One of my media partners contacted me the other day to ask how my son and I were doing during “COVID-19 Season…” It was an interesting way to describe the current state of the world, but it was absolutely accurate. Like all crises, this one is only here for a season. As we look for a systematic way to function during this pandemic, we can look to the phoenix and her transformation from death to rebirth as a model. If you haven’t already, this is a good time to read “Follow the Phoenix” to get an idea of how the phoenix can serve as a model of a successful transition.
When you look up the word crisis, the definitions include words and phrases such as “unstable,” “danger,” “upheaval” “significant event,” and “radical change.” A crisis is something that alters everything around us, and significantly impacts nearly every way that we have previously functioned in life and in business. That change is similar to a death or an ending because the one thing we can be sure of in this time of uncertainty is… things will never be the same.
The first phase that we identified in our system for handling crises is the Reconstruction Phase. Once a crisis has hit, just as the phoenix prepares for her pending death, we must also prepare for a significant change, a transformation. For business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders, this is not just a tactical list of things that need to be checked off. We are all working through a challenging time in every aspect of our lives, and we need to be responsible and accountable for our personal health as well as the health of our business.
The reconstruction phase is about proactively making preparations when the inevitable is here. The phoenix knew her life was ending, with no way of stopping or changing the outcome. Her response is simply to act, by preparing for her transition to the next phase of her life. There are ways that we can also prepare for an unexpected transition in our own lives.
First things first. Panic will only add to the chaos. So, keeping a cool head is essential. It’s easy for me to throw that out there and keep going, but in my own experience, this was one of the most challenging things to overcome. As a person that enjoys certainty and control, the mandatory business shutdowns, health pandemic, and shelter-in-place orders had me losing my mind (it’s still under debate whether or not I’ve found it).
The news and conflicting reports had my imagination working overtime, trying to predict all the possible outcomes that would probably never happen. There were so many questions and almost no answers. Let’s face it. Even the experts didn’t and still don’t have many answers. I continually was connected to social media, trying to gather and process every single piece of information that was presented hourly, many postings contradicting the next.
I’m sure you can figure out how that turned out. Anxiety, panic, and depression were swirling around my head and body like a storm of raw negative emotions. I needed to find ways to calm my mind if I was going to find enough energy to… well, do anything! I’m still working on this as we move into reopening. Ultimately, this is really the time that you want to identify any concerns that you have. But have you ever attempted to solve a complex problem with jazz fusion, hard rock, and screaming kids all playing in the background? Calming the internal “noise” to achieve objective awareness is the first step to preparing to identify and overcome the issues you may be facing.
Cooler heads prevail. Once you have the capacity and energy to deal with some of the realities of the current crisis, it’s important to identify the most important tasks that need to be dealt with first. This is time to address the concerns you identified earlier and to really assess the areas of your business and personal life that need your immediate attention.
During this COVID19 season, there are so many areas of life that have been impacted, and all of them hit at once. Board rooms were moved to bedrooms, and meetings went from face to face to videoconferencing. For the first time ever, all children are being taught from home, whether their parents are prepared for homeschool life or not. Small businesses are waiting to see if they will get funding and if they’ll be able to reopen their doors. Just the thought of it starts to make my anxiety rise. But now is the time that you need to start getting a handle on critical tasks. Now is the time to start getting a handle on the short-term tasks you need to complete, identifying those situations that just can’t wait. What is most critical? What are the easy fixes? What can you do yourself and what tasks will require additional help? What community resources can you harness to support–whether that’s food distribution, or establishing zoom capacity, or ensuring your elder parent has resources and connections.
And it’s important to not only focus on the health of your business, but managing your own mental and physical health, and the wellbeing of your loved ones. This includes finding ways to practice self-care. I mean you REALLY need to take care of yourself during any crisis, but especially in a health pandemic. Getting sick at this time will create an additional stressor that you don’t need. Rest, diet, exercise, mindfulness, spirituality. Accessing community resources, you can harness to support–whether that’s food distribution, or establishing a loose schedule for kids at home, or ensuring your elder parent has resources and connections. Self-care is not self-ish, it’s self-managing and foundational to moving through this reconstruction phase successfully. And, importantly, it is a continuous effort, not a one and done.
Communication is key. One thing that is interesting about this current pandemic, is the amount of conflicting information that has come out. The conflicting information has been frustrating, and, at times, even dangerous because it makes it difficult to make good decisions and choices to protect yourself, your business, and your loved ones. Ironically, it is a glaring example of what not to do in your own business during a crisis.
Even in a case where you and your business are experiencing what seems to be a personal hell, clear and frequent communication is vital. In a time of mass uncertainty, everyone is searching for answers and trying to figure out what comes next. When there is a void in information, people fill in the blanks with misinformation, supposition, rumors and just wrong conclusions By providing up-to-date information to your employees, customers, clients, vendors, and partners, you will help to lower their anxiety and avoid being drained by the emotionally charged energy they will direct toward you. It also helps the image of your business to proactively communicate to stakeholders, even if that communication is ultimately indicating only that you are monitoring the situation. You are communicating that “No, I’m not dead yet.” And “stay tuned for more.”
In your personal life, as we practice physical distancing, it is important to find ways to keep social connections alive. It can get lonely when you are in charge. Staying connected to people is good for your mental well-being. This is also a good time to give encouragement to people whenever you can. If you’re not able to give encouragement, then this is the time for you to reach out and ask for the help or encouragement that you need. As I said earlier, it is critical for you to prioritize your mental and physical health in any crisis.
The Phoenix Prepares for Rebirth
Though it’s easy to get wrapped up in the devastation of the change happening to you, it’s important to remember that out of the ashes something new can be born. For some of us, our businesses may not return to their previous locations or we may need to change the way we do business. For others, we will be able to return to our locations, but we will need to learn how to navigate in the new world that is around us.
Our greatest chance of success is by pushing through this crisis together. That is why I am introducing The Phoenix Project. The Phoenix Project is a collection of stories from small business owners and entrepreneurs, sharing tips, experiences, and plans for creating a new norm on the other side of COVID-19 Season. There is hope on the other side of this storm if we take the time to prepare.