I have been struggling since the beginning of the second week of sequestering to define what I might offer in this blog to those who are dealing most directly with the economic implications of the pandemic. Clearly different from other crises, this one is outside of our control and came suddenly, necessitating reactive rather than proactive responses. It seems to me that most entrepreneurs and leaders that I know are on already delving deeply into potential risk management in this time of deep uncertainty.
The final destination we all seek may be clear both on health and economic terms, but there are no preferred routes outlined for any of us. I include myself here having started several successful businesses in my career. It is like we are moving along in a world in which not only are there no navigation systems, but also a lack of understanding of the very terrain that will need to be traversed to get us to our goal.
So, I have been observing and thinking. I have observed how some family enterprises and those who lead them have been responding, and how my professional colleagues have been dealing with the impact of the pandemic. I cannot say that I am surprised at the ingenuity of these families but rather how clear and natural these responses seemed to them. What I offer below are 6 takeaways from these observations and a thought or two about each:
- A commitment to being transparent. Notice, it says commitment, that’s because the degree of transparency depends partly on with whom you are speaking, as well as the fact that it is hard to be transparent when one feels fearful. However, this means sharing information with family members, employees and other stakeholders in a forthright but thoughtful way, offering some critical thinking regarding what is being reported.
- Having a sense of shared optimism. The ability to offer not unfounded hope but the sense/belief that we can get through this – there is another side and we will get there and get there together. You will be walking the same path.
- Placing current circumstances in a context. Providing each person with a better understanding of other historical events that might give us some direction. Taking the time to remind others about the family’s sustainability plan and the ability to move ahead with that. This adds to the ability to be optimistic and encourages others to think about potential solutions.
- Being authentic, that is inhabiting your own being when talking to others. This is a hard one to describe but everyone knows it when you see it. It is the ability to acknowledge one’s own anxiety, that you too feel the uncertainty, are vulnerable to those feelings also. These individuals lead from within themselves as well as from within the group.
- Being curious and listening. Asking questions of those with whom you have relationships and maybe even those you do not. But seeking thoughts-asking – rather than stating your own. Listen to understand, not to respond.
- A commitment to exploring differences of opinion. Creativity and innovation and potential collaboration come from the exploration of differences. The ability to entertain different viewpoints at the same time creates an encouraging environment for all.
I do hope that these takeaways encourage a mindfulness and openness as we all map this new terrain and begin to define potential and then preferred routes. I know that they have served as a strong reminder for me.