As forces larger than ourselves have imposed themselves on the world, they have sparked a shift in what we care about, how we engage with colleagues and family, and how we live our everyday lives. It’s been both sobering and enlightening, and we have no idea when we will return to normal (life pre-COVID-19), as if that’s possible. That said, for all of us as leaders and followers in this world, perhaps we should take stock now of the things that really matter and what they mean as we prepare to brave a world that will be forever changed.
By the time this piece runs on Friday morning (4/3/2020), the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center will have reported more than 1,000,000 confirmed cases and roughly 50,000 deaths worldwide. It’s hard to ignore trends in the data. As the numbers continue to rise and our capacity to deliver quality care reaches a breaking point, the death rate of 5% of recorded cases globally (about 2.4% in the US thus far) may go up as well. As difficult as it will be to see the statistical rise, the human toll is about to get more real for everyone. Many people I speak to today don’t know a single person who has either contracted or died from coronavirus. Sadly, it won’t be long for that to change. If you think this is something only other people contract, then think again.
Take precautions for yourself and take a moment to appreciate every effortless breath you take during each and every minute of every day. Keep yourself, your kids, and maybe most of all, your parents safe. While we can take precautions, there’s only so much we can do. It’s tough to fight what you can’t see. Someone whom I’ve known for a very long time just lost both her parents within 10 days of each other to complications from coronavirus. I’m sure that such an event was unthinkable to her 60 days ago. Our hearts go out to her and her family.
If there’s a time to reflect on your good health, it’s now. If you’re one of those people who has taken your health for granted, there may be no better time for a shift of mind – one that I hope lasts long after we resume something that resembles normal daily life.
If reflecting on our personal health and the health of our loved ones can be sobering, then watching the transformation of “home” has been equally enlightening. Home is our safe place and in recent weeks has become more people’s workspace. Turns out our adult children, when faced with the prospect of shelter at home, thought that maybe southern California wasn’t a bad place to park. We’re happy they did. During the day, there are virtual meetings, webinars, and video conferences taking place everywhere someone parks a laptop. Most of us stay in our own professional worlds until about 5:00 pm PDT. While that may sound like everyone is quitting early, the workday for most of us starts at 6:30-7:30 AM, and with no daily commute, the number of hours in a day where we can all be productive increases rather dramatically. Leaders who once eschewed allowing their employees to work remotely are quickly becoming accustomed to not physically seeing people at their desks (as if they had any better handle on their productivity than they do today). This is a forced growth experience for many CEOs and leaders at all levels, many of whom are blown away by the sacrifices, integrity, and work ethic of their employees as they demonstrate leadership, support for their co-workers, and dedication to their organizations as a whole. I see it firsthand all day long. As a CEO, be grateful this option exists for you, because for many, it doesn’t.
After everyone winds down from work, we sit around the dining room table (no tv, no phones) and enjoy family dinner and conversation. We chat about our day, engage in the speculation of how long the six of us are going to remain under one roof, and talk openly about how the circumstances that have created this situation, troubling as they are to say the least, have brought us closer together. For us, home has been every bit the safe place and the workspace it can possibly be.
Working from home also inspires a certain degree of humility. One minute I’m leading a webinar for CEOs, small business owners, and their key executives and, the next, I’m out in the backyard picking up after my 80-lb German Shepherd. It’s among the things that will help keep anyone grounded. Beyond that of course, is the larger picture here. The more we think we are in control of our lives, the more we are not. My favorite ee cummings poem is titled all ignorance toboggans into know. It’s a powerful reminder that we often strive for ignorance, only to slide back down to knowledge again.
Humility and scarcity have also inspired some impressive examples of creativity both in terms of humor-filled, harmless fun as well as new processes and ways of working together that will likely be with us long after COVID-19 is a distant memory. If there’s anything we want to value today and embrace in the years ahead, it’s our humility.
Appreciate your good health and take precautions as best you can to stay safe. Lead and serve others as people first and employees second. Use your time at home to tap into what home means for you personally and professionally. Tap into the deepest parts your humility to examine what you are learning, how you will leverage the practices and processes you are using today, and how you will prepare for the inevitable “what’s next” that awaits.
Written by Leo Bottary. Have you read?
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