What is COVID-19 Teaching Us

Two major lessons we have learnt in the last 4 months; we as humans do not have total control and dominion over our environment and that we need to look after each other. Are there some, if any, trying to go back the pseudo-comfortable, non-sustainable, non-agile pre-covid era?

Yes, business will return as it always has, some will have been in the right place and the right mindset, with the right product/service to make the most of a catastrophe, for the rest of us it is not so good. The question is, what has been learnt and are we putting these learnings into practice. Are we evolving as people, as businesses and societies to manage this return to business.

There will be a huge number of specific lessons for businesses but with a broad brush I propose that we should, as businesses, have learnt some generic, wide reaching lessons and be taking actions to update our processes and policies to reflect the new normal. The obvious ones that comes to mind:

  • How do we keep velocity up in the decision-to-implementation process? We had a LOT of noise and extended project time within business, with the discussions, budgeting, planning and execution. Yet when time was seen as critical because of the situation we got things over the line in months instead of years.
  • Have all the contracts been reviewed and updated for new, realistic and versatile SLAs/KPIs, termination triggers and with flexibility to cover unexpected events.
  • Have alternative sourcing protocols been instigated. Have supply lines been reviewed for potential outages and solutions agreed with suppliers.
  • BCP (Business Continuity Plans) – this is the document that for so long was only given lip-service. So… has a BCP been drafted and in place, covering many, broad scenarios.
  • Have HR and WHS policies and systems been put in place that will ensure the safety and welfare yet effectiveness of all employees. Is WFH a new paradigm within the business? Has the working “space” been reviewed?
  • Cyber-tech. Any lessons here? Was software and hardware adequate (also the current trend for security breaches must be included). Did you manage without issues? Is this area a major part of your new BCP – what happens if there was a software COVID, a major, self-propagating virus that had no “vaccine” yet far more contagious than we have seen to date (rest assured, someone will be working on designing one). Most could recover but the outcome for too many could be fatal.
  • Psychological impacts and fallout from a major incident how are they going to be handled and addressed. People will be anxious and more focused on self-preservation (jobs and lives). Will there be an avoidance of risk, will this add value or limit the ability of your business to survive. Plus, the fallout will not just included employees, there will be multiple stresses placed on everyone within society, including suppliers, customer and investors. All will now have their own priorities.

Those are some of the lessons that I can quickly think of to date, there will be more as the economy improves for as history shows, the economy will not return like the slow turning of a tap, it will come in surges and waves.

So you survived the initial downturn, do you have systems and people in place who can work with agility and velocity to keep up with a variable, unknown return.

There will be changes in all areas of life, especially now as we have a second wave of COVID-19 rolling through many countries, reinforcing the fact that we are not as invincible as we thought and yet we are capable of stepping up when we have too.

Overall lesson: do we now know HOW and WHEN to step up.

Are Managers being supported during CV19 pandemic?

We see an inordinate amount of information across the whole gambit of media, supporting and encouraging the support of employees and small businesses and their owners, I have even promoted some techniques that I believe will help, now and in the future across different mediums.

But I see little out there to support those who also toil and work hard supporting the employees and indeed small businesses. These are the Managers, those who feel responsible for ensuring the employees are protected from the fallout as much as they can be during these turbulent times. It is these people who also try to keep the wheels turning for other businesses for they know one affects the other – both ways.

Like other major catastrophes and times of hardship, very few are not adversely affected. And so it is with managers, they also feel the financial pain but they also feel the pain of responsibility (yes there are some who think of themselves first, but this is not unique to managers). The managers who are leaders, think of the whole problem and feel pressured to conceive of positive outcomes for all, short- and long term.

Rebecca Knight in the HBR, wrote a good article titled “How to Handle the Pressure of Being a Manager Right Now”

Her article is broken into the following headings:

  • Choose self-compassion,
  • Reflect on your purpose,
  • Reframe the situation,
  • Force yourself to think positively,
  • Seek a sense of achievement,
  • Embrace your humanity,
  • Look outside for help,
  • Practice self-care.

The Brendan Reid website proposes ideas to help reduce pressure and relief stress. Although more generic and written a few years ago, they are concepts that are still relevant:

  • Score yourself on a longer-term horizon
  • Treat your team like partners
  • Involve your boss early
  • Create a “No Surprises” culture

And yet you, as a manager are still human. Take heed and care for yourself – as it goes “you need to stay well to be able to help others”. The UniMelb has some great points to be aware of:

  • Learn how to protect yourself, and others from COVID-19
  • Acknowledge your feelings
  • Maintain your day-to-day activities and a routine as much as possible
  • Stay connected
  • Remember that physical distancing does not need to mean social disconnection
  • Contribute
  • Keep things in perspective
  • Seek accurate information
  • Set limits around news and social media
  • Stay up to date with advice and support

Be becoming a little more knowledgeable on each of these, you can then not only look after yourself, but also your staff and ultimately the livelihood of all.

So, I wish you all the best in health and wisdom. You have been given an opportunity to show up as a leader of people, no matter what your calling or station in life. What will you do with it?

 

Full articles of each can be found at:
Rebecca Knight https://hbr.org/2020/04/how-to-handle-the-pressure-of-being-a-manager-right-now
Brendan Reidhttps://www.brendanreid.com/blog-1/4-ways-managers-can-reduce-pressure
UniMelbhttps://services.unimelb.edu.au/counsel/resources/wellbeing/coronavirus-covid-19-managing-stress-and-anxiety