There seems to be a never ending stream of dire news regarding Covid-19, and it’s assorted cousins: alpha, beta gamma, delta, and now omicron.
If you are in a business leadership position, how do you process these waterfalls of negativity? And, how do you cope? Well, there are three options.
- You can succumb to the negativity and give up, wait for the situation to change or for someone to come and rescue you.
- You can hunker down, put your nose to the proverbial grindstone, and work even harder at what you are doing already.
- Or, you can step back and consider this as an opportunity
You can absolutely look at this as a source of opportunity, both on the business area of your life, and the personal one, too. The point here is that you have that choice.
Making a choice is the one thing you have total control over, even if it feels that this pandemic has robbed you of many other freedoms. I internalized that after reading Viktor Frankl’s mind-blowing book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Don’t take my word for it. Read his incredible tale of survival, and take his.
So, if you’re running a business, how can you look at this as an opportunity? There are couple of ways, provided you don’t have one of those businesses that is very heavily leveraged.
If that is your situation, well you’re probably already doing what you need to do, which is likely having frequent conference calls with your creditors. Being a business owner myself and having stared over the abyss myself a few times, good luck, and my sympathies are with you.
But if you are not in that situation, just for a moment imagine yourself to be a very successful investor. That means you are very likely a contrarian since successful investors invest when everyone else is scaling back or hunkering down. If you took that perspective, how would you approach your business strategy? Wouldn’t you be looking right now to pivot and investigate unexplored potential in your market?
Lessons from 20 Years of Experience
Let me fill you in on a truth learned from over 20 years of organizational change management: the worst possible time to invest in strategic change is when the economy is on a tear. That is when everyone is too busy and things are too expensive. People are then busy trying to just keep up with their growing workloads.
That was when strategic and transformational projects were the most painful to implement.
I have also been involved in transformations during downturns, and those transformations had the best outcomes.
People applied themselves to tasks as if their jobs depended on it, which often was the case. It was easier to get deals and negotiate preferred rates, not for everything, but deals were easier to be had.
Well, we’re in that kind of situation right now. The Great Resignation indicates there is increased job mobility – good people are again on the move. It may cost a bit more to get them, but at least you now can get them!
All of us have heard about the current supply chain issues, and some things may not be quite as cheap even if they are available, however that is temporary. Start planning now – there is no time to waste. Because at some point, as that famous adage goes, “this, too, shall pass”. The tide will come back in. And then you better not miss that rising boat.
Once goods start flowing, there may be a glut in some corners. Those on the lookout for deals will benefit.
Questions to Get You Started
Here are some questions to help open your mind to seeing opportunities.
“If I were to be interviewed by a reporter three years from now about why our company grew so much/did so well, what would I say?”
Be very specific. What did you do well? What assets did you leverage? Who were your key resources?
“What obstacles or roadblocks almost brought us down, but we were able to overcome at the end?”
Here, too, it’s important to be very concrete. What issues are you currently facing that you may be downplaying? What risks are you potentially discounting?
Benefits of Making this Choice
The obvious benefit of thinking this way is that you will begin to see options where before you may have only only seen discouraging one-way off ramps.
Another benefit is that you will feel better, which should never be discounted when times are this tough.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will be sending a signal to your staff (and your clients!), “We are not going away! We are preparing to grow in the future. We’ll be here, long after others are gone. You want to stay with us!”
…and, on a more personal level…
Ultimately, maintaining a more optimistic public outlook requires a more positive mindset personally as well. You cannot sit on a Zoom call projecting energy and opportunistic thinking if deep down inside yourself you are harbouring deep despair. You may need to reassess how you cope with the current stream of negativity. And that means looking at opportunities in that arena as well.
For example, is this an opportunity to catch up on sleep? A book that really shattered my stereotypes of the sleep-deprived-adrenaline-junkie-as-hero is called, Why We Sleep, by world renowned sleep expert Matthew Walker. I recommend it to every one of my friends, colleagues and clients. It is probably the most important physical and mental health book published in the past 10 years.
Or, is this an opportunity to spend more time with your kids, spouse and close friends? Spending more time here will help with putting your business worries in perspective.
Finally, quite simply, you can do small acts of kindness for one of your neighbours, maybe someone who needs to isolate. A bag of groceries, or a frozen lasagna, may go a long way. That’s an opportunity to give and get at the same time. You can feel good and make others feel good too by helping them.
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