s rarely the case that you’ve had to navigate both a health crisis and a global recession at the same time. What can you say and do to support your team, and how can you handle the uncertainty that is almost certainly unavoidable at the present?
We assume that people want to hear the best possible version of things, the sunniest interpretation of the situation, but the truth is that tact can backfire tremendously in the face of a reality that comes nowhere near matching those rosy projections. While it’s tempting to try and keep spirits up within your team by shielding them from bad news, it only makes the eventual consequences that much worse if they seemingly came out of the blue. Everyone is aware of the challenges mounting around the world, and simply want the honest truth so that they can deal with it as best they can. We are all weary of case numbers and associated bad news but a surprise can be even worse.
It’s also the case that we might want to attempt to block out the darkness, to somehow try and force a sort of tunnel vision that blocks out the negativity that exists all around to focus on the task at hand. While you don’t want your workdays to become sessions for your team to vent frustrations over Teams, Google or Zoom, you do have to give people the freedom to feel the stress of the situation and to try and work through it in the best way they can. Perhaps for some work is a safe space away from the stress of the news, and that’s great, but there has to be an understanding that for many there isn’t that easy demarcation between the parts of their life, particularly when so many are still stuck in their home environment.
The burden of leadership is that we can’t give free rein to our own feelings, no matter how much we may want to let loose. We can vent our own frustration, sure, but we can’t appear to be without purpose or a plan, even at a time when we’re all unable to control what happens in the world around us. People need direction, support and a goal to work towards, even if it’s small and short-term, and offering that gives the small amount of structure that we all need in our lives when everything else seems to be shifting in front of us.
These are circumstances you hope to avoid as a business owner or leader, but there are no guarantees when you go into business for yourself; quite the opposite, in fact, as difficult issues and tough choices are all but assured for entrepreneurs. Leadership isn’t easy, if it was everyone would seek it out. But you’ve chosen this path for yourself, and now a pandemic has given you the chance to see what your mettle is as a leader during the economic crisis, hopefully, you find yourself up to the challenge.
Remember, you are stronger than think!
Keep Scaling Up!