I want to talk about three incredible opportunities for you and your business.
I want to talk about three once in a lifetime opportunities that present themselves to you and for you and your business.
We all know about the Corona virus, the pandemic that is sweeping the globe, with lock downs now in almost every continent.
We don’t know how much worse it’s going to get and we know the cost is going to be very painful for many of us. Both in terms of loved ones dying and equally there are going to many businesses that close for the last time, with impact on jobs and security.
With that said, I want to focus on three opportunities that I think present themselves quite uniquely in this moment.
The first thing, is time to think.
1. Time to Think
This morning I was coaching a senior leader within an investment bank and they’ve gone from being extremely busy, working very, very long hours to suddenly deals being off the table, with the crash in the financial markets et cetera.
Suddenly they have time on their hands. Speaking to a number of leaders, not all by any means, but speaking to a number of leaders, there seems to be quite a common theme. Instead of travelling around the world or travelling across the country, they find themselves suddenly working from home.
That provides I believe, some unique opportunities to think.
Normally our lives are dominated by adrenalin. From early in the morning till late in the evening. The more senior we are, the more the demands that we have. Barely getting a moment to even snatch lunch or stop for a coffee.
Normally our lives are dominated by adrenalin
Now can feel a little bit like the moment that we stop being so busy, a bit like returning from war. It takes time for us to get used to the sudden lack of pace, it can take time to change gears.
Now, I know for others it’s still full on, but nevertheless, even if it’s full on for you right now, I encourage you, in fact, strongly encourage you to take some time out to think.
First of all it is not doom mongering to think about worst case. It takes time to really think through the implications of what is currently happening. It’s wisdom to do so.
In the last couple of days I ran a board meeting with one company and I deliberately presented what I believed was where the worst case scenario of where this could go. It was bad. The result for this particular company is that pretty much all business would stop.
If you think about a restaurant, if your restaurant closes for four weeks, where’s your income? There is none and we don’t know how long that restaurant might stay closed. It’s the same with hotels, bars. And not just those kinds of organisations, but property based businesses, anything that’s in travel and tourism, hospitality and leisure and all the related industries.
It could literally be a situation where if the peak is, say, in two months time, that you have zero custom. You may have zero custom for 10 or 20 or 30% of what you would normally get for a number of months.
It’s really important you think about that. Think about it, plan for the worst and hope for the best. Do not put your head in the sand, don’t delay decision making. You want to ensure your business survives for those that remain.
You are going to have to make some very, very, very difficult decisions and you’re going to have to make them very quickly without having the right information and it’s very unfair.
You may have just invested in new products or new property or new projects. You may be making money or losing money, but either way, this virus is not going to go away.
You need to make very tough decisions now, and to do that you need time to think.
You need time to think… in order to make the right (difficult) decisions
Now for those of you that have more time and maybe you feel that you’re more safe, you may find yourself reflecting on your results to date, you may be thinking through your strategy or what your future holds.
That’s a luxury because as I say, normally you do not have time to do that.
For others of you, it might pose different questions, deeper questions.
If you’re going to be sat at home for a long time, you may start thinking about the purpose of life, where have you come from and where do you want to go to? What’s important to you, what are your priorities? Have you succeeded in the areas that you want to succeed at this stage of your life, or is there more to do? Or maybe you’ve got fed up of the rat race and actually this time out is going to point you to it in a different direction.
Isaac Newton, when the Bubonic Plague hit, took himself off to his home. It was at that point he was thinking, sat under a tree. When he saw an apple fall… and of course that’s where the whole theory of gravity was born.
We don’t know what’s going to strike us when we literally take time out to reflect, to think, to stop and to pause.
What new ideas will we gain when we take time out to think?
This period of thinking time is being enforced upon us.
Franklin Roosevelt, when he was The President in The U.S., during the period Britain was at war, knew that Britain needed large sums of money. Britain, (I’m a Brit,) needed planes, we needed ships, we needed tanks and we needed money and we were begging the Americans to join us. America at that time really didn’t want to join the war and so FDR had a bit of a problem. How could he support us without getting involved?
To try and solve this problem, he boarded a naval ship for 10 days. Now this wasn’t in the time of internet. He didn’t have FaceTime or WhatsApp or Zoom. Instead he deliberately isolated himself for 10 days to give himself a chance to think about what was needed. He came under sharp criticism. Here is The President of The United States, and he disappears for 10 days. Yet actually he was doing something very important and as a result, he came back with the idea of a 50 billion dollar lend lease programme which The Senate agreed to. Now considered as one of his political masterpieces.
What opportunities are going to present themselves as a result of this pandemic?
What opportunities are going to present themselves?
If you take the time out to think, really think, truly think, luxuriate in thinking, how might it help you?
What ideas are waiting to be explored?
What new strategies are waiting for you?
We know it’s going to be a significant impact, we can already see it. We know the stock market is down. We can see an oil war and all the other things that are going on.
Could you maybe provide some new services with the people and the skills that you have? Could this be a moment of opportunity to pivot, to launch a new service? To recognise a need that the marketplace has today or tomorrow that wasn’t there yesterday?
Similarly, when we pass the peak, what are the opportunities that are going to present themselves then? Maybe you will get better talent, acquire different businesses, launch new services.
There is a myriad of opportunity for those that are willing to take the time to really, deeply think.
The second opportunity I believe that this pandemic provides us is with an opportunity to reconnect.
2. Reconnect, to self and others
So often we are so busy that we lose sight of what’s important. Senior leaders can typically work 60 or 70 hour weeks, sometimes longer and for those that are running global organisations, it can almost be 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Suddenly we find ourselves confined to home, with time to think, but also time to reconnect.
To reconnect with our partners, with loved ones, with children, with our wider family, with friends.
Now, if we find ourselves in a place where we’ve been isolated, there is still an opportunity to reconnect. Phone calls, FaceTime, WhatsApp calling, Zoom calling, there’s a myriad of online tools now that allow us to connect.
Now is a good time to do that and not only can we reconnect to those that we love, but we can also reconnect to ourselves.
Connect to selves, and also to our loved ones
Very often when we find ourselves in positions of responsibility we minimise our own needs. We know it’s important that we eat well, that we sleep well, that we exercise, that we rest, maybe that we meditate or pray and yet all those things go by the wayside because we get so busy.
Well, now is an opportunity to reconnect to yourself.
Take the opportunity to sleep, to have catnaps if you need to.
Take the opportunity to read and to listen, to exercise.
Today I decided not to go to the gym anymore. Normally I’m at the gym five times a week. It was a beautiful day today, I’ve bought some resistance bands and I did a workout on my balcony.
Exercise is very important, we can still go out walking in most countries and at least in the northern hemispheres as we turn towards spring, the days get longer and warmer.
Take advantage, reconnect to yourself.
What does that mean for you?
And finally, as a leader, how can you add value to your people now?
3. How Can You Add Value to Your People?
I was speaking earlier with someone who runs tens of thousands of people, a senior leader of a global organisation and they’re fairly new in post. We were talking about how they could best add value.
One of the keys things as a leader in this situation is, there is no way that you can have all the answers. It’s impossible. Nobody has all the answers. We only need to see currently how the U.K. government is dealing with this as compared to other governments.
It’s impossible for you to have all the answers
So as a leader take the pressure off yourself. You don’t have to have all the answers. But it is an opportunity to engage with all of your people and ask them for their ideas.
Some of them will be feeling fearful, some of them will be very anxious, some of them (certainly if you’re running a company that runs globally) will already had experience with SARS and ebola, swine flu, et cetera. What was the experience that they’ve gained and is that being shared across the whole company?
What’s working, what hasn’t worked?
Ask the questions and provide the support, listen, listen and listen and listen and be honest.
Be honest that you don’t have the answers, be willing to hear people out in terms of their own pressure that they’re under and anxiety.
Communicate with your people
Finally I just want to touch on the challenges of working from home.
Working from home for some is a boon, it’s a blessing, it’s brilliant. But for others it’s the absolute worst thing. Imagine a young mum in a position of responsibility or with a heavy workload, who suddenly finds herself at home with a two, four and a six year old working from the kitchen table. That is very difficult.
This is going to be repeated, across every single country.
Yet others are isolated. They live on their own. They may be quite social and suddenly find themselves locked in a home, on their own without any social contact. The sense of isolation can become very desperate and affect mental health.
Within the whole process of what’s happening, many are feeling fearful and anxious. Many are wondering whether they’re going to have a job, people on zero-hour contracts are likely to have their contracts in effect terminated, people are going to lose their jobs, companies are going to go bust.
Can I pay my mortgage? Can I pay my rent? Or in some countries can I pay for the healthcare that I am going to need or I’m going to need for my family? Are my parents or my grandparents going to die?
These are very, very real concerns and as a leader, what is your role here?
I wonder whether we can create online groups for our employees or even in our communities to allow people to connect remotely.
We can check with our boss, with our direct reports, with our team frequently. If you only typically connect once a month, maybe connect once a week and in crisis I would absolutely recommend you connect every single day. Have a daily fuddle, a daily connection time even if it’s via the phone or via an online tool.
Put some rules in place so that everybody has an opportunity to talk.
Communicate, be honest, there is nothing worse than not knowing what’s going on if you’re an employee inside an organisation. Send out emails, record videos, do online conferencing, but communicate with your people and put in place strategies to support those home workers.
Get HR to build a guide of best practice and send them out to everybody. What are some of the best things that you can do when working from home?
Get HR to put together a best practice guide to working from home
Remember too, when some work from home, typically they’re going to be more focused than when they working in the office, because there’s less distractions. Working for four hours from home, may actually provide more work than working seven hours when in the office, so take a more relaxed attitude with your employees, and especially where they have young children or they may be caring for elderly.
To summarise, I believe this virus gives us three key opportunities. One, it gives us time to really think, take that opportunity, luxuriate in thinking. Two, reconnect with self and with our loved ones. It’s an amazing opportunity. Three, figure out how you can best add value as a leader, both for those working from home and also to ensure the wider connection.
If you are a leader, and would really appreciate talking to someone outside of your situation, for free, book a 30 minute call here.
I’d love to hear your comments, thank you.
Mark Bateman positively disrupts leaders, as well as the organisations they run, in order to achieve meaningful objectives. His clients include startups through to CEOs within FTSE companies.