One of the ways I have been dealing with the unknowns of the current health and economic crisis is by reaching out to people around me. A few weeks ago, I made a list of about 20 people in my life that I wanted to speak to… fellow business owners, long-time friends, former mentors and coaches, former colleagues and classmates. And I have been reaching out for conversations, for several reasons.
First, like almost everyone else I know, I am craving human interaction. So I have been trying to use the quarantine period as a reason, if not an excuse, to speak to people I have lost touch with.
But second, and just as importantly, I am craving ideas and mindsets. I need to hear other perspectives. I have been asking lots of questions about how others are dealing with the crisis, what they see coming around the corner, what they fear, and any advice they have… and sharing any advice they seek from me.
These conversations have been restorative and motivating. I still have plenty of bad days… last week was particularly draining, and by last Friday I was completely out of gas. But I want to share a few things that I have been hearing throughout these conversations. There are some clear themes popping up. Here are three worth sharing, all of them with the same common denominator. Be patient.
- Leadership, followership and colleagueship are harder. Significantly harder. Everyone on your team has more concerns than they had two months ago. Job concerns. Home concerns. Parental concerns. Spousal concerns. Everyone’s plate is a lot more full than it was, and everyone’s head is lot more crowded and noisy than it was in mid-March. Which means it is a lot harder for all of us to be “available” in a totally positive way for each other, when each of us is just trying to survive. Translation: Be patient with each other. Everyone is trying to make it through the day.
- Mistakes are going to happen. Anyone who says they have the playbook on how to succeed in this business environment, that seemingly overnight became highly unstable, is lying to you. We have no idea what “inning” we are in, or even how how many innings there might be. So, mis-steps are not only possible, they are nearly a certainty. Translation: Be patient with yourself. You are going to make mistakes.
- Long term planning is really hard. Save for a few specific industries (like HR consulting), business projections are nearly impossible to make. There is nothing “normal” to build your projections from. Historical numbers are worthless. Which makes us all feel like we are flying blind. Translation: Be patient and cautious in your decision making.
The best advice I have, for myself and for you, comes in the form of some simple baseball metaphors. Don’t try to hit a home run. Don’t take the big swing or the big gamble. Avoid the huge mistake of the major expense, or anything that will put major pressure on you or your team. Instead, just try to make contact with the ball, try to “put it in play.” Focus on good tasks that keep people busy, that allow people to feel good about their work, and that keep the business moving forward. Focus on the little tasks that may lead to success, rather than the big swings that are much higher risk.
In a period where people are feeling pressure and anxiety, where mistakes are likely, and where long term planning is hard, the most important thing is to keep momentum, ANY momentum, going as long as possible. Momentum feels good, and right now anything that creates a good feeling is highly valuable.
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