One of my former coaching clients contacted me earlier this week looking for direction. Now I’ve had several clients over the years share with me during our coaching programs that they regularly find themselves wondering “W.W.J.D.?” When my first client shared that acronym for “What Would Jeremy Do?” with me, I laughed. Since then, I’ve simply come to appreciate that my role as an executive coach is to shift my clients’ thinking with new insights and ideas whether I’m there by their sides or not.
This one was different though. I haven’t coached this leader for several years, and he’s now CEO of a completely different organization. These are unprecedented times though, so I probably shouldn’t be surprised that even he’s looking for some outside perspective on how best to make decisions with all of the uncertainty around Coronavirus. He was in the process of drafting communications about their future plans for his key customers, and as he put it, “No one really knows what October is going to look like!”
The guidance he needed comes from the distinction between “Now” and “Not Now”. You might think you know what “now” means. Sure, it’s right now. If you’re open to it, now can mean so much more than that though. Now serves as a powerful way of classifying anything that exists and is already being managed, whether it’s in this very moment or something for which we’ve already planned. Now, I’m writing an article about decisive leadership. I’m also handling several other things now though.
These are uncertain times to say the least. For those who still have jobs, most are working from home. Those who are in essential positions may be working at their company’s worksites with heightened concern for their health and wellness. As long as this Coronavirus crisis continues and these “safer at home” guidelines are in place, we all are living with much more anxiety and stress than usual – without our usual outlets to rest and recharge.
Whose job is it then to keep your team members calm, composed, and focused? I’ve considered new titles like “Chief Engagement Officer” for all the CEOs out there, but the reality is that some CEOs aren’t comfortable or capable playing this vital role. So who is it in your organization? A Business Unit leader? Another senior executive? Maybe your head of HR? Someone needs to assume the position of “Chief Communication Officer” right now if your company is going to be productive and survive this crisis.
I’m not going to let CEOs off the hook just yet though for not being positive role models and engaging their employees directly. Business owners and Presidents/CEOs need to step up during this crisis. Your people need to hear from YOU right now. Not just their direct supervisors or middle-level managers. YOU! Nobody can generate the same positive energy and enthusiasm or settle a workforce like the owner/CEO of a business. More importantly, most of your next-level leaders are less than effective in cascading information from higher-level leadership in the best of times. It’s unreasonable – and quite frankly, unfair – to expect more from them now given everybody’s heightened emotions and anxiety. No matter how good they are, wouldn’t you agree that they aren’t Chief Communication Officer caliber?
The information we are receiving on a daily and in some cases hourly basis is staggering… Well over 180,000 infected by the novel Coronavirus worldwide at the time of writing. More than 7,000 deaths already. In the United States alone, we now have nearly 5,000 cases reported with nearly 100 deaths. And the virus is still spreading – fast! Those US numbers specifically will surely rise as testing ramps up throughout the country.
What do we do, then, to stay calm and maintain composure during what has been labeled by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global “pandemic” and even here in the US a “National emergency” by President Trump and his administration? How do we stay positive and keep our families together as a government-mandated lockdown begins? The following might just save your relationship with your spouse/partner or keep your children from wanting to disown you over the next several weeks:
Exercise: During the lockdown, you won’t be able to use a public gym. You might not even be able to walk your dogs at the beach or go for a jog around the school track in some communities. If you have a treadmill or other workout equipment at home, great. Use it! If you don’t, you can still do push-ups and sit-ups and stretch