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I was talking with a friend of mine recently, a leader I really respect, and two things happened on that call that struck me.
The first was that he went on and on about how, while this pandemic is horrible for so many reasons, for their business in particular, it hit at as good a time as it could have. They had just finished implementing this, they had changed that just in time, and so forth. He listed seven things that happened just in time to help them through this.
The optimism and glass-half-full-ness rained through the phone onto me.
I pointed out that one of the things I admired about him was his positive outlook on life. He was confused, so I pointed out that there were certainly people within his company that could list seven equally devastating things about the timing of this pandemic on their business. How this wasn’t in place yet, that hadn’t been changed in time, etc.
He agreed and admitted that he had just earlier been on a call where that exact sentiment was expressed.
Your point of view matters. We can’t snap our fingers and be optimistic, but we can try harder.
Then he asked me, “How has this crisis changed you as a leader?”
Huh. I hadn’t thought of that.
I quickly re-oriented the question back in his direction, a trick I’ve learned to give me a chance to think through how I want to answer a tough question (don’t tell anyone).
He had some interesting ways that the crisis had helped shaped the way he leads, but my answer was a bit different.
For me, I’ve learned to be more attentive to the softer side of leadership. Understanding that not everyone handles stress and turmoil in the same way, or at the same time.
I’ve continued to have it reinforced that the more open and more honest you can be with your team, the better. They can handle it, and they deserve it.
And while I’ve always been a planner, having and showing a plan during a crisis is critical. Even if that plan will almost definitely change week to week, at least you have put time and energy into thinking through the best current way forward.
On that note, I need to keep working to let my team participate in problem-solving. The more passion and brains we put behind getting through this, the better our chances of survival will be.
So yes, this experience has helped shape how I want to lead my companies going forward. Hopefully, for the better.
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