COVID-19 - Time for lemonade

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Nick Mackeson-Smith
Nick Mackeson-Smith
Chief Curiosity Officer, Founder and Director
March 19, 2020

When times turn tough it becomes much easier to notice hardship all around you, and to experience hardship for yourself.

A lot of people have a whole heap of metaphorical lemons right now. If we all pool our resources and work together, just imagine how much lemonade we could make?!

When times turn tough it becomes much easier to notice hardship all around you, and to experience hardship for yourself. It’s everywhere right now. People are losing jobs. Doors that once were open have started to close. Business and livelihoods that were successful are already starting to fail. Relationships are beginning to become strained under the increased pressure and stress people are experiencing. It can be crushing.

But still - there is a box full of lemons to use up.  

What’s orders of magnitude harder to do (but much more beneficial for us as a society and for all of us individually) is to face the challenge head on and look for the opportunities. In amongst all the carnage and immediate fallout of this COVID-19 pandemic are some glimmers of hope and some huge chances for people and businesses to come out of this stronger.

As a leader, you can:

  • Care for your teams. See how they are doing. Ask them how they are managing. Offer additional support and make sure that you listen. Caring for people goes way beyond putting a hand sanitiser by the door and sending out an email about your safety policy!
  • Trust your teams. They’ll need to work from home at some point - if not already. The days of leaders seeking to keep watch over their people by having them sit at their desk or be in the office all hours are over. Thank goodness. (And about time too!)
  • Thank your teams. They are working hard for you in difficult circumstances. They’ll be caring for loved ones, worrying about their own health, and potentially fearing for the future. Take the opportunity to thank them for their hard work - even if their outputs aren’t up to pre-virus standards. Seriously… expect a dip in productivity and focus… it’s understandable
  • Empower your teams. If decisions have gone through a hierarchy (or you) in the past, use this as an opportunity to distribute decision making and authority. Having key person dependency or bottlenecks in your business right now is a pretty bad idea - what happens if that key person becomes unavailable or gets sick?
  • Calm your teams. Make sure that they are equipped with facts and reliable information from reputable sources to keep them up to date and aware of what’s real, and what was made up by Steve’s half-sisters husbands best friend Sri at the pub last Wednesday after 3 beers. Misinformation right now can be pretty dangerous. Be mindful about what you spread. In New Zealand, our government have created this fabulous resource... now this is worth spreading.
  • Make sure you seek support from those around you. We’re all in this together, and we all need to have each other’s back. If you need help, a listening ear, a space to decompress, then ask for it. Now is not the time for anyone to suffer in silence. Get guidance on looking after your mental health from people who know what they are talking about. The horribly sad thing is that the longer this goes on, the more widely the impact of COVID-19 is likely to be for your people, so get familiar with services that offer support for things like addiction, grief or loss, financial stress, and domestic abuse like this organisation in the USA.

As a business, you can:

  • Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate to your employees how much you care about them. People first. Profits second. Do the right thing now, and you’ll build in loyalty and commitment that will be hard to shake.
  • Use “down time” or “isolation time” or “quiet time in the business” to invest in education or learning for your people. Not having time is often used as an excuse why people development doesn’t happen…. Well, here’s your time!
  • Build in real business continuity plans and contingencies. Where are your bottlenecks?
  • Use this as an opportunity to do the right thing by your customers. What can you make available to them to make their lives easier. How can you help people who are impacted by isolation, financial hardship, sickness or grief? (Spark recently gave away free access to their sport platform to help New Zealanders in isolation, and put in a range of support options to help those in financial distress).
  • Re-evaluate supply chains and look for single points of failure or dependency and work hard to eliminate them.
  • Re-evaluate if your shiny expensive office is even needed? Is it time to fully embrace digital nomads and all the benefits they bring?
  • Embrace technology that simplifies and enables your business to continue
  • Embrace simple automation for tasks where humans are compromised
  • Think about where you can pivot your business to use your skills, products, expertise or resources to help others who could benefit from them. Think about your suppliers, and their suppliers, and their suppliers. Charities. The local coffee shop, even. Encourage your people to use up volunteer days to help. Give away old stock.

And most importantly - all of us have an opportunity to show empathy and care at a scale that hasn’t been seen before in society. This is our chance to create a new way of working - a new way of valuing each other and ourselves - a new way of thinking about society.

Kia kaha. Stay well. Look after each other.

Photo by Yogendra Singh on Unsplash

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March 19, 2020
March 19, 2020

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