Aim Higher: Lessons from COVID-19


Move Fast While Slowing Down

As I sat down with my colleagues for this episode of “Aim Higher,” I realized—and mentioned to them—that things seemed to be happening both very, very fast over the past two months… and also very, very slowly.

Fast, because we all had to adapt to the changes forced on us by COVID-19 within weeks or even days. And then keep adapting as we learned more about how to deal with health issues, work-from-home issues, finances, family, school and technology. So many things changed all at once. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. Every decision seemed to spawn ten new decisions and twenty Google searches. How to record a Zoom call. Should I record a Zoom call? Which businesses count as “essential?” Does that change from state-to-state? How do I clean my groceries?




Early Lessons from the Pandemic

Does that sound like your life these past weeks? Well, for leaders like myself and my panelists, that was compounded by trying to help guide our teams and departments through hazards and processes we’ve never had to deal with before.

How do you get monitors out to hundreds of staff who’d never had to work from home? How do you shift large, in-person events to online, virtual or recorded meetings? How do you manage the impact of anxiety, mental health and wellness issues that are clearly going to impact a lot of people all at once?

As I said… The changes came very, very fast.

But then, in the midst of that accelerated, almost scary pace… a strange, slow quiet. One that I’m sure you’ve experienced as well. Because some of us—especially those without young children in the house, I think—are now experiencing some periods of profound stillness.



I think most of us, especially in leadership roles, are probably more comfortable dealing with “fast” than “slow.” We’ve all had to deal with unexpected hiccups or new competitors or sudden breakdowns in a supply chain. And what do we do? We work harder, faster, smarter. But nobody ever said to us, as leaders, “Hey. The answer to this crisis is for you to slow down, do less and stay put.”



There are a lot of people talking and writing about doing some learning or professional development during quarantine—if they have the privilege of time and resources. That’s fine, but it’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about, as leaders, asking the specific question: what do we do with a pause?



What Comes Next?

Nobody knows what’s coming after COVID-19. There are all kinds of theories, of course. And they range, as I’m sure you’ve read, from “Everything will return to being basically the same,” to “Nothing will ever be the same.” Not a helpful spectrum from a planning standpoint, eh?

Obviously, there is the work we have to do today. We take care of our employees and customers. But as leaders, we can use aspects of this “pause” to do some thinking about the things that are most important to us and our organizations going forward. Having lived through this challenging and extraordinary time, ask yourself this: what do you think should return to being the same for your organization after the crisis is over? And what do you think should never be the same again?

You can’t change how the world reacts to this pandemic. But you can choose a leadership path that makes changes based on your vision, your principles and your goals. If you didn’t have time to think about that before… maybe you do now.



Listen to Aim Higher on Apple Podcasts by clicking here.





Photo Credit: Ani Kolleshi

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