The COVID 19 crisis is forcing all of us to deal with issues few of us have ever faced. The risk, complexity, uncertainties, fear are profound. It impacts every individual, organization, society.
But it’s fascinating to see how tragedy brings out the best in people and the best in addressing crises. Everyday, we are learning things that help us deal with the challenges presented by the virus and it’s impact on our lives, companies, nations, and economy.
Even more interesting is to think about, how we apply what we learn in the future–whatever the new normal might look like.
Here are some lessons I’m learning (relearning) that have tremendous power not just in the crisis, but in how we live and conduct business in the future.
- Selfishness is less effective than community: We are learning that selfish/self centered behaviors are actually more dangerous than working in the interests of a shared community. By working together, we more effectively address the problems, keeping each person safer. Imagine applying this in business, collaborating on shared objectives and goals, rather than focusing on our individual goals. We’ve known this for decades, but we have failed to execute it. But as we look at the most significant health crisis that most of us have faced, we are finding this is the only way forward and it works! We’d be foolish not to take this lesson forward in our business (and social) lives. Working collaboratively in our organizations and with our customers drives far higher levels of engagement and produces far better results, faster!
- Related to the previous point, the only way we solve complex problems is collaboratively. None of us has the answer, but together we can develop answers. Because of and in spite of the challenges brought by COVID 19, we are facing some of the most complex problems/challenges possible. We will only be able to solve these by working together for a common purpose. As we look at problems in our own organizations and those our customer face, the only way to solve them is through collaboration.
- A shared sense of purpose is critical to making progress. In too many organizations there is no common vision, no shared purpose. Too often, it seems like every person or function for themselves. Countless studies show performance differences between organizations that are aligned and have shared purpose, with those that don’t. We know the challenges of “silos.” In dealing with the current crisis, we see the magic of shared purpose/alignment. Doesn’t it make sense to apply this in our own organizations and with our customers as we move beyond the current crisis?
- The things we always have done in the past, may be the wrong things to do as we address current complex situations. Many of the initial reactions to the current crisis were doing the same things we’ve done in similar situations. People treated this as a version of the flu—it isn’t. People, initially, chose to ignore it, thinking it couldn’t be that serious. We are rapidly learning this is different! What we have done in the past doesn’t work, ignoring it doesn’t work! We have to innovate, discover, change if we are to survive and move forward. In our and our customer organizations, too often we adopt the same mindset, sticking with what we have always done–even though the data shows it doesn’t work. Alternatively, we ignore it, hiding our heads in the sand. Doing what we have always done, or ignoring what is happening around us can kill us—figuratively and literally. But why do we persist in this behavior with in our own organizations and with our customers?
- Agility, fast learning, experimentation, rapid adaptation is critical in addressing complex issues. We need to be constantly learning, experimenting and adapting if we are to make progress and change.
- Related to the previous point, in dealing with very complex issues, there is no “right answer,” or “best practice.” There are only answers that fit our current circumstances and help us move forward. Alternatively, we break complex problems into smaller problems working on those recognizing some of the limitations that happen with when we do that. But progress is better than perfect.
- What one learns in these times of crisis and tragedy is the true goodness of people. It is remarkable to see how people come together, work together in the worst of times. It’s amazing the trust we immediately establish when we are united to a common goal. We see the same behaviors in every tragedy–the fires in California, hurricanes, earthquakes, tragic shootings, and so forth. What change would happen in our organizations and with our customers if we started believing in the true goodness of human beings, trusting them and being trustworthy?
- Leadership counts and is critical. But leadership doesn’t necessarily come from the top–nor should it. Enabling leaders at all levels to emerge and drive teams is powerful and more effective.
- Finally, what people want is to know that we care, we care for them, we care for each other. Despite everything that happens around us, caring is what emerges as the biggest unifier in moving forward.
It’s amazing that it takes great tragedy to help us see and understands these important lessons. But if these things work in dealing with great tragedy, imagine how they can work if we apply them in whatever the “new normal” looks like.
We can learn a lot from what we are doing in dealing with this crisis. If we learn how to apply these lessons in “normal” times, we will be much more effective as sales people, business people. Our organizations will be much more effective, our customers will get much greater value, and our society will be better.
The real challenge is learning and applying these lessons moving forward.