The year 2020 has really been one for the books. We’ve all had to face this Covid-19 virus which has made us all rethink how we approach things and what we are going to do going forward? This is not the first virus or crisis we’ve had to face and it will certainly not be the last. We need to re-evaluate how we act and not react to the crisis, but we need to look for solutions to over-coming the crisis. It’s not just now it’s in any crisis.
Throughout the ages we have had crises and if you look back at them, what happens with all the crises is that we go through three phases in a crisis. The first phase, ignorance, we are all blissfully moving along minding our own business. Everything is fine. There is no problem. We bank on the way things were this time last year, oblivious to anything that could possibly happen. Suddenly we end up in a crisis, everything changes, everything gets turned upside down and suddenly we go into panic mode. The second phase. But, like with any crises before and with anything that’s happened in life, there will also come an end.
It reminds me of the words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1 verse 8 (TEV) “What has happened before will happen again. What has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new in the whole world”
So you see you will always be dealing with crises, whether it be as the leader or even in your day-to-day personal life. The question is how are you going to come out the other end? If we look at the current situation, it’s a crisis of glob proportions. I don’t however think that it’s really been as bad. Yes, granted the virus has taken many lives and has spread rapidly all across the world, but we do not broadcast other illnesses and subsequent deaths like cancer, heart attack, suicide and so forth to this magnitude. Therefore, seen alongside the death statistics of other fatal diseases and occurrences, I see the negative economic impact as a far greater threat.
I don’t think even the 2007-2008 economic crash, had the same effect that the current crisis is having, especially on business, economics and on companies and teams. Businesses are being driven to their knees. Businesses are going bankrupt simply because they are being put into a position where they can’t operate as normal.
I was interviewed a couple of weeks back on a live broadcast called Business Unusual. You know, we are so used to business as usual, that we do not always realize that it’s definitely going to be business unusual going forward. We are facing a situation where things are going to be different. It’s not going to be the same, so what was is not going to be in the same form anymore because of what’s happening now. Whatever crisis you’re in right now needs to be resolved because there will be another crisis in the future. If you end up in a situation where you have to lay off staff, or you face labour unrest, or political unrest, it’s not the same after you’ve finished.
While you are in that situation, whether it is a crisis like we have at the moment, whether it is laying off staff, or whether it is some other type of disruption, you need to adapt, you need make changes, and this is where your role as a leader comes in. This is the third phase I mentioned. It’s very critical that you don’t start the panic. Everybody’s panicking. Everybody is fearful. Nobody knows what’s happening. But the crisis will pass and day will once again follow night.
You know, as humans we are created to be resistant to radical change. We love things the way things are. We’ve don’t want things to be turned upside down and get disrupted. We like carrying on the way we are. We have our habitual behaviours, we have our structures and we like operating like that, safe in our cocoon. When something comes along that threatens that status quo, we are suddenly up in arms. Your team is going to be reacting with panic and fear and anxiety to this disruption, whatever the disruption is One thing you can count on is that here are going to be more disruptions in the future. The question is how are you going to come out the other end?
If we look at what’s happening currently, even though it has caused great anxiety and disruption and frustration both personally and economically, I don’t think that it’s really as bad as we believe. I would venture to say that economically, the closest that has come to what’s happening at the moment, was maybe during the great depression in the 1930s or the 2nd World War.
As I have said many times before, it’s going to happen again. There are going to be more viruses. There are going to be other disruptions, other crises that are going to come along that are going to test your leadership skills. You are currently in the darkness but just as day follows night, so there will be a new dawn. The dawn will bring a new day where there is no darkness. Tomorrow will not be the same as yesterday, but it will be a new day. And once again, as surely as the world revolves, there will be night again which in turn will be followed by another new day. You need to experience the darkness so you can rest and prepare for the new day.
The only way you can drive away the darkness, is with light. That means you need to be the beacon, and as I’ve said so often, what you need to do is not to react to the current situation. You need to take a longer term view, look beyond the now, look beyond what you see as the obvious and look at what could possibly come. Look to the coming new day. Now is the time to start having a vision. Now’s the time to start thinking creatively, but you need to do that as the leader and you need to calm your team down. You need to be able to get you team to rally around you and to buy into this vision of yours.
It could be that you suddenly go from face to face meetings or face to face business practices to online activities. If you have a retail store, maybe now’s the time to start selling your products online. In my case, I was traveling all over speaking and doing coaching and consulting and training in leadership. Now I’m busy moving my products and services online. Things have changed. Crisis breeds creativity.
Some of these disruptions and changes have been subtle. If we look back in history at some of the major changes that took place we see the introduction of radio and television, the age of internet and personal computers, mobile telecommunications and artificial intelligence. As all these changes have occurred over time, and we’ve just systematically adapted to it and our way of doing things was different than before. Because the changes have been gradual, we’ve worked with them, we’ve adapted, we’ve developed to where we all are now. We have also seen plagues, natural disasters and world wars which were less pleasant than the technological disruptions mentioned earlier.
However, with the current crisis, when you have one day that’s one way, and suddenly the next it’s changed, we as humans kick against it. Our brains are focused organs. They don’t like wide open chaos. So the minute we get into a situation like the one we are in, our brains feel threatened and we then feel threatened, our status quo is threatened, and we start taking a narrow view and start focusing on a specific point. That point could very easily be the current dilemma.
I’m telling you that as a leader, you need to focus past that. Look beyond what you see in that narrow focus of your brain, look beyond the current disruption. What is possible going forward? What other possibilities could we get out of this? Where are we going to go to? It’s not going to be the same as it was, it’s definitely going to change.
As the leader, now is the time to be the beacon shining in the storm, in the mist, in the dust storm, in this chaos. You need to be that beacon so that your team can hone in on the beacon’s light and they can follow you through the storm to safety. They are not in a position to think and develop strategies in the midst of the crisis, that’s your job as the leader. Talk to them, look out for their well-being. Lead them, don’t manage them, lead them. Set the example. So you need to relax and manage this disruption.
As a Cristian leader I take my inspiration from the Word of God. Here are three examples of keeping your head during a crisis. All three involves storms at sea but the concept I am trying to get across remains the same. Here are the examples, if you want to read up on them:
You need to see past the obstacles, whatever they are. If you can see past the obstacles and focus on what’s ahead, you will able to lead your team into the next phase of what’s to come, whatever the change is. It could be starting over, it could be adapting what you’re currently doing, it could be diversifying. Just remember, as somebody once told me, “with every end, there’s always a new beginning” and that’s something that’s important to hold on to.
So what was, has ended, and we’re in the middle of this disruption now. But, you know what, there’s a new beginning that’s going to come out of this. So focus on what’s behind the narrow vision. Get a bigger vision, get creative, share that vision and constantly communicate with your team. Share your vison and even your challenges with them, but you must relax and please don’t panic. We will all get through this so get your team to follow you as their beacon, their shining light and know that day WILL follow night.