There is a story that Thomas Bata, of Bata Shoe Company, used to relate about two salesmen he sent to different locations in Africa to develop new business. Shortly after arriving, one of the salesmen sent him a telegram that stated: “I’m taking the next flight home; nobody wears shoes here.”
Later in the day, he received a telegram from the second salesperson that said: “Send help and more product, nobody is wearing shoes here.” As we work our way through this pandemic what can each of us as managers do to turn our present situation into an opportunity, for us and our employees?
Staying optimistic in today’s environment has been difficult. Yet there are many people who have focused on staying positive and looking for the silver lining. For instance, Jorden Dahs, Small Business Editor in LinkedIn News writes about Nic Gianino who was laid off from his job in manufacturing. He says he always wanted to start his own business and now owns a recruiting company finding jobs for other people in the field of manufacturing who have also lost their positions.
If starting a new business is not for you, other ideas to consider would be to spend more time with family, see some of the local sights and attractions that are close to home, learn to play a musical instrument (I have a friend who last year learned to play the piano over Zoom), improve your cooking skills, or even learn a new skill or occupation.
My colleague Pamela Jett, a leadership and communication expert says that
“To leverage the silver lining of this pandemic, we need to be continually using positive words in our communications. Our behavior is programmed by the words we consistently use.”
For instance, instead of saying “times are tough” say “there are opportunities ahead.” Stop saying “it has been a hard year,” instead say “these times are unprecedented” or “next year will be amazing.” By making these small changes in the words you use, you will influence how you think and what your brain believes.
One of my all-time favorite quotes is:
“What you think will determine how you feel, how you feel will determine what you say, what you say will determine what you do, and what you do every day will become a habit, and your habits will ultimately determine your destiny.”
So be careful of what you constantly think about.
Pamela uses this three-step process to get yourself back on track:
1) Acknowledge your feelings (even if they are negative)
2) Reframe those thoughts and feelings in a positive way (to remove limiting beliefs)
3) Determine the next steps or what actions you will take as you move towards success
The reality is that COVID 19 has changed how we work and will continue to affect us for months (if not years) to come. But many companies and people will emerge from this even better off than before it began.
Years ago, I learned that the Japanese word for “crisis” is a combination of “danger” and “opportunity.” So, we need to ask ourselves “What opportunities will this situation create for each of us personally?”
There are many reasons to be optimistic even now. In the past, whenever the world experienced a crisis – like the plague of the 1600s, the Spanish flu, or two world wars, we always emerged with new products, superior services, better transportation, improved housing, and more efficient ways of working.
For example, before 2020, many organizations would not even consider allowing their employees to work from home. When the pandemic hit most organizations sent their office workers home in two days. Who could have predicted this fast pace of change? Now almost all the organizations I am working with have embraced this option with open arms. We do not know what the future holds, but the more prepared we are the better off we will be.
My question for managers:
What opportunities are you creating for your employees that will enable them to work more effectively, keep them safe, and improve their potential for success in the future?
Joseph Sherren, CSP, HoF,
Global Speaking Fellow
International Business Transformation Specialist.