At the end of every year, most businesses, and individuals, produce a series of goals and targets for the next year. While no one knows what the future holds, with preparation and planning, you can steer your business toward desired outcomes… until a crisis hits and all your planning goes out of the window. In the current COVID19 pandemic, everyone’s goals for the new year have either been tossed out or have dramatically changed, due to events that were beyond their control, and so unprecedented that even the savviest business forecasters couldn’t have predicted them.
The immediate shock of the changes yields different reactions based on the individual person and the degree of change they are experiencing. I discussed a helpful way to deal with the immediate concerns in “Reconstruction in Crisis.” Everyone’s crisis looks different, even in a shared experience like the COVID19 pandemic. The impact has varied person-to-person and business-to-business. But stepping away from the pandemic for a moment, sometimes the crisis at hand may be a personal crisis, like a divorce or a death, that will impact your business. It could be a partnership that went south, which will mean major shifts in leadership for the company. You might even be facing a career change or a major modification in long-held business practices. There may be major upheavals in your supply chain or technology. The bottom line is your current way of doing things has gone up in flames.
So here we are. The crisis hit. You couldn’t stop it. You couldn’t direct it to only impact parts of your life or business that were comfortable or convenient. You took care of the immediate things such as calming down to assess the situation, taking care of the emergency tasks where you could, and communicating transparently to your stakeholders what your current situation is. As hard as it may be to see, this is an amazing time to focus on self-reflection and growth. This is the Rebirth Phase.
As we continue to model the transformation cycle of the phoenix to navigate effectively through a crisis, we need to understand that she was always going to be set on fire and engulfed in flames. She was always going to become a pile of ashes. In any significant crisis, what we previously knew is no longer our reality. The old way of doing things is no longer recognizable, just like the phoenix’s transition from a beautiful creature to a pile of ash. The world around us has changed because of the pandemic, so we will all have to go through some type of rebirth.
The Rebirth Phase is the second phase of our system. Within the ashes of the mythological bird, slight changes begin to happen that are not visible as she prepares to take flight in her new form. The emphasis on this phase is the unseen changes that are taking place inside of the pile of ashes, piece by piece as a new phoenix is anticipating its renewal.
The Rebirth Phase is about connecting with yourself internally. It’s also about reestablishing and securing the foundation of your business and goals. During the COVID19 pandemic, we have had more flexibility with our time. The world has slowed down to a crawl around us, and for many of us, our workload has significantly decreased. For those of us that have not had decreased hours, by limiting our ability to move around in the world, it still gives us more time than we had before. The question is, what should we be doing with that time?
In the article, Conquering Your Crisis, one of the important things that I called out was that however you respond to this and any other crisis, which is the appropriate response. It may not be productive but is appropriate for you. But to really navigate through a crisis with a positive outcome, you’ll want to find productive and positive ways to use your time.
With so many things beyond your control, finding control in a crisis seems like an oxymoron. Really the only thing that you can truly control is your response. Negative thoughts and negative thought patterns will take a tough situation and make it almost unbearable. As humans, we do not have an on/off switch for our negative thoughts and emotions. As a Master Certified Integrative Wellness and Life Coach, some of the techniques that I coach my clients on include:
- Forgiveness – whatever resentment, fear, or frustrations you have with yourself or other people, will keep you in a dark place. Practicing forgiveness is never about another person, and always about yourself, by being freed from a situation and emotions that no longer serve you.
- Gratitude – One of the greatest lessons I learned when I worked for an American author, public speaker, life coach, and philanthropist. Tony Robbins was that negativity and gratitude cannot exist in the same space. Practicing gratitude, no matter how insignificant it may feel, will shift your mind away from all the things you’re not happy about. There is always for which we can be grateful.
- Physical Release – In San Diego, the Public Health Officer, and her team during the pandemic, emphasized over and over the importance of taking walks and getting outside for your mental health and well-being. Stress can be stored in your body. Movement is an effective way to release energy and relieve stress. Turn on your favorite music and dance like no one is watching, or go for a challenging run, so your endorphins kick in and give your attitude a little boost.
- Protect your energy – Monitor what information you are taking in and who you are spending your time with. During a crisis or anytime, it is important to protect our energy from “energy vampires”, or negative people. That type of negativity can be absorbed and transferred. But just as you can be pulled down by the wrong people, the right people can lift your spirits. Seek out people who will keep you in a positive space.
- Prayer or Meditation – Finding a source of peace, love, and hope, is important when things around you are not going well. Prayer and meditation can be powerful tools in all phases of a major transformation. It allows you to quiet everything around you so you can focus, without the noise and distractions of the outside world.
For more techniques on detoxing negative thoughts, check out this blog article by my colleague, Tamara Hill: Ending Negative Mind Noise.
Do you remember why you started your business? Do you remember the problem that you were solving or the people that you wanted to help? Do you remember your ongoing motivation for being successful? This is the time to get back to your center and refocus on the reasons you are in business in the first place. The reality is, things may not look the same, or there may not be anything to go back to. But as you move forward and rebuild, your foundation should be firm. One of the most innovative things the COVID19 pandemic has created is a focus in the music industry to shift to a place of healing people through music and creativity, instead of focusing on numbers of records sold or streamed. People are going back to the reason they fell in love with their craft, and that has allowed them to reinvent their business…and just figure it out.
Review your vision and values. Whatever course you set, must align with your future direction and core values. Then revisit the strategy, your present purpose, and your goals, how you define advancement and success, to ensure they align with your vision and values, and are relevant and achievable in the next 3 to 5 years.
Not every industry has that luxury, and not every crisis will allow that type of innovation, but in every transition, there is a lull where you should revisit your mission and vision and reacquaint yourself with your purpose. One terrific way to do this is through Vision Boards or journaling. You can use a free, downloadable tool I created a few years ago, called the Vision Tree.
With positive thoughts and aligned goals, it’s time to start narrowing down what you should do to create your new reality. Planning can seem like a daunting task, but the only way you will get through your crisis is to have a solid plan. French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
It’s also important when planning during a crisis to consider your primary plan, and a contingency plan, to deal with what you don’t know yet.
There are so many ways to approach strategic and tactical planning, but every good action plan should have the following elements:
- Your well-defined goal
- A list of the steps that need to be followed to reach that goal
- Prioritized tasks and deadlines for each step
- The resources (time, money, people, skills, partners) you will need to complete your tasks
- Milestones along the way
- A way to monitor, evaluate and adjust the plan.
It’s also important to have a clear understanding of dependencies, e.g. what actions must be completed in a certain sequence, what actions can be taken independently, what are alternate supply sources or technology platforms that can be used if your primary sources or vendors or software/hardware solutions are not available. This kind of mitigation planning allows you to continue to make forward progress when some of your assumptions or partners don’t come through. You should be thinking of Plan B and C, in an event with many unknowns and few playbooks.
Clarifying the actions that you’ll need to take is the final preparation that you’ll need to take flight as you complete your transition to a new business or new business practice.
The Phoenix prepares for Renewal
The magic and mystery of the phoenix comes from her ability to create something new from something that has been destroyed. She knew her time was ending so she prepared for her death. Once she was burned to ashes, her rebirth began from inside the ash pile unseen to the outside world. All these things were in preparation for her to burst through the ashes and take flight, stronger and faster than she was before.
This goal of The Phoenix Project is to give you the same insight to renew your business or your life during any crisis. When I first started my business 10 years ago, it was after I had been laid off from an extremely high paying position in corporate America. I remember the fear and the uncertainty that rushed over me, as I scrambled to apply for another job. But the real fear that I felt was the realization that I was relieved to not have to go back to that job. It was during that time, with unemployment as my only source of income, that I started CSD Marketing… The phoenix was part of my logo then and continues to remind me that sometimes we must burn something to the ground to find our true purpose. If, after operating for several years, we don’t take it upon ourselves to do a deep cleansing, soul searching, regenerating exercise on our own, a crisis in some ways may be a blessing in disguise.
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