Leo Bottary: Apprehending Opportunity From Adversity
The spread of the coronavirus has altered the human condition rather considerably, to say the least. It’s put us in the midst of a rising death toll, economic hardship and uncertainty, a dramatically changed workplace (for those who can work), an expanded lexicon (social distancing, shelter in place, PPE), and new social norms that could be with us for the foreseeable future. It’s a time that’s been both sobering and enlightening, and one that is testing our ability to apprehend opportunity from the jaws of adversity.
Our new norms have taught us that social distancing is every bit as much an act of caring as a loving embrace. We’ve learned that wearing a mask serves as a visible sign that we’re all in this together, and that as one, we will do whatever it takes to weather this storm and keep each other safe. It’s a testament to our resolve and collaborative spirit in the face of this invisible foe.
Our newly dispersed work environments are providing their own lessons. I talked to a CEO recently who marveled at her employees’ commitment to the company and their co-workers, all while facing daunting personal challenges. Her biggest aha, however, was how much working from home was enabling even better collaboration, teamwork, and productivity.
During our conversation, we talked about the difference between a central workplace and a dispersed one, where employees essentially invite co-workers into their homes through Zoom. As they see family pictures on the walls, hear babies crying in the background, or watch the family dog jump on someone’s lap while sitting at the keyboard, petty differences give way to their shared humanity. As a result, the atmosphere becomes far more forgiving and socially safe.
Other than the obvious benefits of less commute time (and expense), working from home also inspires a certain degree of humility. For me, one minute I’m leading a webinar and the next, I’m in the backyard picking up after my 80-lb German Shepherd. It’s among many household chores that can keep us grounded and help us function as better teammates. For CEOs and business owners, the key is to take stock of what’s happening, bottle the most powerful lessons, and take them with you going forward. Here are five thought starters on how to do that:
- Keep a journal or make a list of everything you’re learning in real-time. Most of it will be relevant anytime, not just during a pandemic. (Ask your employees what they learned as well and talk with them about it).
- Consider how you will thank your employees for all they did during this time period.
- Ask yourself what values and behaviors emerged that you’d like to recognize and reward in the future. (How can they help set a new standard of excellence for your teams?)
- Based on what you learned, identify, and commit to actions that will help your teams become stronger than ever and commit to them – together!
- Ask the “what if?” questions and start exploring (to the next level) how and what you can do to be even better prepared for the next crisis that may come your way.
In closing, I read an article many years ago by Howard Gardner in which he used the word “apprehend” in the context of learning. It struck me because the word “learning” can tend to connote passivity. “Apprehending” the lessons that will lead us to where the opportunities lie today will take work. Together we can do this. We will do this. Be well. Stay safe.